Borce Ristevski has been ordered to stand trial charged with murdering his wife Karen in the couple’s Melbourne home.
Ristevski, 54, allegedly killed his dress shop-owner wife, 47, at their Avondale Heights home on June 29, 2016 before dumping her body in bushland.
A high-profile committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court ended on Thursday with magistrate Suzanne Cameron finding there was enough evidence to send Ristevski to trial charged with murder.
“I must take the prosecution case at its highest,” Ms Cameron said.
“Given the nature, extent and duration of the post-offence conduct, I’m of the view that it would be open to a jury to find that Mr Ristevski caused the death of Karen Ristevski and had murderous intent,” she said.
Ristevski has always maintained his innocence, and on Thursday re-entered a plea of not guilty.
Dozens of witnesses testified during the committal hearing, including the couple’s daughter Sarah Ristevski, who said her father was “never” aggressive towards her mother.
The court heard Ms Ristevski’s fashion store Bella Bleu was struggling financially at the time she vanished and she and her husband would occasionally argue over money.
After his wife vanished, Ristevski claimed she had gone for a walk to clear her mind and never returned.
Eight months later, Ms Ristevski’s skeletal remains were found between two logs at Macedon Regional Park by two horticulturalists who had noticed a strange smell.
Ristevski, who was a pallbearer at his wife’s funeral, was later charged with murder after a police investigation that involved phone taps, listening devices and CCTV footage analysis.
It was alleged he took Ms Ristevski’s Mercedes-Benz roadster on the day she was killed to dispose of her body in bushland and conceal it with sticks and leaves.
“The prosecution rely on a significant number of actions, utterances and omissions by the accused, including amongst other things the concealment of her death, the disposal of her body, the deactivation of mobile phones,” Ms Cameron said.
Ristevski’s lawyers had argued that the murder charge should be abandoned and sought a manslaughter trial, saying even if a jury was to find he killed her there was no murderous intent.
Prosecutors alleged Ristevski’s deceitful actions in hiding the body and lying to family were not those of a man who accidentally killed his wife.
They said these alleged post-killing actions gave rise to the required murderous intent.
Ristevski will face a directions hearing in the Supreme Court on August 6.