Friday 20 April 2018

Woman turns up at own funeral - to confront jealous husband who paid to have her killed

Noela speaks of her ordeal. Photo: BBC
Noela speaks of her ordeal. Photo: BBC
Noela Rokundo in a wedding photo with her husband, Kalala, who was sentenced to nine years. Photo: ABC Television

Harriet Alexander

A Burundian woman living in Australia has told how she shocked her husband by turning up at her own funeral - after he had paid hit men to kill her.

Noela Rukundo, a mother of eight, had arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2004 - the same year as the man she was to go on to marry, Balenga Kalala.

In January last year she was in Burundi for her stepmother's funeral when Kalala called her from their home in Australia, and suggested that she go for a walk.

But moments after stepping outside the hotel compound, Ms Rukundo was approached by a man who pulled out a gun.

She was forced into a car and driven to a building where she was tied to a chair and the kidnappers called their boss.

"One of the kidnappers told his friend, 'Go call the boss'."

"They ask me, 'What did you do to this man? Why has this man asked us to kill you?' "And then I tell them, 'Which man? Because I don't have any problem with anybody.'

"They say, 'Your husband!' I say, 'My husband can't kill me, you are lying!' And then they slap me.

"After that the boss says, 'You are very stupid, you are fool. Let me call who has paid us to kill you.'"

The gang's leader made the call. "I heard his voice. I heard him. I felt like my head was going to blow up. Then they described for him where they were going to chuck the body." The phone was put on loudspeaker for Ms Rukundo to hear the reply. Her husband's voice said: "Kill her."

But she was thrown an unlikely lifeline by her kidnappers. They held her for two days, then let her go - having extorted more money from Kalala, and telling him she was dead.

They let Ms Rukundo go with instructions to tell other women not to stay with their violent husbands - and even gave her memory cards with recordings of Kalala organising the hit, and Western Union money transfer receipts for the contract killing.

"He looks at me and then he says, 'We're not going to kill you. We don't kill women and children,'" she said.

"He told me I'd been stupid because my husband paid them the deposit in November. He asked me, 'How stupid can you be, from November, you can't see that something is wrong?'"

She said they told her: "'Your husband is serious. Maybe we can spare your life, but other people, they're not going to do the same thing. If God helps you, you'll get to Australia.'"

She returned to Melbourne where, as mourners were leaving her funeral, she confronted her husband.

"He put his hands on his head and said, 'Is it my eyes? Is it a ghost?'"

"He kept talking to himself and when he reached me, he touched me on the shoulder. He jumped.

"He did it again. He jumped. Then he said, 'Noela, is it you? Then he start screaming, 'I'm sorry for everything.'"

Kalala confessed to his wife, captured on tape by police, begged for forgiveness and revealed he had ordered the murder out of jealousy.

"I knew he was a violent man," she said. "But I didn't believe he can kill me. I loved this man with all my heart."

Kalala was still unable to offer any explanation for his actions, suggesting only that "sometimes [the] devil can come into someone to do something but after they do it, they start thinking, 'Why I did that thing?'"

He was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to incitement to murder.

Irish Independent

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