French serial killer Charles Sobhraj to be finally released Friday

Eva Deschamps / December 23, 2023


French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who committed several murders across Asia in the 1970s and inspired the Netflix series "The Serpent," was finally released from prison Friday in Nepal, according to an AFP reporter there.


Charles Sobhraj, 78, imprisoned in this Himalayan republic since 2003 for the murder of two North American tourists, is being transferred to the immigration services before his deportation to France, said the police.


The decision to release him was made by Nepal's Supreme Court on Wednesday.


The serial killer was originally scheduled to be released on Thursday, but due to logistical and legal problems, his release was delayed by a day.


Prison officials told AFP that after receiving the court documents, they would hand him over to immigration authorities.


The court ordered that he be deported within 15 days to France.


"Once he is taken to immigration, it will be decided what to do next. He has a heart problem, he wants to be treated at Gangalal Hospital," said Gopal Shiwakoti Chintan, his lawyer.


The serial killer needs open heart surgery and his release is in accordance with a Nepalese law allowing the release of bedridden prisoners who have already served three-quarters of their sentence, according to the court.


The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had not yet officially received the request for expulsion of Charles Sobhraj from the Nepalese authorities, but that France would welcome it if necessary.


If such a request was "notified", "France would be obliged to grant it since Mr. Sobhraj is a French national", explained a spokeswoman of this ministry.


The French embassy in Nepal is monitoring the situation, the same source said.


A French citizen of Vietnamese and Indian descent, Charles Sobhraj began traveling the world in the early 1970s and ended up in the Thai capital, Bangkok.


Posing as a gem trader, he befriended his victims, often Western backpackers on the trail of 1970s hippies, before drugging, robbing and murdering them.


He despised the backpackers, poor young drug addicts. He saw himself as a criminal hero," Australian journalist Julie Clarke, who interviewed him, told AFP in 2021.


Nicknamed the "Bikini Killer", this suave and sophisticated man has been linked to more than 20 murders.


Charles Sobhraj's other nickname, "The Snake," comes from his ability to assume other identities to evade justice. It became the title of a hit BBC and Netflix series based on his life.


Arrested in India in 1976, he spent 21 years behind bars, before managing to escape briefly in 1986 after drugging prison guards. He was eventually recaptured in the Indian state of Goa.


Released in 1997, he retired to Paris but resurfaced in 2003 in Nepal, where he was spotted in the tourist district of Kathmandu and arrested.


The following year, a court sentenced him to life in prison for the 1975 murder of American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich. Ten years later, he was also convicted of the murder of Ms. Bronzich's Canadian companion.


Nadine Gires, a French woman who lived in the same building as Charles Sobhraj in Bangkok, told AFP last year that she initially found him to be a "cultured" and impressive character.


But in the end, "he was not only a crook, a seducer, a thief of tourists, but an evil murderer.

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