Noela Rukundo is lucky to be alive. She’s also lucky that the men her husband hired to kill her are probably the only hitmen with a conscience. Imagine the shock on her husband’s face when she arrived at her own funeral.
In an interview with the BBC, Rukundo told her story.
“When I get out of the car, he saw me straight away. He put his hands on his head and said, ‘Is it my eyes? Is it a ghost?'”
“Surprise! I’m still alive!” she replied.
Rukundo was supposed to have been killed while she was visiting her homeland of Burundi from Australia, where she and her husband lived. They were in Burundi for a relative’s funeral.
“I had lost the last person who I call ‘mother’,” she says. “It was very painful. I was so stressed.”
That evening, her husband and father to her 3 children, Balenga Kalala, called her.
“He says he’d been trying to get me for the whole day,” Rukundo says. “I said I was going to bed. He told me, ‘To bed? Why are you sleeping so early?’
“I say, ‘I’m not feeling happy’. And he asks me, ‘How’s the weather? Is it very, very hot?’ He told me to go outside for fresh air.”
So she went outside.
“I didn’t think anything. I just thought that he cared about me, that he was worried about me.”
And that’s when things took a turn for the worst.
“I opened the gate and I saw a man coming towards me. Then he pointed the gun on me.
“He just told me, ‘Don’t scream. If you start screaming, I will shoot you. They’re going to catch me, but you? You will already be dead.’
“So, I did exactly what he told me.”
The gunman motioned Noela towards a waiting car.
“I was sitting between two men. One had a small gun, one had a long gun. And the men say to the driver, ‘Pass us a scarf.’ Then they cover my face.
“After that, I didn’t say anything. They just said to the driver, ‘Let’s go.’
“I was taken somewhere, 30 to 40 minutes, then I hear the car stop.”
Noela was pushed inside a building and tied to a chair.
“One of the kidnappers told his friend, ‘Go call the boss.’ I can hear doors open but I didn’t know if their boss was in a room or if he came from outside.
“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 a fool. Let me call who has paid us to kill you.'”
The gang’s leader made the call.
“We already have her,” he triumphantly told his paymaster.
The phone was put on loudspeaker for Noela to hear the reply.
Her husband’s voice said: “Kill her.”
She then passed out. And when she woke up, she actually thought she was already dead. But lucky for her, the hitmen had one rule.
“He looks at me and then he says, ‘We’re not going to kill you. We don’t kill women and children.’
“He told me I’d been stupid because my husband paid them the deposit in November. And when I went to Africa it was January. He asked me, ‘How stupid can you be, from November, you can’t see that something is wrong?'”
How’s that for getting a lecture about knowing something’s wrong in your relationship from a hitman?
The hitmen used the opportunity to extort more money from her husband, and eventually let her go. But they reminded her other people may not be as kind. They even gave her the evidence that will eventually be needed to prosecute her husband.
“He say he wanted to kill me because he was jealous,” she said. “He think that I wanted to leave him for another man.”
On 11 December, in court in Melbourne, after pleading guilty to incitement to murder, Kalala was sentenced to nine years in prison.