French serial killer Charles Sobhraj released from Nepal prison

He spent 19 years in jail in Nepal for two murders in 1975 and was freed given his age and for good behaviour.

French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, 78, who police say was responsible for a string of murders in the 1970s and 80s, was released from prison in Nepal after 19 years behind bars.

On Friday, he was driven out of the prison in the capital, Kathmandu, in a blue police vehicle and taken to immigration detention and then to Kathmandu airport. He was to be deported to France, his lawyer told reporters, where he was expected to arrive early on Saturday.

Sobhraj has been barred from returning to Nepal for 10 years, the Reuters news agency reported citing immigration officials.

Sobhraj is suspected of murdering more than 20 backpackers who were travelling along the “hippie trail” in Asia, including six women in Thailand, some of who turned up dead on a beach near the resort of Pattaya.

Posing as a gem trader, he would befriend his victims before drugging, robbing and murdering them.

His true number of victims, spanning decades and several countries, is unknown.

His 2004 conviction in Nepal was the first time he was found guilty in court.

The Serpent
Charles Sobhraj pictured leaving Kathmandu District Court after his hearing on May 31, 2011 [File: Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters]

He gained the nickname “The Serpent” from his cunning ability to assume other identities and evade justice.

He was eventually arrested in India in 1976 after poisoning a group of French tourists in the capital, New Delhi.

Ten years later, he orchestrated a daring escape from India’s Tihar jail after drugging guards with sweets laced with sleeping pills.

He was later caught in the Indian coastal state of Goa and remained in prison until 1997, when he was released and returned to Paris.

In 2003, he came back to Nepal, where he was spotted by a journalist and arrested. He was handed a life sentence the following year for killing US tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975 and transferred to a high-security prison.

He denied killing the American woman, and his lawyers said the charge against him was based on assumption.

A decade later, he was also found guilty of killing Bronzich’s Canadian companion.

Sobhraj married Nihita Biswas, a Nepali national 44 years his junior, in 2008.

In April 2021, while languishing in Nepalese prison, Sobhraj rose to worldwide infamy after Netflix and the BBC released a dramatisation of his murders in a hit series, The Serpent.

Nepal’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered his release from prison citing his age, good behaviour and the fact that he had served most of his sentence. He underwent open heart surgery in 2017, and his release was in keeping with the law allowing the compassionate discharge.

He had been expected to be out of jail on Thursday, but pre-release procedures, including a health check-up, delayed the procedure. He served 19 years of a 20-year sentence. Life sentences in Nepal are 20 years.

The court order also said he had to leave the country within 15 days.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies