‘The hangman was too tired to hang me – three times’

By Mary GoodhartBBC News, Malawi

  • 21 February 2019
Byson Kaula

On death row in Malawi, Byson Kaula was nearly executed three times – but on each occasion the hangman stopped work before hanging all the prisoners on his list. So he survived… until the country stopped executing people altogether.

Byson Kaula says jealous neighbours were responsible for him being found guilty of murder. It was 1992 and murder in those days carried a mandatory death sentence.

Brought up in a small village in southern Malawi, Byson had made enough money working in the gas industry in Johannesburg, South Africa, to return home and buy land. He employed five people and grew fruit, wheat, maize, and cassava.

“That is when my sad times began,” he says.

Neighbours attacked one of his employees, Byson says, leaving him badly injured. The man couldn’t walk without assistance, and while helping him get to the toilet – navigating steps that were slippery after heavy rain – Byson fell and dropped him. The man died later in hospital, and Byson – then in his 40s – was charged with murder.

In court, Byson’s neighbours testified against him.

His mother, Lucy, sitting at the back of the courtroom, couldn’t hear the sentence being read out and had to ask what was happening. When she was told he had been sentenced to death, “tears rolled from my eyes down my chest,” she says.

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