- The 78-year-old Frenchman is suspected of killing more than 20 western backpackers on the “Hippie Trail” through Asia.
- Nepal has denied Sobhraj entry for ten years.
- Upon his release, Sobhraj said, “I feel great… I have a lot to do. I have to sue a lot of people.”
Charles Sobhraj, a convicted murderer police say is responsible for a string of murders in the 1970s and 1980s, was released from a Nepal prison on Friday after nearly two decades behind bars.
The 78-year-old Frenchman is suspected of killing more than 20 western backpackers on the “hippie trail” across Asia, mostly by drugging them into food or drink in a robbery.
He left Nepal early Friday evening on a regular flight to Doha en route to Paris, said Katak Rawal, a Kathmandu airport official.
Nepal has banned Sobhraj from entering the country for ten years, said Pradashanie Kumari, acting director-general of the Immigration Service.
The Himalayan nation’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered his release from prison, where he was serving 19 years of a 20-year sentence, citing his advanced age.
After his release, Sobhraj told AFP: “I feel great… I have a lot to do. I have a lot of people to sue. Also the state of Nepal.”
Who is Charles Sobhraj?
Sobhraj was born in Saigon on April 6, 1944 to an Indian father and a Vietnamese mother who later remarried to a Frenchman.
In 1963 he embarked on a life of international crooks that took him to Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In 1970 he moved to India, where he was arrested a year later for stealing jewelry. He fled to Greece on bail, where he also managed to escape after being arrested.
Sobhraj had been held in a maximum security prison in Kathmandu since 2003 when he was arrested for the 1975 murder of US tourist Connie Jo Bronzich.
He has been dubbed the “bikini killer” and “the snake” in Thailand for dodging the police and disguising himself.
He’s been the subject of several dramatizations, including a Netflix-BBC joint production that released last year.
“Great respect for the judiciary”
In prison, Sobhraj married Nihita Biswas, a Nepalese woman 44 years his junior, in 2008.
“I am happy and have great respect for our judiciary and the Supreme Court,” Sobhraj’s mother-in-law, Sakuntala Thapa, told Reuters’ partner ANI after news of his release broke.
Sobhraj has denied killing the American woman and his lawyers said the charges against him were based on assumptions.
A few years later, he was also found guilty of killing Ms Bronzich’s Canadian friend, Laurent Carriere.
He has also been suspected of many other murders, including in Thailand, where police say he allegedly drugged and killed six women in the 1970s, some of whom turned up dead on a beach near the resort town of Pattaya.
“You are Karl”
Sobhraj was jailed in India for poisoning a group of French tourists in the capital New Delhi in 1976 before he could stand trial in Thailand on the charges against him.
He escaped from India’s Tihar prison in 1986 after drugging prison guards with biscuits and cakes containing sleeping pills.
Police arrested Sobhraj days later at a restaurant in the Indian beach resort state of Goa.
“I went to 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 in front of the restaurant in Goa to this day. He was imprisoned in India until 1997 when he returned to France.
The son of a Vietnamese mother and an Indian father, he was described by his associates as a con man, seducer, robber and murderer.
Its true toll, spanning decades and multiple countries, remains unknown.