The family of an Australian teacher who was allegedly poisoned and fed to crocodiles in the Congo are “absolutely devastated”, saying it’s “too painful” to even think of the horrific circumstances in which he died.
Mark Ciavarella, 57, died 35 minutes after unknowingly drinking poison in his Congo unit as his lover allegedly watched on and said nothing.
His body was later tossed into a crocodile-infested river.
Mr Ciavarella had been working in the African nation for six years as a teacher at an American school when his family could no longer reach him on October 26, and he was reported missing.
“If it was a crash or illness, it would be easier to come to terms with, but the fact they (allegedly) killed him and fed him to crocodiles in the sea is killing us,” Mark’s brother Darren Ciavarella told News Corp.
“It’s too painful to imagine his last moments. We are absolutely devastated.”
Mr Ciavarella’s flatmate and lover, Clement Bebeka, has been charged with assassination after allegedly confessing to the killing and will face trial in Brazzaville in March.
Mr Bebeka detailed Mr Ciavarella’s final moments in an alleged video confession, revealing that Mr Bebeka feared that Mr Ciavarella’s plans to return to Australia would leave him destitute.
“I’ve lived with Mark since 2016. He was a teacher here for some time. He called me to say he was going back to Australia because his American contract with the school had ended, and he was going to teach at the French Institute,” Mr Bebeka allegedly said in the interview.
“I came to Brazzaville to the apartment … and (saw him) with a friend. I didn’t know if they were together, but he said Mark was going to leave the country and leave us with nothing and said we needed something to benefit.
“He said he had a solution.”
Mr Bebeka confessed that the friend allegedly poured poison into Mr Ciavarella’s glass on the table while he went to the bathroom, which he drank upon his return.
“It happened in front of me,” Mr Bebeka reportedly said. “No, I didn’t intervene … (the friend) told me we needed to get his money and his bank cards.
“He didn’t have money on him, but he did have it on his bank card.
“After he drank the poison, he fell asleep, and after 35 minutes or so he was dead.”
After the alleged poisoning in their flat, Mr Bebeka, his friend and a third man, a driver, allegedly disposed of Mr Ciavarella’s body in the crocodile-infested Congo River.
“We put the body in the car and threw it into the water,” he allegedly told police in the video confession.
“The body was folded in a bed sheet … I then went to the police station to tell them Mr Mark had disappeared.”
Originally from Leeton in regional NSW, Mr Ciavarella first worked as an English and music teacher with the American International School in the Congo before taking up a job with the French Consular School.
“We told him to come home sooner, but he was worried he was a guarantor for a loan for me, but it was a fraudulent scheme, and he was ripped off and lost his house and lost thousands of dollars and was being chased for money,” Mr Ciavarella’s brother Darren said.
“He knew it was a dangerous spot, but he was very passionate about teaching the kids over there and helping out. He had the biggest heart.
“I got a phone call saying they had a confession from two men, and I was assured that they had got the guys,” he said.
“The fact they haven’t found the body and probably never will makes it harder for us in so many ways, to come to terms with his death, to get a death certificate so we can tie up his affairs, we’ll never be able to bring him home.
“It’s gut-wrenching what’s happened to Mark. I spoke to him the day before he disappeared.
“He was in a good space and excited about coming back to his life in Australia.”
Last month, Mr Ciavarella’s family received a video showing the face of an unknown African man.