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‘Snake’ serial killer Charles Sobhraj freed from Nepal prison


Kathmandu, Nepal –

Charles Sobhraj, a convicted killer who police say was responsible for a string of murders in the 1970s and 1980s, was released Friday from a Nepalese prison after nearly two decades behind bars.

The 78-year-old French national is suspected of killing more than 20 Western backpackers on the ‘hippie trail’ across Asia, usually by drugging their food or drink during a robbery.

He left Nepal early Friday evening on a scheduled flight to Doha bound for Paris, said Katak Rawal, an official at Kathmandu airport.

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 on Wednesday ordered his release from prison, where he had served 19 years of a 20-year sentence, citing his advanced age.

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

Sobhraj had been held in a high-security prison in Kathmandu since 2003, when he was arrested for the murder of 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 released last year.

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

“I am happy and have great respect for our judicial system and our Supreme Court,” Sobhraj’s mother-in-law, Sakuntala Thapa, told Reuters partner ANI after his release was announced.

Sobhraj denied killing the American and his lawyers said the charge against him was based on speculation.

Several years later, he was convicted of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian friend, Laurent Carrière.

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

‘YOU ARE CHARLES’

Sobhraj was imprisoned 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 the Indian prison of Tihar in 1986 after drugging prison guards with biscuits and cakes mixed with sleeping pills.

Police arrested Sobhraj a few days later at a restaurant in the Indian beach holiday state of Goa.

“I approached their table and said ‘you are Charles’,” Madhukar Zende, the police officer who arrested him in Goa, told The Indian Express newspaper in an interview published on Friday.

A statue of Sobhraj still stands today at the restaurant in Goa. 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 trickster, seducer, thief and murderer.

Its true death toll, spanning decades and multiple countries, remains unknown.


Reporting by Gopal Sharma, writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Shivam Patel; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Tomasz Janowski and Arun Koyyur

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