The loved ones of a Melbourne woman may never know the motive for her murder in a “frenzied stabbing attack” by a man she considered family.
On the morning of July 25, 2017, Peter Pavlis – the founder of established food brand The Muesli Company – fatally stabbed his business partner Jennifer Borchardt six times in the kitchen of her Richmond home.
He tried to clean the crime scene and pretended to colleagues that he was concerned about Ms Borchardt’s absence from work.
He changed his clothes and lied about the reason he had a fresh knife wound on his thumb.
The same afternoon, Ms Borchardt’s partner returned home to “find the lifeless body of the woman he loved”.
The reason Pavlis killed the 49-year-old remained “opaque”, Supreme Court of Victoria Justice Lesley Taylor said during sentencing on Thursday.
It was previously suggested to the court he was perhaps jealous or angry about Ms Borchardt’s new relationship, although there was no evidence to support the theory.
Pavlis also told a psychiatrist he had found a box full of $100 notes in Ms Borchardt’s home and believed she had engaged in financial misconduct, although the cash was never discovered at the crime scene.
“I do not accept that it was ever there,” Justice Taylor said.
“I am unable to discern the true motive for your behaviour.”
She denounced Pavlis’ betrayal of Ms Borchardt’s trust, loyalty and affection.
“You were a man very much trusted by her. She had started to work in your company as a teenager and grew to become your business partner,” Justice Taylor said.
“She was encouraged to think that she was part of your family.
“Your actions in attempting to clean the murder scene and your other deceptions about your involvement were callous and cowardly.”
At a previous court hearing, Pavlis described Ms Borchardt as a “nice person” and said “I still can’t understand how I did it”.
On Thursday, he was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 12 years, as Justice Taylor admitted there was a “very real chance” Pavlis would die in jail.
“We are pleased with the result today and glad the court has recognised that Peter Pavlis is a cold-blooded murderer,” Ms Borchardt’s niece Carlie Smith told reporters outside court.
“All those years of hard work and dedication and that was the thanks that she received, to be buried in a grave early when she still had half a lifetime to live.”