Noela Rukundo of Melbourne, Australia, got the last laugh after her husband plotted to have her killed by hit men.
According to the Washington Post, Rukundo waited in a car outside her home on Feb. 22 of last year, the same day as her “funeral,” watching the mourners who had come to console her husband leave. When she spotted her husband, she stepped out of the vehicle.
“Is it my eyes?” she remembered him saying in horror. “Is it a ghost?”
“Surprise! I’m still alive!” she quipped.
Her husband, Balenga Kalala, was obviously not pleased, since he was the one who had ordered a team of hit men to kill his wife five days earlier in Burundi. The surprisingly kindhearted men had told him that the deed was done—when, in fact, they had released her.
So there Rukundo was, surprisingly solid when her husband reached out to touch her shoulder to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him.
“I’m sorry for everything,” he said.
Too little, too late. Kalala was arrested, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison for incitement to murder, according to the Post.
And again, it was all because of three pretty nice hit men who decided to let her go.
Rukundo’s tale began when she flew from Melbourne to her native Burundi with her husband to attend her stepmother’s funeral. Distressed by the day’s events, she had retreated to her hotel room, but her husband suggested she go outside for fresh air.
When she went outside, she was held at gunpoint.
“Don’t scream,” she remembered one of the men saying. “If you start screaming, I will shoot you. They’re going to catch me, but you? You will already be dead.”
Terrified, Rukundo followed instructions, allowing herself to be put in a car and blindfolded. Several minutes later, she was escorted into a building and tied to a chair.
When the men told her about her husband’s plot, she laughed, thinking that they were lying. Surely her husband of 10 years would not betray her that way.
“You’re a fool,” they told her before making a call to her husband, who issued the order to “kill her” while on speakerphone.
Rukundo said that she fainted, the Post notes.
“I knew he was a violent man,” Rukundo told the BBC. “But I didn’t believe he can kill me.”
But Kalala had a dark past, having fled a rebel army that tore apart his village in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing his then-wife and young son. When he met Rukundo 11 years ago in Australia, he already had five children. The couple would go on to have three children together.
Luckily for her, the men hired to kill her did not believe in killing women, and they knew her brother. They explained that they would keep the hit money and tell her husband that she was dead. Two days later they set her free on the side of a road with a cellphone, recordings of their phone conversations with her husband and receipts for the 7,000 Australian dollars they’d been paid.
“We just want you to go back, to tell other stupid women like you what happened,” they reportedly told her.
With the help of her church pastor in Australia, Rukundo was able to return to Melbourne without alerting her husband before confronting him the night of Feb. 22.
“I felt like somebody who had risen again,” she told the BBC.
Kalala at first denied all accusations but then later confessed during a phone conversation that authorities secretly recorded.
“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, begging for forgiveness. All of this because he reportedly thought that she was going to leave him for another man, an accusation that Rukundo denies.
“Had Ms. Rukundo’s kidnappers completed the job, eight children would have lost their mother,” Victoria Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “It was premeditated and motivated by unfounded jealousy, anger and a desire to punish Ms. Rukundo.”
Meanwhile, Rukundo is trying to return to some kind of normalcy. But she now has eight children to raise alone and has asked the Australian Department of Human Services to find her a new place to live. She has also faced backlash from Melbourne’s Congolese community for reporting her husband. She said that someone is leaving her threatening messages. She got home one day to find her back door broken.
And at night, when trying to go to sleep, she still hears her husband’s voice saying, “Kill her.”
Nonetheless, Rukundo tries to remain strong. “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.”