A French serial killer portrayed in BBC drama The Serpent is to be freed from a Nepalese prison, after a court ruling.
By Sarah Fowler
Charles Sobhraj, who spent 19 years in jail for the murder of two tourists in Kathmandu in 1975, has been ordered to return to France within 15 days.
Sobhraj was linked to a string of other tourist murders in the 1970s, and spent 20 years in prison in India.
His victims were mostly young Western backpackers on the hippie trail in India and Thailand.
The notorious killer had been serving two life sentences, each 20 years, in Nepal’s capital for the murder of an American woman, Connie Jo Bronzich, and her Canadian backpacker friend, Laurent Carriere.
He was convicted in two separate trials – most recently in 2014, when he was sentenced to 20 years in a high security prison for murdering Carriere.
But Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered Sobhraj’s release on Wednesday after his legal team successfully filed a petition claiming he should be given a concession on his prison term due to his age, 78, and good behaviour.
A provision in Nepalese law allows inmates who have shown good character and completed 75% of their jail term to be released.
“Keeping him in the prison continuously is not in line with the prisoner’s human rights,” the verdict read, according to AFP, and cites regular treatment for heart disease as another factor in his release. His lawyer says he could be released as soon as Thursday.
In more than 20 murders that took place between 1972 and 1982 and involved drugging, strangling, beating, or burning the victims, Sobhraj has been implicated.
Because of his propensity for using convincing disguises, ability to break out of jail, and propensity to target young women, he was known as “The Serpent” or the “Bikini Killer.” It later served as the name for a popular BBC and Netflix television series about the murderer that premiered in 2020.
Sobhraj had already served two decades in prison in India for poisoning a busload of French tourists before his two convictions in Kathmandu.
By drugging the prison guards during that time, he momentarily succeeded in escaping from custody. In a later interview, he explained that the escape was a plot to lengthen his sentence and prevent his extradition to Thailand, where he was sought for five additional murders.
Sobhraj was apprehended for Bronzich’s murder after being freed from prison in India in 2003 after being seen in a Kathmandu casino.