It sounds like an old episode of The Brady bunch. I think it was Bobby, or maybe Jan or Cindy … Peter? Well it definitely wasn’t Marcia or Greg, but one of those crazy kids was feeling especially unloved one week and pretended to disappear and see what would happen at their funeral; you know, would the other kids miss him or her, or would they just want their room?
Anyway … down in Melbourne, Australia, Noela Rukundo sat in a car outside a house watching mourners file out after a funeral; her funeral. And as they all walked out, weeping silently, heads bowed, comforting one another, Noela saw the one person she wanted most to see; her husband, Balenga Kalala. That's when she stepped out of her car, and Kalala put his hands on his head in horror and said:
“Is it my eyes? Is it a ghost?”
“Surprise! I’m still alive!”
It played just then like an old Doris Day movie where she’d been lost at sea and presumed dead, and her husband moved on with his life and fell in love and then had to have Doris declared legally dead do he could marry again, except that Doris showed up alive and well.
But this is like that either. Here’s Noela’s story:
It all began when she flew from her home in Melbourne with Kalala to Burundi to attend a funeral of her stepmother. Noela was deeply upset and, after returning to her hotel room, was taking a nap when her husband called, and told her to go outside and get some air. That's when a man charged her with a gun:
“Don’t scream! If you start screaming, I will shoot you.”
Rukundo did as she was told, and was taken to a car, blindfolded, and driven away. Forty minutes later the car stopped and she was taken into a building and tied to a chair. A voice asked:
“You woman, what did you do for this man to pay us to kill you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Balenga sent us to kill you.”
Noela fainted. When she came to the kidnappers said they wouldn’t kill her because they knew her brother, but they would keep the money and tell Kalala she was dead. Two days later they set her free with a cellphone, recordings of their phone conversations with her husband, and receipts for the $7,000 they received in payment.
Rukundo sought help from the Kenyan and Belgian embassies to return to Australia, and then called the pastor of her church and explained what had happened. Without alerting Kalala, the pastor helped her get back home.
Meanwhile, her husband told people Noela had died in a tragic accident and the community gathered for her funeral on February 22, 2015. As her husband waved goodbye to the last of the guests Noela approached him. She says Kalala touched her shoulder to see if she was real, then jumped and started screaming:
“I’m sorry for everything.”
Too late; Rukundo called the police and Balenga Kalala was arrested. At first he denied any involvement, but Noela got him to confess 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 begged for forgiveness; she refused. He was found guilty for incitement to murder and sentenced to nine years in prison.
An ending far happier than a Brady Bunch episode or an old Doris Day movie because it really happened.