Serial killer ‘Snake’ is expected to be freed in Nepal

French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who committed a series of murders across Asia in the 1970s and was portrayed in the Netflix series The Serpenthe was expected to walk out of prison in Nepal on Thursday.

Nepal’s top court ruled on Wednesday that Sobhraj, 78, who has been jailed in the Himalayan republic since 2003 for two murders in the 1970s, should be released early on health grounds.

Prison officials told AFP that after receiving the relevant court documents, they would hand Sobhraj over to immigration authorities. The court ordered that he be deported within 15 days.

Sobhraj required open-heart surgery in 2017 and his release was in line with the law allowing compassionate release for inmates who had already served three-quarters of their sentences, the verdict added.

Sobhraj targeted the backpackers

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

Posing as a jewelry dealer, he would befriend his victims, many of them Western backpackers on the hippie trail in the 1970s, before drugging, robbing and murdering them.

“He looked down on backpackers, he saw them as poor young drug addicts,” Australian journalist Julie Clarke, who interviewed Sobhraj, told AFP in 2021.

“He was considered a criminal hero.”

Smooth and sophisticated, he was involved in his first murder, that of a young American woman whose body was found on a beach wearing a bikini, in 1975.

Dubbed the “Bikini Killer,” he was eventually linked to more than 20 murders.

Sobhraj’s other nickname, “The Snake”, comes from his ability to assume other identities to evade justice.

It became the title of a hit series made by the BBC and Netflix that was based on his life.

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‘Swindler, seducer, thief’

He was arrested in India in 1976 and eventually spent 21 years in prison there, with a brief break in 1986 when he escaped and was recaptured in the coastal Indian state of Goa.

Leaving in 1997, Sobhraj lived in Paris, giving paid interviews to journalists, but returned to Nepal in 2003.

He was spotted in the tourist district of Kathmandu and arrested at a casino.

A court there sentenced him to life in prison the following year for killing American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975. A decade later he was also found guilty of killing Bronzich’s Canadian girlfriend.

“He was cultured, polite,” Nadine Gires, a French woman who lived in the same Bangkok apartment block as Sobhraj, recalled to AFP last year.

“He was not only a swindler, a seducer, a tourist thief, but an evil murderer.”

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