A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) trained criminal profiler has given a chilling insight into the unsolved murder of New Zealand-born mother and Melbourne fashion identity Karen Ristevski.
Kris Illingsworth, a former Detective Sergeant in the NSW Police Force who has worked on some of the state's most notorious cases, including the "Granny" murders on Sydney's north shore and Ivan Milat's backpacker killing spree, now works as an independent criminal behavioural analyst and investigator.
Ms Illingsworth is one of only a handful of Australians to have worked at the FBI's fabled Behaviour Analysis Units (made famous by cult movie The Silence of the Lambs and TV crime shows like Criminal Minds) at the bureau's Quantico academy.
Investigators with Victoria Police have remained tight-lipped on the case, which is getting colder by the day, and have yet to reveal the results of the post mortem examination on Ms Ristevski's body, including the cause of death.
Ms Illingsworth is not affiliated with the police investigation but has used her considerable experience and training to find clues in what little information has worked its way into the public domain.
What she found indicates the involvement of either two people or "one very strong person" in the disposal of the 47-year-old's body and likely prior knowledge of the gravesite.
"While the murder may have been a spontaneous or pre-planned event, the body disposal site involved deliberate choices made by the offender," Ms Illingsworth told news.com.au.
Ms Ristevski was last seen by her husband at their Avondale Heights home on the morning of June 29, 2016.
He has told police she left the $1.1m Oakley Rd property at about 10am "to clear her head" after the pair had a disagreement about a financial matter.
Despite extensive searches carried out by police and volunteers along the route of "pings" tracked from the couple's respective mobile phones on the day of Ms Ristevski's disappearance, her body was not found for almost eight months.
Data recovered by police tracked the devices travelling north along the Calder Highway, with pings bouncing off towers near Gisborne and Diggers Rest.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FINAL RESTING PLACE
A hiker stumbled across Ms Ristevski's badly decomposed remains nestled between two fallen logs in bushland off Loch Rd at Mount Macedon in Macedon Regional Park on February 20.
The shallow grave was more than 60km from where she was last seen at the family home and dozens of metres off the nearest trail, Loch Rd.
"Research has shown that when a body is transported to and deposited in a bushland setting, the furthest distance from the parked vehicle is about 30 metres through bushland if easy going, or less than 20 metres if difficult terrain," Ms Illingsworth told news.com.au.
"This is due to the physical exertion required to carry or drag a body. (According to reports) the body was found about 50 metres from the nearest parking opportunity.
"If this distance is correct then it is significant as it would require a strong person to carry the body that far; or perhaps two people were involved in the disposal. More so if there was scrub or difficult terrain involved.
"The location of the two logs between which the body was found is also significant. If these logs are not visible from the parking location then it is highly suggestive of the offender having previous knowledge of that concealment site, ie he had been there before.
"If it is visible from the parking site then it is less suggestive of prior knowledge. Having said that, depending on how accessible and visible that parking site is from the usual route in/out would influence prior knowledge of the disposal site.
"Basically, the harder it is to find that site, the more likely the offender had previous knowledge of it."
'THE MOST DANGEROUS TIME FOR THE OFFENDER'
Ms Illingsworth believes the perpetrator spent some time at the site concealing the body.
"[The person] had to gather forest debris and then cover the body with it. This was the most dangerous time for the offender," she told news.com.au.
"To mitigate [the] risk of discovery at the scene, [the person] may have chosen a little used track to find that site; and/or taken the body there at first morning light or dusk when there is less risk of people being in the vicinity.
"The nights before and after she was reportedly last seen had last quarter moons so the night sky would have been fairly dark - probably too dark to find that site and the forest debris with just a torch.
"So dusk or first light was more likely the time when the body was disposed, unless the access road and parking site afforded good privacy, then daylight was an option."
Asked about speculation about the gravesite's location on Mt Macedon inside Macedon Regional Park, Ms Illingsworth said it was probably a matter of convenience rather than anything significant.
"It is more likely this bushland was one of the first usable areas in which to conceal a body outdoors if travelling northwest from Melbourne," she said.
"One interesting point is that when travelling north on the Calder Highway, if one didn't have a pre-conceived idea of where to dispose of the body, it appears from the map that taking a left off the highway to go into the state or national forest west of the highway would be more likely. "This would also avoid crossing the major geographic boundary of the highway, which is also a psychological boundary when unfamiliar with the terrain. Making a left if one is unsure of where they are going is therefore the more natural option. The offender turned right."
Ms Illingsworth said while Ms Ristevski's murder may have been a spontaneous or pre-planned event, "the body disposal site involved deliberate choices made by the offender."
BIZARRE FAMILY BEHAVIOUR
Mr Ristevski, 52, was outed as the "number one suspect" in his wife's death by his own lawyer, celebrity criminal defender Rob Stary, just hours after the discovery of his wife's body.
Mr Ristevski maintains his innocence, reportedly telling family members she may have been snatched by a stranger.
While she was missing, several family members volunteered strange and unlikely theories about what may have befallen her.
Ms Ristevski's ice-addicted stepson Anthony Rickard (Borce's estranged son from a previous relationship) claimed to have been having a torrid long-term affair with his stepmother.
He told police he believed she fled voluntarily following a family confrontation about their alleged plans to run away together.
None of what Mr Rickard said has been officially substantiated but he frequently posts rants about his stepmother and his father on his Facebook page.
Meanwhile, the missing woman's brother-in-law Vasko Ristevski made the outlandish claim that that Ms Ristevski had staged her own disappearance and flown to either Hong Kong or the US on a "fake passport" to escape the "mortifying" gossip about her relationship with her stepson.
"I don't think she will come back, I reckon she's gone for good" he told reporters outside his house in August last year.
Mr Ristevski speculated early on that his wife may have been attacked by a "predator" but police have not issued any public warning indicating a dangerous individual might be on the loose.
CASE MAY NEVER BE SOLVED
Last month, an ex-homicide squad senior detective expressed concern that the discovery of Ms Ristevski's body appeared to have brough the case no closer to resolution.
Charlie Bezzina noted that Victoria Police had not publicly identified a cause of death, possibly die to the severe decompotition of the remains, which made any prosecution difficult.
He said that it was "very much" possible that the case could go cold and that it was clear the police did not have enough evidence to bring the case before a jury.
"Obviously they have some circumstantial evidence which arouses suspicion but they are falling short of being able to charge anyone," Mr Bezzina told The Australian.
"You've got to be pretty damn sure about your facts before you start charging someone because ultimately it draws so much media attention.
"The investigators are driven with keeping an open mind, casting a wide net and eliminating anyone that didn't do it.
"Maybe it was no one associated to the deceased. Maybe she got picked up by a total stranger."