‘I feel great’: Serial killer Charles Sobhraj who inspired Netflix series walks free

  • The 78-year-old Frenchman is suspected of killing more than 20 Western backpackers on the “hippie trail” through Asia.
  • Nepal has banned Sobhraj from entering the country for ten years.
  • After his release, Sobhraj said, “I feel great… I have a lot to do. I have to sue a lot of people.”
Charles Sobhraj, a convicted murderer who police say is responsible for a string of murders in the 1970s and 1980s, was released from a Nepalese prison on Friday after nearly two decades behind bars.
The 78-year-old Frenchman is suspected of killing more than 20 Western backpackers on the “hippy trail” through Asia, usually by drugging their food or drink while robbing them.

He left Nepal early Friday evening on a scheduled flight to Doha en route to Paris, said Katak Rawal, an airport official in Kathmandu.

Nepal has banned Sobhraj from entering the country for 10 years, said Pradashanie Kumari, acting director general of the immigration department.
The Himalayan nation’s Supreme Court had on Wednesday ordered his release from prison, where he served 19 years of a 20-year sentence, citing his advanced age.

After his release, Sobhraj told the AFP news agency: “I feel very well… I have a lot to do. I have to sue a lot of people. Including the state of Nepal.”

Who is Charles Sobhraj?

Sobhraj was born in Saigon on April 6, 1944, to an Indian father and a Vietnamese mother who later remarried a Frenchman.

In 1963, he embarked on a life as an international thief, which took him to Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In 1970 he moved to India, where he was arrested a year later for a jewel theft. He fled while on bail and went to Greece, where he also managed to escape after being arrested.
Sobhraj has been held in a high-security prison in Kathmandu since 2003, when he was arrested on charges of murdering American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975.
He was dubbed the “bikini killer” in Thailand and “the snake”, for his evasion of the police and his use of disguises.

It has been the subject of several dramatizations, including a joint Netflix and BBC production that premiered last year.

“Much respect for the judiciary”

While in prison, Sobhraj married Nihita Biswas, a Nepalese woman 44 years his junior, in 2008.

“I am happy and have great respect for our judiciary and the Supreme Court,” Sobhraj’s mother-in-law Sakuntala Thapa told Reuters partner ANI after the news of his release was announced.
Sobhraj has denied killing the American woman and his lawyers said the charge against him was based on assumptions.
Several years later, he was also found guilty of killing Ms. Bronzich’s Canadian friend, Laurent Carriere.

He was also suspected of many more murders, including in Thailand, where police say he allegedly drugged and killed six women in the 1970s, some of whom turned up dead on a beach near the resort of Pattaya.

“You are Charles”

Sobhraj was jailed in India for poisoning a group of French tourists in the capital, New Delhi, in 1976 before he could stand trial on the charges against him in Thailand.

He escaped from Tihar Jail in India in 1986 after drugging prison guards with biscuits and cakes laced with sleeping pills.
Police arrested Sobhraj days later at a restaurant in the Indian state of Goa for a beach holiday.
“I walked up to his table and said, ‘You are Charles,'” Madhukar Zende, the police officer who nabbed him in Goa, told The Indian Express newspaper in an interview published on Friday.
A statue of Sobhraj stands in the restaurant in Goa to this day. He was imprisoned in India until 1997 when he returned to France.
Born to a Vietnamese mother and an Indian father, he was described by his associates as a swindler, a seducer, a thief and a murderer.

Its true number of victims, spanning decades and several countries, remains unknown.

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