On 27 December, at around midday, 30-year-old Phoebe Titus went with a neighbour’s child to an informal shop in the town of Wolseley to buy ice lollies.
According to reports received by LGBTI rights group Triangle Project, Titus accidentally stepped on the toes of a 15-year-old boy at the store.
The furious youth responded by allegedly shouting homophobic and transphobic slurs, including “vuil moffie” (dirty faggot) at the woman.
After being repeatedly verbally abused by the teen, Titus told a friend’s mother across the road from the shop that she was “sick of being called names.” Annoyed, the woman picked up a plastic crate and gestured with it to the youth.
It’s alleged that a man in his twenties near the shop handed a knife to the boy, who then allegedly plunged it into Titus’ neck.
Bleeding profusely, she staggered away, collapsing and dying about 500 metres down the road in a pool of blood.
“I think she’d just had enough of being called names,” an emotional Sharon Cox, Triangle’s Health and Support Services Manager, told Mambaonline. “She was beautiful and was loved in the community. She was a hairdresser in Wolseley at the time of her death, and was a friend to many. Everybody knew her.”
Cox said that the teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, was arrested and appeared in court shortly after the attack. Shockingly, he was immediately released on bail into the custody of his grandmother.
“This seems like an injustice,” said an appalled Cox, questioning why he was not kept at a youth detention centre following such a serious crime. “He’s continuing to live his life and enjoy his freedom. It does not seem right. This was no accident.”
She added that, “I saw Phoebe at the mortuary and the knife wound was very profound – right into her main artery. She could never have survived.”
Cox commented that another injustice is that the man who allegedly gave the weapon to the teenager has not been charged with any crime.
“I feel that he should be held accountable for placing a knife in the hands of an angry 15-year-old. Once again, there seems to be this very lackadaisical attitude towards a crime of this nature.”
She noted that Wolseley is just a few kilometres from Ceres, the scene of the brutal 2014 torture and murder of 23-year-old David Olyne for being a “moffie”. A group of teenagers were also involved in that incident by, at the very least, standing by and watching the attack.
“David’s trial is coming to an end, and now we have to start all over again,” said Cox. “This is the fourth [LGBTI-related] murder in a small area like this in a relatively short space of time. When does this ever end?”
The 15-year-old accused of killing Titus is expected to return to court in late February. Cox warned that it will be a difficult case to monitor because the proceedings are likely to be held in-camera due to the accused being a minor.
Titus’ murder follows the horrific murder and mutilation of openly lesbian Motshidisi Pascalina earlier in December in Gauteng’s Evaton North.