“The Serpent” could return to France within two weeks, after nineteen years behind bars in a prison in Kathmandu, Nepal. Charles Sobhraj, 78, one of the most fearsome serial killers of the XXe century, was released on Friday, December 23, by decision of the Supreme Court of Nepal, because of his age and his state of health. This cumbersome French citizen with a macabre past, popularized in a BBC series, broadcast by Netflix, where he is played by actor Tahar Rahim, had almost served his last sentence, twenty years, for the murder of two tourists from the North of France. Americans.
But his criminal past is much heavier. He is believed to have killed a dozen young Western travelers, possibly more, in the 1970s and 1980s in Thailand, India and Nepal. His nickname, “the Serpent”, testifies to his ability to escape justice, but above all to his venomous seduction. Intelligent, elegant, manipulative, speaking several languages, he charmed his victims, backpackers in search of spirituality, then poisoned them to steal their money and passport, which he then used to change his identity and escape prosecution.
Born in 1944 in Saigon, Indochina, to a Vietnamese mother and an Indian father, he acquired French nationality after his mother remarried to a French officer. Arriving in France as a teenager, he quickly became a petty delinquent, experienced his first nights in a cell, married a Frenchwoman, Chantal. He flew with her to India in 1970 and settled in Bombay, where their daughter, Usha, was born. He lives off the fruits of petty scams, then begins to roam the hippie roads, robs travelers after giving them sleeping pills, robs a jewelry store in New Delhi. His wife ends up leaving him.
In 1975, he landed in Bangkok with a Canadian he had met a few months earlier in India, Marie-Andrée Leclerc, his new companion and accomplice. Sobhraj calls himself Alain Gautier and claims to be a dealer in precious stones. He commits his first murders. Six young women, all dressed in a bikini, will be found on a beach in Pattaya. The press gives the mysterious killer the nickname “Bikini Killer”.
Several times he escaped the police, but in July 1976, after having tried to intoxicate a group of French tourists in New Delhi, where he returned, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Indian capital. Justice condemns him to twelve years in prison, not for his attempted murder, but for having attempted to steal jewels. As his release date approaches, Charles Sobhraj escapes from Tihar prison in New Delhi, disguised as a guard. He was apprehended in Goa, and sentenced to an additional ten years in prison. The maneuver allowed him not to be extradited to Thailand, where he risked the death penalty. From his cell, the prisoner continues to manipulate his world, grants interviews, bonds with journalists, builds his legend.
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