‘Snake’ serial killer Charles Sobhraj ‘feels great’ after release

French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, responsible for multiple killings in the 1970s across Asia, told AFP he felt “great” on Friday after being released from nearly 20 years in prison in Nepal.

“I feel great… I have a lot to do. I have to sue a lot of people. Including the state of Nepal,” Sobhraj told AFP aboard a plane bound for Doha and then Paris.

Asked if he thought he had been wrongly described as a serial killer, the 78-year-old said: “Yes, yes.”

Nepal’s top court ruled on Wednesday that he should be released on health grounds and deported to France within 15 days.

On Friday, he was released and took a flight to Kathmandu airport to take him via Doha to Paris, where he was due to land in the early hours of Saturday.

– ‘Murder in Bikini’ –

Sobhraj’s life was chronicled in the series “The Serpent” co-produced by Netflix and the BBC.

Born in Saigon to an Indian father and a Vietnamese mother who later married a Frenchman, Sobhraj embarked on an international life of crime, ending up in Thailand in 1975.

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.

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

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

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

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

– ‘Karma’ –

He was spotted in a casino playing baccarat by journalist Joseph Nathan, one of the founders of the Himalayan Times newspaper, and arrested.

“He looked harmless… It was pure luck that I recognized him,” Nathan told AFP on Thursday. “I think it was karma.”

A court in Nepal sentenced Sobhraj 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 partner.

Speaking to AFP amid bewildered Qatar Airways passengers on Friday, Sobhraj insisted he was innocent of the killings in Nepal.

“The courts in Nepal, from the district court to the high court and the supreme court, all the judges, were biased against Charles Sobhraj,” he said.

“I’m innocent in these cases, okay? So I don’t have to feel bad about it, either. I’m innocent. It was built on false documents,” he added.

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Thai police officer Sompol Suthimai, whose work with Interpol was instrumental in securing the 1976 arrest, had pushed for Sobhraj to be extradited to Thailand and tried for murders there.

But on Thursday, Suthimai told AFP he was not opposed to being released, as both he and the criminal he pursued were too old.

“I don’t have any feelings for him now that it’s been so long,” Suthimai, 90, said. “I think he’s already paid his dues.”

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