Who is Charles Sobhraj?
Charles Sobhraj may be a French serial murderer also known by monikers, like the “Bikini Killer”, “The Splitting Killer”, and “The Serpent”. Operating throughout Southeast Asia within the 1970s, he primarily targeted western tourists. Sobhraj has repeatedly shown psychopathic tendencies and is believed to possess robbed and murdered so as to fund his extravagant and adventurous lifestyle. Known for his intelligence and complicated personality, he attracted huge fanfare even within the early stages of his criminal career and developed a little cult around himself. He has been implicated in a minimum of a dozen murders and various other crimes, including fraud, robbery, and drugging. In 1976, he was finally charged with murder in India. He spent the subsequent 21 years of his life at Tihar Jail in New Delhi. He was released in 1997 and subsequently retired in France, resuming his celebrity lifestyle. He was captured by the authorities another time when he returned to Nepal in 2003. He was tried and therefore the court sentenced him to captivity. Sobhraj has become an intriguing figure within the history of crime. There is a minimum of four books and three documentaries on his life.
One of the foremost notorious and ruthless serial killers of all time, Sobhraj is fluent in multiple languages, including French, Hindi, and Vietnamese. within the spring of 1975, in Srinagar, India, he met Marie Andrée Leclerc, a French-Canadian who later became one among his most fanatic supporters. In July, they traveled to Bangkok where they found a 3rd accomplice in an Indian named Ajay Chowdhury. The group grew even larger as more people joined in, drawn by Sobhraj’s enigmatic personality.
Sobhraj and Chowdhury committed their first known murder in 1975. The victim was an American woman named Teresa Knowlton. She had known the pair and had been a part of their clique. Discovered during a tidal pool within the Gulf of Thailand, her body had a flowered bikini on. Initially thought to be a suicide, it had been only after an autopsy and forensic evidence that evil was suspected.
Their second victim Vitali Hakim’s burnt body was discovered on the road near Pattaya resort, where Sobhraj and his group were staying at the time. He strangled Dutch students Henk Bintanja and Cornelia Hemker and burned their bodies, and later murdered Hakim's French girlfriend Charmayne Carrou, who had come to Sobhraj trying to find Hakim. She was found during a flowered bikini a bit like Knowlton. While the deaths weren't connected by the investigators at the time, this was how he came to be referred to as the ‘Bikini Killer.’
In the following months, he would go away a bloody trail in his wake all across Southeast Asia. His other known victims were Canadian Laurent Carrière and American Connie Bronzich (killed in Nepal), Israeli scholar Avoni Jacob (killed in Varanasi or Calcutta), and French Jean-Luc Solomon (in Bombay).
In Malaysia, during a gem-heist operation, Sobhraj and Chowdhury appeared to have parted ways. Neither Chowdhury nor his remains were ever found and therefore the look for him is constant till today.
Imprisonment in India
Charles Sobhraj was finally caught in Delhi in July 1976, after three French students escaped his plan to poison them and informed the police, who charged him for the murder of Solomon. Two of his accomplices, Barbara Smith and Mary Ellen Eather, tried to kill within the prison.
The trial began two years later, in 1978, and Sobhraj, ever the showman, turned it into a spectacle. He went through a series of defense lawyers, started a fast, and even brought in his recently-paroled brother André to assist.
He was expected to be sentenced to death but received 12-year imprisonment instead. He served his sentence in Tihar Jail where he bribed the officers and led a lavish life. He gave several interviews where the murders came up in conversations, but he never admitted to them.
Sobhraj was cognizant of the 20-year-old, still valid Thai bench warrant against him. He knew that he would be turned over to the Thai authorities and face almost certain execution as soon as he was released. In 1986, he drugged the prison officials and other inmates during a party that he himself had organized and casually walked out of 1 of the foremost secure prisons in India. He was caught in Goa, even as he intended, and served ten more years in an Indian prison.