‘Mur­dered’ wife con­fronts hus­band at her fu­neral

CityPress - - News - – Staff reporter

His plan was fool­proof – at least, so he thought. But to­day, a Con­golese man is lan­guish­ing in a Mel­bourne prison in Aus­tralia for plot­ting to kill his wife.

Balenga Kalala was sen­tenced to nine years be­hind bars for the plot. He had hired hit men to as­sas­si­nate his wife, who went to Bu­rundi for a fu­neral in Jan­uary last year.

It started when Noela Rukundo, a mother of eight who has been liv­ing in Aus­tralia as a refugee since 2004, re­ceived a call in­form­ing her that her step­mother in Bu­rundi had died. She trav­elled to the east African coun­try to pay her fi­nal re­spects.

Rukundo stayed in a ho­tel while there. She re­ceived a call from Kalala, who was ap­par­ently check­ing on how things were.

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, she com­plained about the heat in her room and Kalala sug­gested she go out­side for fresh air.

“I didn’t think any­thing of it,” she told the BBC this week. “I just thought that he cared about me; that he was wor­ried about me.”

Mo­ments af­ter step­ping out­side the ho­tel, Rukundo saw a man com­ing to­wards her. He pulled out a gun, say­ing: “Don’t scream. If you start scream­ing, I will shoot you. They’re go­ing to catch me, but you ... you will al­ready be dead.”

Rukundo obliged. She was forced into a car and driven across the Bu­run­dian cap­i­tal, Bu­jum­bura, to a build­ing where she was tied to a chair.

The kid­nap­pers later called her hus­band and put him on loud­speaker. They said: “We have her,” and he re­sponded, say­ing, “Kill her,” Rukundo told the broad­caster.

Af­ter two days be­ing held cap­tive, the kid­nap­pers let Rukundo go af­ter ex­tort­ing more money from her. They dropped her on the side of the road and gave her a mem­ory card con­tain­ing record­ings of Kalala or­gan­is­ing the hit and the proof of pay­ment from him.

The kid­nap­pers told Kalala they had killed her as agreed. A few weeks later, Rukundo re­turned to Mel­bourne and hid her­self from her hus­band un­til the day of her “me­mo­rial ser­vice”. Kalala had ap­par­ently told neigh­bours and friends she had died in an ac­ci­dent back home.

As mourn­ers were leav­ing the ser­vice, she con­fronted her hus­band.

“He saw me as I got out of the car. 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 and jumped. He did it again and jumped. Then he said: ‘Noela, is it you?’

“Then he started scream­ing, say­ing: ‘I’m sorry for ev­ery­thing!’” said Rukundo.

The po­lice were called. Kalala was ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary and sen­tenced in De­cem­ber.

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