Charles Sobhraj, a French national known as “The Serpent” and convicted of committing a series of murders on the “hippie trail” to and from South Asia in the 1970s, was released from a Nepalese jail on Friday and deported to France.
Upon his release from Kathmandu’s central jail, Sobhraj, 78, was transferred to an immigration center and eventually the airport for deportation to France, where he is scheduled to arrive early on Saturday.
The individual, whose life inspired the Netflix series The Serpent, was transported out of prison in a blue police vehicle. Wearing a woolen cap, blue coat, and mask, Sobhraj made no statement to the journalists at the site.
Sobhraj had been incarcerated in Nepal since 2003 for the murder of two American tourists. The Nepalese Supreme Court ordered his early release on Wednesday on health grounds and his deportation to France within a maximum of 15 days.
“The government of Nepal desires to transfer him as expeditiously as possible. Sobhraj also wishes for this,” stated his lawyer, Gopal Shiwakoti Chintan, who purchased a plane ticket for Qatar Airways on his behalf. “The French embassy provided him with a travel document,” he added.
The release of the serial killer was initially scheduled for Thursday, but logistical and legal issues delayed the process by a day.
According to the court, Sobhraj, who requires open-heart surgery, is eligible for release under a Nepalese law that permits the release of sick prisoners who have served three-quarters of their sentence.
The French Foreign Ministry had previously indicated that the country would accept Sobhraj if notified of a request. “France would be obliged to fulfill it because Sobhraj is a French citizen,” explained a spokesman for the ministry.
Sobhraj, of Vietnamese and Indian origin, began traveling the world in the early 1970s and arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. Posing as a jewelry merchant, he would befriend victims, many of them Western backpackers, whom he would drug, rob, and kill.
“He despised backpackers, viewing them as young, impoverished drug addicts,” commented Australian journalist Julie Clarke, who interviewed Sobhraj. “He perceived himself as a criminal hero,” she added.
Nicknamed the “bikini killer,” Sobhraj was linked to more than 20 homicides. The alias “The Serpent” arose from his ability to adopt various identities to evade justice and served as the title of a successful series produced by the BBC and Netflix based on his life.
Sobhraj was arrested in India in 1976 and spent 21 years in prison there, except for a brief period in 1986 when he escaped and was later captured in the coastal state of Goa.
After his release in 1997, he lived in Paris, where he was paid for interviews, but returned to Nepal in 2003. He was arrested in a casino in the tourist district of Kathmandu after being spotted there.
The following year, a court sentenced him to life imprisonment for the 1975 murder of American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich. A decade later, he was convicted of the murder of Bronzich’s companion, a Canadian national.
While imprisoned, Sobhraj married Nihita Biswas, a Nepali woman 44 years his junior, in 2008.
While in jail, Sobhraj maintained his innocence regarding the two deaths and claimed he had never visited Nepal before the trip, resulting in his arrest.
Nadine Gires, a Frenchwoman who lived in the same apartment building as Sobhraj in Bangkok, stated to AFP last year that he was a “cultured and courteous” figure.
“Not only was he a con man, seducer, and thief of tourists, he was also an evil murderer,” he said.