Drama As ‘Dead’ Woman Attends Her Own Funeral


Recalling the moment of her kidnapping, Noela described how she opened the hotel's gate and was confronted by a man with a gun

According to the BBC, a woman named Noela Rukundo, who was allegedly dead, shocked everyone by visiting her own funeral just few minutes before the ceremony was over. Until her return to the venue of her burial, Rukundo’s friends and family did not know the truth behind her reported death. It happens that five days ago, her husband, Balenga Kalala had ordered a team of hit men to kill Rukundo, his partner of 10 years. Unfortunately for Balenga, the assassins told him they did, but they did not kill her; they even got him to pay an extra few thousand dollars for carrying out the crime.

Noela Rukundo and her husband

Balenga was very shocked on seeing his supposedly dead wife return from the dead. Rukundo had met her husband 11 years earlier, right after she arrived in Australia from Burundi. He was a recent refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they had the same social worker at the resettlement agency that helped them get on their feet. Since Balenga already knew English, their social worker often recruited him to translate for Rukundo, who spoke Swahili.

They fell in love, moved in together in the Melbourne suburb of Kings Park, and had three children (Rukundo also had five kids from a previous relationship). She learned more about her husband’s past — he had fled a rebel army that had ransacked his village, killing his wife and young son. She also studied more about his character, saying: “I knew he was a violent man,”Rukundo told the BBC.

“But I didn’t believe he can kill me.”

However he surpassed her believes and engaged three unusually principled hit men, a helpful pastor and one incredibly gutsy woman: Rukundo herself. More from the murder saga is written below, as told by Rukundo herself.


How she pulled it off

BBC reports that Rukundo’s ordeal began almost exactly a year ago, when she flew from her home in Melbourne with her husband, Kalala, to attend a funeral in her native Burundi. Her stepmother had died and the service left her saddened and stressed. She retreated to her hotel room in Bujumbura, the capital, early in the evening; despondent after the events of the day, she lay down in bed. Then her husband called.

“He told me to go outside for fresh air,” she told newsmen.

But the minute Rukundo stepped out of her hotel, a man charged forward, pointing a gun right at her.

“Don’t scream,” she recalled him saying. “If you start screaming, I will shoot you. They’re going to catch me, but you? You will already be dead.”

Being terrified, she did as she was told. She was ushered into a car and blindfolded so she couldn’t see where she was being taken. After 30 or 40 minutes, the car came to a stop, and Rukundo was pushed into a building and tied to a chair. She could hear male voices, she told the ABC. One asked her,

“You woman, what did you do for this man to pay us to kill you? What are you talking about?” Rukundo demanded.

They said to her: “Balenga sent us to kill you,” but she told them they were lying and they laughed at her ignorance. They told her how foolishly in love she had been, then there was the sound of a dial tone, and a male voice coming through a speakerphone. It was her husband’s voice.

“Kill her,” he said, and Rukundo fainted.

She told the ABC that by the time she woke up in the strange building somewhere near Bujumbura, the kidnappers were still there. They weren’t going to kill her, the men then explained — they didn’t believe in killing women, and they knew her brother. But they would keep her husband’s money and tell him that she was dead. After two days, they set her free on the side of a road, but not before giving her a mobile phone, recordings of their phone conversations with Kalala, and receipts for the $7,000 in Australian dollars they allegedly received in payment, according to Australia’s The Age.

“We just want you to go back, to tell other stupid women like you what happened,”Rukundo said she was told before the gang members drove away.

Shaken, but alive and doggedly determined, Rukundo began plotting her next move. The Age reports that she sought help from the Kenyan and Belgian embassies to return to Australia. Then she called the pastor of her church in Melbourne, and explained to him what had happened. Without alerting Kalala, the pastor helped her get back home to her neighborhood near Melbourne.

Meanwhile, her husband had told everyone she had died in a tragic accident and the entire community mourned her at her funeral at the family home. On the night of the funeral,  just as the widower Kalala waved goodbye to neighbors who had come to comfort him, Rukundo approached him, the very man whose voice she’d heard over the phone five days earlier, ordering that she be killed.

“I felt like somebody who had risen again,” she told pressmen.

Justice served

Though Kalala initially denied all involvement, Rukundo got him to confess to the crime during a phone conversation that was secretly recorded by police.

“Sometimes devil can come into someone, to do something, but after they do it they start thinking, ‘Why I did that thing?’ later,” he said, as he begged her to forgive him.

Kalala eventually pleaded guilty to the scheme. He was sentenced to nine years in prison by a judge in Melbourne. Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said:

“Had Ms Rukundo’s kidnappers completed the job, eight children would have lost their mother. It was premeditated and motivated by unfounded jealousy, anger and a desire to punish M. Rukundo,” the judge noted.

Rukundo said that Kalala tried to kill her because he thought she was going to leave him for another man — an accusation she denies. Her trials however, are not yet over as Rukundo says she’s gotten backlash from Melbourne’s Congolese community for reporting Kalala to the police.

Someone left threatening messages for her, and she returned home one day to find her back door broken. She now has eight children to raise alone, and has asked the Department of Human Services to help her find a new place to live. And lying in bed at night, Kalala’s voice still comes to her: “Kill her, kill her,” she told the BBC.

“Every night, I see what was happening in those two days with the kidnappers.”

Despite all that,

“I will stand up like a strong woman,” she said. My situation, my past life? That is gone. I’m starting a new life now.”


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