Rachel Koshi’s story of forgiveness after murder

In June 1999 Rachel Koshi was with her family in Brunei when a burglar broke into their home and fatally stabbed her husband.

Monday, 21st June 1999, was much like any other day in my life. My husband, Thomas had taken up a job in Brunei a few months back, and we had moved there from India with our 2 children. After Thomas got back from work we chatted about the day, went out for a swim, cooked dinner together and watched TV. Around 10 pm we retired for the night. The children went first as Thomas and I closed up. He took great care to draw the curtains shut. “Why are you drawing the curtains now?” I asked as I waited impatiently for him at the foot of the stairs. “So that the thief won’t come” he answered and we both laughed at the logic, or rather lack of logic, behind the statement.

By 11 pm all lights were out. The children were asleep in their bedroom and we in ours. I woke later to the sound of the door-knob turning and someone entering our room. I turned on the lights and saw this total stranger in my bedroom. An intruder, in my bedroom. I came awake in a flash and screamed in fear and anger. Thomas woke from deep sleep and instinctively rushed at the man. The man flew out of the room, down the passage and stairs. Thomas ran close behind him, and I followed-stopping to turn on the lights as I ran. I was screaming throughout and Thomas was making a feral noise deep in his throat. The man ran into the kitchen, where he had left a French window open as a route of escape. Thomas was at the kitchen door and I was right behind him. Thomas caught hold of him then, and the man struck him with a knife. A fatal blow.

In a flash it was over. I sensed rather than realized we were both alone again. Thomas stopped to fix his clothing, looked down at his body and said in alarm “Rachie, I’m hurt, I’m bleeding”. I ran to the neighbours for help and as we waited for the ambulance I sat beside him. He was in great pain and was loosing blood very rapidly. I pressed my hand against his as he covered the wound. There was a strange calm between us as I prayed and soothed him. Little did we realise those would be our last moments together on this earth. The knife had penetrated 9 inches into his abdomen and cut through lungs, stomach, intestine, pancreas and the inferior vena cava – the largest vein in the body. There was no way he could have survived that injury beyond the first few minutes without immediate medical aid. He was rushed to the hospital half dead; and when I saw him next his eyes were open but he was far, far away.

I returned to India with my children and went back to my job. We grieved deeply for our loss. Friends and family helped us re-build our lives without Thomas. I clung to the Scriptures I had grown up with and sought comfort from words in the Bible. I was so inspired by the words of Max Lucado, that I made them my motto: “Because of Calvary I am free to choose. I choose love…. No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose joy… I will invite God to be the God of my circumstance. I choose peace…. I will live forgiven: I will forgive so that I may live.’

With time, we moved on, but the horror of Thomas’ death stayed with me. I was haunted day and night by the memories of the break in and of the gruesome attack. The sight of Thomas’ blood spilled all over the stairs, and the passage where he had moved about after the assault. The sight of his injured body as it lay on a cold mortuary table. My sleep was disturbed by images of the face I had seen in my bedroom that fateful night. Each facial feature firmly etched in my mind.

Then in September 2001, the Public Prosecutors from the High Court in Brunei contacted me with a request to testify at the trial of the alleged murdered. This man was in custody and fitted the description of the killer. He had been caught breaking into another house in the same area, and had confessed to killing Thomas. He was 26 years old, a known drug addict with a criminal record since the age of 16.

I was not seeking revenge and was under no obligation to honour the request of the Brunei Government. But I was still looking for peace. I went for the trial which started on October 8th, 2001. On entering the courthouse the first people I saw were the family of the defendant. The brother looked amazingly like the man I had seen in my bedroom. He caught my eye across the hall and nodded at me gravely. I averted my eyes, pretending I hadn’t seen. As I walked to the witness stand my eyes were drawn to the man in the defendant’s box. I knew him at once. At the request of the judge I told the court of my experience on the night of 21st June. In the presence of a silent, tense audience, my lawyer asked me if the man I had seen in my house was present in the Court. I pointed to the man in the box. I asked for and was granted permission to go up to him, make him stand and look directly at me. We stared at each other silently for a long moment. Both of us knew we were recreating a scene from the past. I told the court I was sure it was he.

When the court adjourned for recess, a small built lady came up to me and took both my hands in hers. She spoke rapid Malay which I didn’t understand a word of; but her message of sympathy and kindness was clear. She was the mother of the man being tried. When I left the Courtroom and walked across the large parking lot towards my car, I sensed members of the defendant’s family watching me; not with enmity, hate or fear; but with curiosity (maybe) and respect and kindness. I avoided looking at them. But when I turned to enter the car, the brother gave me an elaborate bow. Was it his way of paying respect? Acknowledging guilt? Or just plain human kindness and a need to have his unspoken apology accepted? I did not know. As the car moved towards the exit I found the family gathered beside the way. The mother and brother waved to me as I drew alongside them. “Oh Lord” I prayed, “what do I do now”, and simultaneously waved back at them.

That night, as I prepared for bed, I gave thanks for the miracle that had just worked in my life. I found it amazing that after these many months of living in fear of the man, I had been able to meet his eye and establish his guilt. I saw him now, not as a monster who had brutally attacked my husband and irrevocably destroyed my marriage, but as a frail human being caught in the grip of greed and sin. My Christian belief led me to believe that the price for all sin, including the sins of this man, had been paid for on the cross of Calvary. I whispered a prayer for him, for his mother and brother. By God’s grace I had lived up to the motto I had adopted: ‘I will forgive so that I may live’.