News & Politics

Woman Crashes Her Own Funeral; Confronts Husband Who Paid to Have Her Killed

An Australian woman whose partner of 10 years paid a hit team to murder her shocked the man by showing up at her own funeral.

Noela Rukundo’s story is the stuff of a Lifetime miniseries. But it’s the reaction of her husband when he saw her after believing she was dead that is more priceless than anything MasterCard can come up with.

Finally, she spotted the man she’d been waiting for. She stepped out of her car, and her husband put his hands on his head in horror.

“Is it my eyes?” she recalled him saying. “Is it a ghost?”

“Surprise! I’m still alive!” she replied.

Far from being elated, the man looked terrified. Five days earlier, he had ordered a team of hit men to kill Rukundo, his partner of 10 years. And they did — well, they told him they did. They even got him to pay an extra few thousand dollars for carrying out the crime.

Now here was his wife, standing before him. In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, Rukundo recalled how he touched her shoulder to find it unnervingly solid. He jumped. Then he started screaming.

“I’m sorry for everything,” he wailed.

But it was far too late for apologies; Rukundo called the police. The husband, Balenga Kalala, ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison for incitement to murder, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (the ABC).

Noela’s ordeal began a year ago when she traveled to Burundi to attend the funeral of her mother-in-law. Afterwards, her husband suggested she go out for some air and when she did, she was attacked by three men who blindfolded her and drove to a secluded location. There, they tied her to a chair and informed her that her husband had paid them to kill her.

When she didn’t believe them, they called the husband who ordered them to murder her. But, for reasons that still aren’t clear, they didn’t. The hit men claim they didn’t kill women and besides, they knew Noela’s brother.

Her escape from Burundi was not easy:

Shaken, but alive and doggedly determined, Rukundo began plotting her next move. She sought help from the Kenyan and Belgian embassies to return to Australia, according to The Age. Then she called the pastor of her church in Melbourne, she told the BBC, 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 Feb. 22, 2015, 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 the BBC.

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

“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.

We’ve all daydreamed about attending our own funeral. Reading the glowing obit. Watching the grieving family and relatives. My own fantasy is to actually write my own eulogy. After all, who knows me better than me?

But the burning satisfaction this woman must have felt when she saw the look of surprise, shock and horror on her husband’s face redefines forever the term “schadenfreude.”