Hippie-cutting serial killer ‘The Serpent’ gets out of prison

Prakash Mathema/AFP via Getty

Prakash Mathema/AFP via Getty

Nepal’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of Charles Sobhraj, the French serial killer who murdered a string of Western tourists traveling through Asia in the 1970s.

Sobhraj, whose crimes inspired the Netflix drama series The snakehad served a life sentence for the 1975 murder of American Connie Jo Bronzich, 29, in Nepal. kathmandu message.

Sobhraj, 78, has been linked to more than two dozen deaths, specifically targeting people traveling the “Hippie Trail” across Southeast Asia. Sobhraj, a Frenchman of Indian and Vietnamese descent, served several times in prison in France for petty crimes as a teenager. He began traveling the Hippie Trail himself in the 1970s, charming and robbing young travelers along the way.

The serial killer who murdered hippies on the ‘Pot Trail’ in Southeast Asia

But his crimes eventually escalated into violence. His first known murder victim was Teresa Knowlton – a 21-year-old backpacker from Seattle who was found drowned. Knowlton was found in a floral bikini; after another of his female victims was found in swimwear, Sobhraj became known as the ‘Bikini Killer’.

His more famous nickname “Serpent” was derived from his snake-like skill at evading law enforcement and his ability to charm his victims into trusting him. “As long as I can talk to people, I can manipulate them,” Sobhraj once boasted to his biographer. At various times, he posed as a gem seller or a drug dealer and even assumed the identities of some of his victims in order to travel and escape capture.

It is unclear how many victims were poisoned, strangled or burned by Sobhraj. His murders were sometimes facilitated by an Indian accomplice, Ajay Chowdhury, and Sobhraj’s lover from Quebec, Marie-Andrée Leclerc.

In India in 1976, Sobhraj attempted to steal the passports of a group of French students by giving them sleeping pills under the pretext that they were antibiotics. The plan got out of hand and some of the victims raised the alarm. Indian authorities arrested Sobhraj and he was sentenced to 12 years on poisoning and other charges, including the wrongful death of Frenchman Jean-Luc Solomon.

Sobhraj would eventually spend 21 years in prison except for a brief escape in 1986. After his release in 1997, Sobhraj moved to Paris where he gave interviews about his dark criminal exploits.

Six years later, in 2003, he was seen again in Nepal and arrested a few days later by local authorities at a casino. Sobhraj was tried for the 1975 murder of Connie Jo Bronzich, whose burned and stabbed body had been found in Kathmandu. Sobhraj was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in Nepal. A decade later, while in prison, he was also found guilty of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian friend Laurent Carrière, 26, whose passport Sobhraj had used to flee Nepal after killing the traveling companions.

In recent years, Sobhraj’s health deteriorated and he underwent five-hour heart surgery in 2017. “Keeping him in prison continuously is inconsistent with the prisoner’s human rights,” the verdict added.

An official at Kathmandu Central Prison, where Sobhraj is being held, told the news agency that the killer is likely to be released on Thursday.

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