Serial killer Charles Sobhraj walks free

Charles Shobhraj Bikini Killer
Image: PTI

Sobhraj, 78, a French national, is suspected of killing more than 20 Western backpackers on the “hippie trail” through Asia, usually by drugging their food or drink in the course of robbing them. Nepal’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered his release from prison, where he has served 19 years out of a 20-year sentence, citing his age.

The serial “Bikini Killer”, the “Serpent” and the murderer of backpackers on 1970s “Hippi” trail could be set free soon as the Nepal Supreme Court has ordered his release after he served 95% of his jail term in that country.

Charles Sobhraj’s middle name is “notorious”. But his notoriety also has a suave ring to it. It springs from his unique style statement, the way he dressed, his ability to speak different languages eloquently and his refined demeanour. He used these to lure and trap Western tourists in Asia, mostly women backpackers, while masquerading as a gemstone trader.

Using their passports, he travelled across countries – from France to Thailand – and changed his mannerisms and appearance like a serpent does to disguise people.

His modus operandi was befriending backpackers, charming them with his sophisticated looks, cosying up, hanging out, and drugging the victims before robbing and killing them and then burning their bodies beyond recognition.In the 1970s, he went on a murder spree and killed 15 to 20 people.

In the mid-1970s, Sobhraj was issued an arrest warrant after six women were found dead on a beach in Pattaya in Thailand. He earned the moniker “Bikini Killer” from here on, as all these six women were clad only in bikinis when their bodies were recovered. Sobhraj was caught similarly at a Nepal casino in 2003 after he went to France following his release from India in 1997. He led an ostentatious life there, squandering away money and charging vast sums for his interviews and sharing his outrageous stories.

One wonders why he came back to Kathmandu. In Nepal, he was convicted of killing American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich and also found guilty of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian friend, Laurent Carriere.