The accused murderer of three Italian missionary sisters inBurundi has been apprehended and has confessed to the crime.
“The murderer is in our hands and has confessed,” announcedthe police spokesman, Colonel Helmenegilde Harimenshi.
Sister Bernadette Boggian, 79, Sister Olga Raschietti, 83,and Sister Lucia Pulici, 75, members of the Xaverian Order, were murderedon Sunday in two separate attacks. All three were from northern Italy.
The 33-year-old arrested is named ChristianClaude Butoyi and claims that he killed the three nuns because theirconvent is built on land that belonged to his parents. He also confessed toraping the sisters. “I raped and then killed,” he said, “becauseforeigners have occupied my property.”
It is not clear whether he had accomplices, a hypothesisconsidered probable. It is also unclear how he was able to get back into theconvent and kill the third sister and leave without being detected, despite thepresence of police officers on the spot. At the time of detention in Kamengethe man was in possession of the keys of the convent and the cell phone of oneof the nuns killed. The latter suggests that robbery could have been the motive,even though at first the police had stated that nothing had been stolen.
Not everyone is convinced of this narrative of events. “Wedo not believe this story. The arrest of this person is an excuse to divert theinvestigation into the killing of our sisters,” says SisterDelia Guadagnini, former Regional Superior of the Xaverian Missionaries inthe Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, who knew the three sisters well.
“We do not think that this horrible crime was committedby a single person,” says Sister Delia. “The impression is that it was morethan one person and that, as horrible as it sounds, they knew what they weredoing, as well as being very familiar with our home. The Lord will judge. We, however,will carry on with our mission.”
Godefroid Bizimana, vice director-general of the Burundipolice, said that Sister Bernadette was found to have been beheaded in theattacks which apparently occurred several hours apart in the sisters’ conventin the city of Kamenge north of the national capital.
A leader of the XaverianOrder said all three women were already in poor health, but their love ofAfrica and especially Burundi drove them to continue to work there. “Weare shocked and very surprised: the local population is as shocked as we are,”and coming together to pray for the three women, said Sister GiordanaBertacchini, director-general of the Xaverian Missionaries of Parma innorth-central Italy.
Yesterday afternoon thousands of people came to pay tributeto the three sisters at the sanctuary of Mont Sion Gikungu in the suburbs ofBujumbura. The three white coffins of Sister Lucia, Sister Bernadette, andSister Olga were lined up in front of the altar. At the end of the ceremony thecoffins began the journey toward Bukavu, Congo, for burial in the cemetery thathosts the remains of the Xaverian missionaries killed in these lands.