ENTERTAINMENT

Who is Charles Sobhraj? Femail exposes the bikini killer's crimes


He was the killer who drugged and killed at least a dozen Westerners on the Hippie Trail in Asia in the 1970s.

Now a new series takes on the crimes of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, nicknamed The Serpent for his skills in deception and evasion, and which will premiere on BBC One tonight.

The eight-part drama will detail his rampage in 1975 and how his accomplice Marie-Andrée Leclerc, played by Jenna Coleman, stood by him despite full knowledge of his crimes and promiscuity.

She has admitted that playing a friend who “had no empathy” and who would help the killer drug and rob unsuspecting tourists to finance her lifestyle was unsettling.

Here Femail goes back to the terrible crimes of the "bikini killer" Sobhraj, who was eventually hunted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

WHO IS CHARLES SOBRAJ?

Sobraj, pictured with Leclerc in 1986, was known as The Serpent for his skills in deception and evasion. In the 1970s, he drugged and killed at least a dozen Westerners on the Hippie Trail in Asia

Sobhraj was born to an Indian father, Hatchand Sobhraj, and a Vietnamese mother, Tran Loan Phung. He grew up in Saigon before his parents divorced and his father cut off all contact with the family.

He was later adopted by his mother's new boyfriend, a lieutenant in the French army stationed in French Indochina, who is said to have neglected him in favor of his own children with Sobhraj's mother.

As a teenager, he spat out his time between Indochina and France and began committing small crimes such as stealing cars and robbing housewives at gunpoint. In 1963, he served his first prison sentence for breaking and entering Paris.

In prison he met volunteers Felix d & # 39; Escogne, a wealthy young man whom he would eventually move into to amass wealth through a series of break-ins and scams in high society Paris.

Jenna Coleman has revealed her discomfort at playing bikini killer Charles Sobhraj's partner, who “had no empathy” when he went on his horrific rampage. In the picture Coleman and Tahar Rahim as Marie-Andrée Leclerc and Sobraj

Jenna Coleman has revealed her discomfort at playing bikini killer Charles Sobhraj's partner, who “had no empathy” when he went on his horrific rampage. In the picture Coleman and Tahar Rahim as Marie-Andrée Leclerc and Sobraj

After his release from prison, Sobhraj met his first love, Chantal Compagnon, a young Parisian from a conservative family, whom he would later make complicit in his crimes.

He proposed Compagnon, but was arrested later that day for trying to evade police while driving a stolen vehicle. He spent eight months in prison while the pregnant Chantal remained loyal to him.

Starting in 1970, the couple toured the world using forged documents, robbing tourists they met on their travels and using their winnings to feed Sobhraj's gambling habits.

In 1973, after an unsuccessful armed robbery, he escaped from prison by escaping to Kabul, where he first escaped tourists on the Hippie Trail, but was soon arrested again and fled again to Iran.

Compagnon returned to Paris to escape a life of crime after being imprisoned in Afghanistan and giving birth to her daughter behind bars. Eventually forced to move to the US to escape Sobhraj.

He spent the next two years on the run, using up to ten stolen passports. Crimes with his half-brother Andre in Eastern Europe and the Middle East before his brother was arrested and he fled again.

When did he meet Marie-Andrew Lecler?

In the spring of 1975, Sobhraj met Marie-Andrée Leclerc, a medical secretary who was touring India when he was serving as her guide of the country.

Sobhraj had financed his lifestyle by posing as either a salesman or a drug dealer to impress tourists, whom he then drugged, robbed, and often murdered.

At the time, the killer was accompanied by Ajay Chowdhury, a young Indian who would help him cheat tourists by helping them out of situations he had caused, for example providing protection for victims he had poisoned.

Locked up: Charles Sobhraj (pictured with Nepalese police in 2014) chased western tourists visiting Asia and was known as The Serpent and The Bikini Killer

Locked up: Charles Sobhraj (pictured with Nepalese police in 2014) chased western tourists visiting Asia and was known as The Serpent and The Bikini Killer

While he claimed that murders were often accidental drug overdoses, investigators later claimed that his motive for murder was to silence victims who threatened to expose him.

Three months later, Leclerc flew to Bangkok to meet him after seducing her with love letters for months – and turning a blind eye to his foray with local women.

Leclerc was involved in Sobhraj's vicious crime and would help him steal passports and money from drug tourists

Jenna found it unsettling to portray Marie-Andrée Leclerc, Sobhraj's (Tahar Rahim) partner stood by him despite full knowledge of his crimes and promiscuity.

"It was not an easy piece to play because how can you portray someone who has no empathy?" Coleman told the Radio Times.

Who did he murder?

According to Jennie Bollivar's Serpentine, the first murder took place in 1975 when he drowned a 21-year-old Seattle woman named Teresa Knowlton.

Her body was found as a blooming bikini in a tidal pool in the Gulf of Thailand, which inspired the killer’s nickname, "The Bikini Killer".

Before her death was discovered, Marie willingly pretended to be Knowlton to redeem the travelers checks that she carried with her, valued at thousands of dollars.

His next victim was Vitali Hakim, whose cremated body was found on the way to the Pattaya Resort, followed by Henk Bintanja and his fiancée Cornelia Hemker, who had been poisoned by Sobhraj and then nursed back to health.

While they were staying with him, Charmayne Carrou, a visit from Hakim's French friend, threatened to expose him, and so he strangled the couple and burned their bodies.

He murdered at least two others in Thailand before escaping to Calcutta, where he killed student Avoni Jacob just to get his passport. He later murdered Jean-Luc Solomon by poisoning him.

Sobhraj, now 76 years old and serving his life sentence in Nepal, had already served 20 years in prison for a variety of crimes, including murder and robbery

Sobhraj, now 76 years old and serving his life sentence in Nepal, had already served 20 years in prison for a variety of crimes, including murder and robbery

How was he caught?

In 1976, Sobhraj tried to drug a group of 60 French students on vacation in New Delhi to steal passports and cash by giving them sleeping pills disguised as antibiotics.

But this time it failed when the poison worked much faster than expected. When the first students started falling where they stood, the others were alerted and called the police.

Despite serving a 12-year sentence, he lived a luxurious life thanks to bribing prisoners and guards, and claimed he could have female guests to have sex behind bars.

He was released from prison in 1997 when the 20-year arrest warrant issued by the Thai authorities expired.

The Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg helped Sobhraj after the first attempts to bring him to justice to expose him as a multiple murderer.

His hunt for the killer began in 1975 with an assignment to help the Thai police investigate the deaths of the two Dutch students invited to Thailand after meeting Sobhraj in Hong Kong.

He started his own investigation and was allowed to enter Sobhraj's house after the suspect left for Malaysia.

There he found blood-stained documents and passports of the victims, as well as poisons and syringes.

A 2003 sighting of Sobhraj in Kathmandu resulted in his arrest for the 1975 murders of two Canadians, and prosecutors relied on evidence collected by Knippenberg for his trial.

Coleman did extensive research prior to the role and read Marie-Andrée's diaries before and after the murders

Coleman did extensive research prior to the role and read Marie-Andrée's diaries before and after the murders

Former Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg, who exposed Sobhraj, is played by British actor Billy Howell (pictured)

Former Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg, who exposed Sobhraj, is played by British actor Billy Howell (pictured)

WHERE IS HE NOW?

A Nepalese court sentenced the notorious criminal to life imprisonment in connection with the murder of an American backpacker in 1975.

Sobhraj, now 76 years old and serving his sentence in Nepal, had already served 20 years in prison for a variety of crimes, including murder and robbery.

"I'm shocked," said Sobhraj as he walked out of the courtroom with handcuffs.

I was found guilty with no witnesses or evidence. Not a single witness was called, 'said Sobhraj. "We will appeal."

Marie-Andrée Leclerc was charged with complicity in the murders, namely those of Jean-Luc Salomon and Avoni Jacob.

In 1980 she and Sobhraj were convicted of the murder of Avoni Jacob, although she has always denied involvement in the murders and was later released on condition that she stayed in India. She returned to Canada in 1984 to die of cancer.

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