Saturday, August 13, 2016

Charmaine Phillips, Serial Killer – South Africa, 1983

Peter Louis David Grundlingh, 35, became known as the South African Bonnie and Clyde. When Charmaine, who was married to a man whose whereabouts was unknown to her, met her partner in crime she was a prostitute. She came from a violent family, her mother having been murdered by her lover. “Charmaine had lived in Durban, Germiston and Johannesburg. Her friends remembered her as a rebel who would do anything for attention. Those who grew up with her said she never really stood a chance.”

They began their career as a serial killer couple in June 1983. By the time they were captured in a massive manhunt they had committed four murders. Though Grundleigh confessed to all four murders, it seems that Charmaine was not above pulling the trigger herself.

On June 19, 1983, Charmaine shot to death Vernon Alexander Swart, 28, “because she was angry that he urinated in front of her.” The pair tied their victim to a tree before killing him. This was their second victim in the series of murder that lasted for sixteen days. All the victims were male.

They were caught, tried and convicted. Grundlingh was hanged and Charmaine Phillips was sentenced to life in prison. On Aug. 20, 2004 she was paroled. [R St. E.]
Jul. 22, 1963 – Charmaine Phillips born. Orange Free State. AKA “Dawn.” Father: Leo "Hoppy" Phillips, schizophrenic; mother alcoholic.
1970 – C removed from parents, sent to “children’s home.”
1977 – C begins working as prostitute.
1978 – C gives birth to Ricky-Lee; goven up to foster parents
Year? – Her mother had been beaten to death by a lover.
ca. 1979 – C marries a Greek sailor, surname Skubides, left her.
1981 – working as a prostitute: “Dawn.” Pietermaritzburg.   
Dec. 24, 1981 – Charmaine Phillips & Pieter Grundlingh meet.
1983? – Pietertjie born.
Jun. 14, 1983 – Gerald Meyer, 34, was shot dead at Umhloti in what was then Natal. His body was found on a dusty road near Verulam.
Jun. 19, 1983 – Vernon Alexander Swart, 28, was tied to a tree next to the Melmouth Vryheid Road and shot dead. Charmaine testified she shot him because she got annoyed at his “babbling onJun. 25, 1983 – Barend Eugene Greyvenstein murdered.
Jun. 26, 1983 – the body of Barend Eugene Greyvenstein, 31, of Ermelo was found at the roadside at the Kinross Dam, shot dead.
Jun. 30, 1983 – Martin Mofosi was found shot dead near Bloemfontein.
Jul. 1983 – nationwide manhunt launched for Grundlingh and Phillips.
Jul. 15, 1983 – Charmaine Phillips (18), Pieter Grundlingh (35), arrested; Vereeniging.
Oct. 1983 – Grundlingh confessed to having killed all four men.
Feb. 1984 – Trial. Maritzburg Court.
Feb. 24, 1984 – Charmaine sentenced to 4 life terms; Pieter sentenced to death. Mr. Justice President John Milne. Maritzburg Court.
Jul. 30, 1985 – Grundlingh was hanged.
1985? – C forms gang in prison.
Aug. 11, 1998 – “Charmaine’s Story,” TV, “Special Assignment” series.
Aug. 20, 2004 – Charmaine Phillips (40) paroled. Released from Kroonstad Medium C Prison.
Mar. 18/19, 2006 – Pietertjie Grundlingh (Pieter Jr.) (23), dies.
Mar. 24, 2006 – Pietertjie Grundlingh (Pieter Jr.) (23), funeral.
Miki Pistorius, Fatal Females: Women Who Kill, Penguin Books, South Africa – 2004
Chris Karsten, Killer Women Human & Rosseau, Cape Town, South Africa – 2007
[Estelle Ellis, “Remembering SA's own 'Bonny and Clyde',” IOL (South Africa), Aug. 5, 2004]
“Charmaine Phillips's love-child laid to rest,” IOL (South Africa), Mar. 25, 2006
[“Doodstraf voor Zuidafrikaanse ‘Clyde’,” Leidse Courant (Netherlands), Feb. 24, 1984, p. 1]


Documentary film

Charmaine’s Story
1996 South Africa 26 min BETA
Dir: Sara Blecher

June 1983. Four seemingly random murders occur across South Africa. Police eventually find evidence which links all four to a renegade couple, Charmaine Phillips and Peter Grundlingh, who are on a road run across the country with their baby. NYU film graduate Blecher has constructed a part murder mystery, part ‘dear diary’ account of South Africa’s very own Bonny and Clyde murderers.

Charmaine’s Story documents the four murders, using news broadcasts, detective photographs and interviews with Charmaine’s family, friends of the couple and their investigating officer. This story of violence, obsession, and dysfunctional relationships that captured the fascination of the South African public is narrated by Charmaine herself. The twist in the tale reminds us that fact will always remain more extraordinary than fiction.








Links to more Serial Killer Couples



  1. You have your facts wrong. Charmaine's father may have killed her mother, but when I grew up with her in Durban - I spent many happy hours at her home with her family. She did not suffer abuse or have any kind of bad childhood. If she says she did - she is a liar as well as a murderer!

  2. Thanks. That's valuable. I'll edit the article to include this if you can provide the place and date. If you have anything else to say about her that could be useful, I'll be glad to include it.

  3. In 1979, Charmaine and I spent time on Durban Beachfront and her home in La Lucia, My family and I had just arrived from Rhodesia and were living in a temporary residence on the beachfront. I met her and her boyfriend but didn't think too much of it at the time. After the initial meeting I did not see much of her boyfriend. During 1980 she told me her boyfriend had made her pregnant and she aborted the baby. I was shocked at her callousness. I had rose tinted glasses on which came off quickly when I started noticing the little things. At her home in La Lucia she moved out the house and into a caravan on the property. Her dad was a little odd at times and then one afternoon I was with my gran in Umhlanga when I heard that her dad killed her mother. Charmaine told me her parents were drunk and had got into a major fight over a supposed boyfriend of her mothers. Charmaine said she was lucky she was in the caravan or she might have been killed too. My dad was worried about my relationship with Charmaine and her family and told me to be careful. Then Charmaine suddenly got married to some guy working on an international ship. She said she needed to get away from South Africa and marrying this guy was her way out. But that didn't happen. She was angry. I had never seen her get that angry before. She then got a job working with my gran on the Esplanade. My gran had a beautiful curio shop next to the yacht club. Unfortunately she only lasted a week - my gran caught her stealing money from the till. I was angry she would steal from my Gran. This was in November 1980. I then told her we couldn't be friends anymore. I then heard from mutual friends that she was working in Pietermaritzburg. I was in America in 1984 when I heard that Charmaine and her latest boyfriend had been sentenced for murder. :(

  4. GenieD I don't know where you have got your information from but I was in the home with both Charmaine and her sister. Their mother was killed while they were both in the home. That I know for a fact because I was friends with her sister and Charmaine would join in our talks that we had. There was nothing wrong with Charmaine until her mother got killed and it was by the boyfriend not the father. Once she left the home that is when she took the wrong path. Of all the girls in the home Charmaine is the only one who turned out this way us others got good jobs and careers and married etc. So your information is a lot out.

  5. Charmaine and i were good friends when she was in Port Elizabeth for a while. She was the sweetest person and a good friend.

  6. I taught Charmaine when she and her sister had been placed in Excelsior Place of Safety, Bamboo Lane, Pinetown, KZN, SA. It was obvious that she was very disturbed. I heard that her father used to plant umbrellas hoping they would grow. It seems he had severe mental issues. I knew nothing about her mother having been murdered. But then, social welfare workers were sometimes cagey about disclosing matters even to the teachers.