Noela Rukundo was supposed to be dead. Her husband Balenga Kalala had told their Melbourne, Australia, community that she’d perished in a car accident while visiting her native Africa.
The couple had met 11 years earlier, and had three children together. Rukundo knew her husband to be violent, but never thought he’d hurt her.
She was very, very wrong.
While she was in Burundi, Africa, for a funeral, Kalala called her from Melbourne and told her to step out of her stuffy hotel and get some fresh air. As soon as she exited the hotel, a man rushed up, pointing a gun directly at her.
“Don’t scream,” she remembers him saying. “If you start screaming, I will shoot you.” The terrified woman did as she was told. She was blindfolded and pushed into a car.
Eventually the car came to a stop, and Rukundo was brought into a building and tied to a chair. And this is where things get really weird. She could hear male voices speaking, and one of them told her that her own husband had hired them to kill her.
She didn’t believe it.
Soon, another man’s voice was piped in through a speakerphone. It was Kalala, and he told the kidnappers to kill her.
It may not sound like it, but Rukundo was in luck: the men who had captured her didn’t believe in killing women. And they were also friends with her brother. So they decided to keep the money Kalala had paid them, tell him that she was dead, and set her free – along with a mobile phone, recordings of their conversations with Kalala and receipts for the $7,000 they had received in payment.
With the help of the Kenyan and Belgian embassies, as well as the pastor of her own church in Melbourne, Rukundo secretly returned home. And in the meantime her husband told everyone the concocted story about her death in a tragic accident, and planned her funeral for February 22, 2015.
On the day of the funeral, Rukundo waited outside her own home as mourners left after the reception. As Kalala led a group of guests to their vehicles, Rokundo pounced.
“Surprise!” Rukundo shouted. “I’m still alive!”
Kalala’s face showed the terror he felt, and he tentatively touched her shoulder in disbelief. “Is it my eyes?” she recalls him saying. “Is it a ghost?”
He began to apologize. “Too little, too late” is the understatement of the year here.
Rukundo called police, and Kalala confessed to the evil deed. He said his only motivation was jealousy that she might one day leave him for another man. Kalala will spend the next nine years in prison, after his December conviction for incitement to murder.
Rukundo has a long road ahead of her as the single mother of eight children. But as she told The Washington Post, “I will stand up like a strong woman. My situation, my past life? That is gone. I’m starting a new life now.”