The Frenchman, also known as “The Bikini Killer,” is accused of killing more than 20 backpackers in Asia.
Nepal’s Supreme Court has ruled that Charles Subraj, the serial killer known as “The Serpent” who police say is responsible for a series of murders in the 1970s and 1980s, has been released from prison in Nepal.
The 78-year-old Frenchman has served 19 years in prison for the murder of a US and Canadian citizen. Life imprisonment in Nepal is 20 years.
He admitted to killing at least 20 young Westerners backpacking across Asia, usually by drugging their food or drink, but his 2004 conviction in Nepal marked the first time he had been convicted in court.
Thailand first issued an arrest warrant for him in the mid-1970s on charges of drugging and killing six women on a Pattaya beach.
Sobhraj is known as “The Bikini Killer” and “The Serpent” due to his ability to disguise himself and assume other identities to evade justice. He managed to escape from a prison in India in the mid-1980s. He was later arrested and imprisoned in Tihar Maximum Security Jail in New Delhi until 1997. He reappeared in September 2003 in Kathmandu.
“Keeping him in prison on an ongoing basis is not in line with the human rights of a prisoner,” said a copy of the ruling issued on Wednesday, seen by Agence France-Presse.
“If there are no further cases pending against him to keep him in prison, this court shall order his release by today and…to return to his country within 15 days,” the statement read.
The ruling added that Sobhraj required open-heart surgery and his release was in line with a law that allows for the compassionate release of bedridden prisoners who have already served three-quarters of their sentences.
The Hippie Trail Murders
After a troubled childhood and several prison sentences in France for petty crimes, Sobhraj began traveling the world in the early 1970s, befriending and robbing young backpackers as he made his way along a hippie trail from Europe to Southeast Asia.
“He was cultured and polite,” said Nadine Geers, who befriended Sobhraj when he moved into her apartment in Bangkok in 1975.
But she soon begins to fear her fast-talking neighbor, who disguises herself as a gem dealer to lure cash-strapped travelers before drugging, robbing, and killing them.
“A lot of people are getting sick in his house,” she told AFP last year. “He was not only a fraud, seducer and thief of tourists, but also a vicious killer.”
Sobhraj underwent a five-hour heart operation in 2017, and Wednesday’s ruling said he remains on regular treatment for heart disease.
A prison official told AFP that Sobhraj was likely to be released from Kathmandu central prison on Thursday.
The official said he would first have to appear in a lower court for administrative procedures before he could be released.
He is accused of strangling, beating or burning backpackers and often using the passports of his male victims to travel to his next destination.
Sobhraj’s nickname, ‘The Serpent’, became the title of a successful BBC and Netflix series, which was based on his life.
In prison in 2008, Sobhraj married Nehita Biswas, who is 44 years his junior and the daughter of his Nepalese lawyer.
“Subtly charming student. Pop culture junkie. Creator. Amateur music specialist. Beer fanatic.”