French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, responsible for a string of murders across Asia in the 1970s, said he felt “very good” after being released from prison in Nepal, where he served nearly 20 years.
“I feel great… I have a lot to do. I have to complain to a lot of people. Including the Nepalese state,” Sobhraj told AFP on a plane to deport him to France.
Asked if he had been wrongly described as a serial killer, the 78-year-old replied: “Yes, I do.”
Nepal’s top court ruled on Wednesday that he should be deported to France within 15 days of his release on health grounds.
On Friday, he was released and put on a flight at Kathmandu airport to take him from Doha to Paris, where he was due to land early on Saturday.
Sobhraj’s life was chronicled in “The Serpent,” a series co-produced by Netflix and the BBC.
Born in Saigon to an Indian father and a Vietnamese mother who later married a Frenchman, Sobhraj embarked on an international life of crime that ended in Thailand in 1975.
Posing as a gem dealer, he would befriend his victims, many of whom were backpackers on the hippie trail of the West in the 1970s, before drugging, robbing and killing them.
Suave and sophisticated, in 1975 he was implicated in the murder of a young American woman who was found on a beach wearing a bikini.
Nicknamed the “Bikini Killer,” she was eventually linked to more than 20 murders.
He was arrested in India in 1976 and eventually spent 21 years in prison there, with a brief break in 1986 when he drugged the jailer and escaped. It was recovered in the Indian coastal state of Goa.
Released in 1997, Sobhraj lived in Paris, giving paid interviews to journalists, but returned to Nepal in 2003.
The ‘Karma’ question
Journalist Joseph Nathan, one of the founders of the Himalayan Times, saw him playing baccarat in a casino and arrested him.
“He seemed harmless… It was pure luck that I met him,” Nathan told AFP on Thursday. “I guess it was karma.”
A Nepalese court sentenced Sobhraj to life in prison for the 1975 murder of American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich. A decade later, he was also found guilty of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian friend.
Behind bars, Sobhraj has maintained that he is innocent of both murders and said he had never been to Nepal before the trip that led to his arrest.
“I really didn’t, and I think I’ll stay out,” he told AFP in a 2007 interview at Kathmandu’s Central Prison.
Thai police officer Sompol Suthimai, whose work with Interpol was instrumental in securing his 1976 arrest, pushed for his extradition to Thailand and trial there for the murders.
But on Thursday, he told AFP that he had no objection to being released, as both he and the criminal he used to pursue were now too old.
“Now that so much time has passed I have no feelings for him,” said 90-year-old Suthimai. “I think he has already paid for his actions.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)
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