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Durban – Two families are trying to come to grips with a bizarre yet tragic incident in which a young Phoenix woman took her own life after overpowering her partner, who was attacking her, and stabbed him to death.

Using a knife meant to protect them from robbers, Felicia Reddy, 24, stabbed her partner Stenton Panthia, 28, in the chest, last Thursday just after midnight. They were walking home from a local tavern after a night of binge-drinking, according to a police official familiar with the case. He was not authorised to speak to the media.

The couple had left their home in Greenbury earlier that evening to go to Tee’s Tavern in Stanmore, said the source.

“Panthia carried a knife with him for protection from possible robbers. The couple spent the rest of the night drinking and only left the tavern at 12.30 the next morning.

“The couple were both intoxicated, and while walking home along the Phoenix highway, an argument ensued between the two and Panthia started assaulting Reddy.”

The source said Panthia then pulled out the knife and tried to stab his partner.

“Reddy managed to overpower him, grabbed the knife and stabbed him once on the left side of his chest. He fell to the ground with the blade lodged in his chest, while Reddy sought help from people in the area. The ambulance services and police were contacted.”

The source said that when police arrived, the paramedics tried to revive Panthia but he succumbed to his injuries.

“Reddy was arrested, taken in for questioning and detained in a police cell. As per procedure, every hour police go to the cells to check on prisoners and around 10am they did their rounds. They called out Reddy’s name and she stepped forward, looked at police and said she was here. Half an hour later when they called out Reddy’s name again, there was no answer.”

The source said the officers entered the cell and found Reddy in a seated position on the toilet.

“Her body was bent forward and the right side of her head was slumped against the wall. A piece of blanket was tied around her neck and there was no pulse. She had apparently committed suicide.”

The chairman of the Phoenix Community Policing Forum, Umesh Singh, said while this was a sad incident it should serve as an eye-opener to youth.

“Alcohol and drugs are freely available in Phoenix and the police are doing their level best to curb the problem. Apart from raids on possible drug dens and taverns, we have ongoing awareness campaigns targeted at youth, highlighting the dangers of substance and alcohol abuse.”

It seemed their efforts, he said, were falling on deaf ears.

The director of the Phoenix Child Welfare Society, Aroona Chetty, said there was an increase in irresponsible drinking.

“People need to understand that excessive drinking comes with a price and at times can lead to death.”

Chetty said there was a need to clamp down on the number of taverns operating in Phoenix and to provide rehab facilities.

The couple’s families declined to comment.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said a case of murder was being investigated and an inquest docket had been opened at the Phoenix Police Station. Panthia was cremated on Monday and Reddy was cremated on Tuesday.