A chilling encounter with “the shovel man” had become talk of the town of Mount Macedon in the days leading to Karen Ristevski’s body being discovered in bushland.
The Age reports a Gisborne man had told of his chance meeting with a man leaving the bush on the outskirts of Mount Macedon, carrying a shovel.
It’s reported the man had dropped his friends home in the town after a party in December 2016.
While turning his car at an intersection of dirt road, the car’s headlights shone on another man leaving the bush.
The motorist was so rattled it’s claimed he later reported the encounter to police.
On Monday, after police confirmed Ms Ristevski’s body had been found in the area, the man drove to the scene with homicide detectives.
The middle-aged man had reportedly said he had seen a person carrying a shovel with “expressionless eyes”.
The Age claims the man was asked not to talk about the incident, however the story had done the rounds around the small town.
A motel owner in the town where Ms Ristevski’s body was discovered, reportedly urged the man to go to police, after hearing the story.
The motel owner claimed to be a friend of the witness: “He'd seen this man walking out of the bush carrying a shovel. It was close to midnight,” the owner told The Age.
"The guy walked straight into his lights and he put the window down and jokingly said 'where did you bury the body'?
"It was really uncomfortable the way he reacted.
"The guy looked at him and didn't say anything. He just looked at him with a stone face."
It’s claimed the man was so shaken by the encounter; he wound up his window and drove off.
"This guy [the motorist] is a fair strapping lad, he's a big guy, so it would take a bit to frighten him,” the motel owner claimed.
"He just thought it was super creepy."
7 News Online have contacted Victoria Police for comment.
A police spokeswoman told The Age they would not be providing running commentary on the case.
Soil samples and shovel seized
The "shovel man" tale comes to light as soil samples and a shovel have reportedly been seized from Ms Ristevski’s home in what police hope will be a major breakthrough.
The Herald Sun reports that testing revealed two distinct soil types. The first matches soil found near the Avondale Heights home Ms Ristevski shared with husband, Borce, while the other matched soil found in the Gisborne - Macedon area, where her decomposing body was found on Monday.
“Let’s say there was a murder on the pitch at the MCG: that type of soil would be unique to that area of grass,” CSIRO Centre for Australian Forensic Soil Science director Dr Rob Fitzpatrick told the Herald Sun.
“Each type of soil has its own specific characteristics, so it is possible to tell the difference.
“We did a double-murder case in 2001 where it was possible to narrow down the soil type to between three and nine metres of a particular area where two bodies were buried.”
Mr Ristevski's lawyer on Wednesday conceded that his client was the prime suspect in the case, but the Melbourne father maintained his innocence.
"It's pretty clear police have him as their number one suspect," lawyer Rob Stary told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
Mr Ristevski, who has faced immense public scrutiny since his wife disappeared eight months ago, initially told police he was home all day after she vanished.
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He later said he had driven his wife’s Mercedes coupe to check a faulty fuel gauge but returned home when a bump corrected the issue.
Meanwhile family members have began speaking out about the 47-year-old's tragic end, including Ms Ristevski's stepson Anthony Rickard who urged her killer to confess.
"(It's) only a matter of time before you are spending a long time behind bars," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Mr Ristevski was seen visiting his lawyer's office on Wednesday morning, a day after police confirmed the decomposed remains were those of his wife.
He refused to answer questions as he entered his lawyer's building.
Ms Ristevski's body was found by a bush walker along a dirt track off Loch Road, Mount Macedon about midday on Monday.
Police have not revealed if they have any information about possible suspects, and have urged anyone with information about her death to come forward.
Police are urging anyone with information in relation to the disappearance of Karen Ristevski is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.