‘Murdered’ wife confronts husband at her funeral
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.