A WOMAN gatecrashed her own funeral to surprise the husband who had paid hitmen £3,500 to kill her.
Noela Rukundo confronted Balenga Kalala, her partner of 10 years, outside the service in her honour.
Terrified, he held his head in his hands and asked her, “Is it my eyes? is it a ghost,” even touching her shoulder to check she was real.
Just days earlier the mum-of-eight had been snatched from outside a hotel in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, by a group of armed hitmen.
She had travelled to the east African country with her husband – from their home in Melbourne, Australia – to attend the funeral of a family member.
After taking her to a strange building and tying her up, the men let Rukundo listen in on a call with her husband, in which he could be heard ordering them to kill her.
But instead of carrying out the command, the men decided to let her go, telling her that they didn’t believe in killing women – and also knew her brother.
They released her with a mobile phone and evidence of her husband’s plot.
With help from the Kenyan and Belgian embassies and her pastor in Melbourne, Rukundo was able to return home – ready to surprise her scheming husband, who had told friends and family members she had been killed in an accident.
Kalala initially denied plotting to kill his wife, but he eventually confessed in a phone call that was secretly recorded by police.
He was arrested and a year on he has been sentenced to nine years in prison for incitement to murder.
Rukundo, meanwhile, has experienced a backlash from members of the African community in Melbourne, who are angry she reported her husband to the police.
She has been sent threatening messages and had her back door broken.
But she is determined to stay tough for the sake of her eight kids.
She told the BBC: “I knew he was a violent man. But I didn’t believe he can kill me.
”Every night, I see what was happening in those two days with the kidnappers.
“(But) I will stand up like a strong woman. My situation, my past life? That is gone. I’m starting a new life now.”