Charles Sobhraj is a criminal that not many people would remember the name of – but the serial killer known as The Serpent is now centre stage in a BBC drama of his tale.
Starting in Bangkok in 1975, The Serpent follows Sobhraj (played by Tahar Rahim) throughout his criminal and fraudulent lifestyle that eventually resulted in him turning into a murderer of Western tourists in the area.
But how much of the story is real? Where Sobhraj now and how was he finally caught?
Here’s the true story of the criminal.
Who is Charles Sobhraj?
Charles Sobhraj, born Hatchand Bhaonani Gurumukh Charles Sobhraj, a French thief and killer, whose life of petty crime as a child then escalated to fraud and murder.
Across Asia, he would pose as a drug dealer or gem salesman in order to impress and befriends tourists, whom he would then rob and defraud.
He would use up to 10 false passports in order to make his way around the continent, being on the run from police at the same time.
He was often flanked by a group of followers – the most prominent being Marie-Andrée Leclerc, Barbara Smith and Mary Ellen Eather.
Over time, murder then became part of his MO, but he was finally caught in 1976 after a failed attempt to drug a group of graduates.
During his murder spree, he was given aliases including The Bikini Killer and The Serpent.
He remained in prison from 1976 to 1997, when he was freed and used his notoriety to promote his own story.
In 2003, he was given a life sentence in Kathmandu, Nepal after being found guilty of another of the 1970s murder of Connie Bronzich.
Is Charles Sobhraj still alive?
Yes. At the time of writing, Sobhraj is still alive and in prison, but has had several health scares.
In 2018, he had several open heart surgeries and at one point was in critical condition, but recovered.
Who were the victims of The Serpent?
The following deaths and murders have been attributed to Sobhraj:
- Teresa Knowlton: Seattle native found drowned in tidal pool
- Vitali Hakim: body found on road
- Henk Bintanja and his fiancée Cornelia Hemker: strangled and burned by side of the road
- Laurent Carrière and Connie Bronzich: murdered in Nepal
- Avoni Jacob: found murdered in India
- Jean-Luc Solomon: death by poison
However it’s believed he killed more than a dozen people, with each death connected to his illegal work.
The Serpent airs Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.
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