One crucial facial expression during Sarah Ristevski’s exclusive 60 Minutes interview has revealed why she has unshakeable support for her father and contempt for those who investigated her mum’s tragic death.
In Sunday night’s interview, Sarah said she stood by her father Borce, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year after his wife Karen disappeared from their Avondale Heights home in Melbourne’s northwest in June 2016.
The body of the 47-year-old was found eight months later, wedged between two logs in a nature reserve at Mount Macedon.
It had long been a mystery what happened to her, with Borce never revealing why or how he killed his wife.
Despite his guilty plea, resulting in him being jailed for 13 years, Sarah has stood by her dad who apparently lied about having anything to do with the death of Karen and even acted as a pallbearer at her funeral.
Body language expert and founder of My Alcomy, Sophie Zadeh, told Yahoo News Australia that Sarah leaked an expression in the interview that could reveal why she stuck by her father throughout the horrific ordeal.
She pointed to the moment Sarah had her first interaction with police as crucial to understanding why she continues to support her father – a decision that has come under scrutiny.
‘My mum doesn’t play the pokies’
Sarah told 60 Minutes reporter Liz Hayes about the moment she and her father reported Karen missing. It was at that pivotal point, about 10 minutes into the interview, Sarah cracked and could no longer conceal her emotions.
Sarah said a police officer at the station “was quite rude” and she felt police “didn’t take us seriously” when reporting the disappearance.
She says the officer said “something along the lines of she’s probably at the pokies”.
“At this point, Sarah’s eyes narrow. This facial movement stems from the emotion of anger. She gasps for breath and cries. Her emotion flits between sadness and distress,” Ms Zadeh said.
“She continues with, ‘my mum doesn’t play the pokies’, again we see anger in the narrowing of the eyes, followed by a high blink rate, indicating a high level of stress and an eyelid flutter as she states, ‘It was hard and very stressful’.
“What we can take from this part of the interview is something we shouldn’t ignore. This is Sarah expressing genuine and extreme emotion as she recalls her initial interaction with the police. This is where she formed her opinion that they were the enemy.”
Why Sarah supports her killer father
Ms Zadeh questioned whether or not Sarah would still support her father if she felt police were more understanding while they made the first missing persons report.
“Research shows that first impressions are typically lasting because they are followed with confirmation bias, where we absorb and interpret the information that backs up our initial opinion,” she said.
“I have to ask – If Sarah had been treated differently by the police from the outset, building a level of trust, would this have played out differently?
“Sarah expressed both fear and contempt later in the interview, while she talked about ‘two officers coming over’, ‘forensic people’ in the house and the media outside. She genuinely feels negative emotions towards ‘the enemy’.”
Ms Zadeh believes Sarah felt compelled to protect Borce because of their “common enemy”.
“However, I believe this stems from Sarah’s initial feelings about the police, which were then, most likely reinforced by her father.”
Sarah’s behaviours that ‘raised red flags’
Ms Zadeh said it was clear Sarah was uncomfortable during the interview, obvious by her slightly raised shoulders and having her hands clutched together at times.
She claimed while Sarah was being honest during the interview with behaviours reflecting her words, there were some red flags raised at times when there was a mismatch between the two.
“One of these occurrences was when she was asked whether her dad was telling her he was worried. She answered with, ‘we were both worried’. The mismatch in behaviour came with an initial head shake, which then turned into a nod,” Ms Zadeh said.
“Non-verbal behaviour trumps words because our sentences are cognitively constructed and generally, our non-verbal behaviour stems from our subconscious.”
Ms Zadeh said there was a similar mismatch in behaviour and words when Hayes asked Sarah if she asked her father if he had anything to do with her mother’s death.
As Sarah answered the question, saying she asked him and her father said “no”, she nodded her head at the same time.
“Something is amiss here,” Ms Zadeh said.
“Maybe he said, ‘No’, but deep inside she knows he did.”
Expert reveals most significant moment
According to Ms Zadeh, it was obvious the sadness Sarah felt over the loss of her mother through her concealed and obvious expressions of emotion throughout the interview.
“However, perhaps the most significant part of the interview for me came at the end when Sarah was asked what she wants people to know about her,” she said.
“She replied by saying she is more than Sarah Ristevski, that she lost her mum – while expressing sadness, which then turned into combined fear and sadness as she said her father is in jail.
“The emotion of sadness stems from loss and while Sarah is still grieving for her mother, she is now also grieving for her father and fears for the future.
“While she feels this, she is perhaps not ready to fully admit the reality of the situation.”
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