It was Charles Sobhraj’s misfortune that I was there: Hyderabadi journalist Joseph Nathan

An article written by Nathan in ‘The Himalayan Times’ in 2003 helped the Nepalese police arrest Charles, also known as the ‘bikini killer’ and ‘Serpent’.

Updated – 14:13, Saturday – 22 December 24

It was Charles Sobhraj's misfortune when I was there: Hyderabad-based journalist Joseph Nathan

Photo: IANS

Hyderabad: Who would have guessed that a journalist based in Hyderabad would play a pivotal role in the capture of notorious serial killer Charles Sobhraj?

Joseph Nathan

Joseph Nathan, a clerk from Marredpally was working in a popular newspaper in the city. In 2001 he went to Nepal with other Indian journalists to start a newspaper in Kathmandu. An article written by Nathan in ‘The Himalayan Times’ in 2003 helped the Nepalese police arrest Charles, also known as the ‘bikini killer’ and ‘Serpent’.

Speaking exclusively to ‘Telangana Today’, Nathan said, “When we went to Nepal, it was the time of the Civil War. So we would live in hotels, and restaurants would close by 7pm on those days in Kathmandu and security forces would set up barricades inside the city. A friend of mine from Nepal ran some casinos there, and he was the one who suggested we have dinner at his place, as they were open all hours. It was the second or third day that Charles had been playing at the casino when I noticed him. It just happened to be Charles’s bad luck that I was there!” .

According to Nathan, the French serial killer was playing baccarat (a card game) and appeared to be completely innocent. Charles Sobhraj was known to prey on Western tourists traveling the South Asian hippie trail in the 1970s. At least 20 tourists are believed to have died in South and Southeast Asia, including 14 in Thailand.

He was imprisoned in India from 1976 to 1997 after being found guilty. After his release, he retired and gained fame in Paris. But he was still wanted in Nepal for killing two women.

And even though he wasn’t wearing his signature hat, Nathan didn’t have a hard time recognizing him. “When I chose to break the story, there was no fear involved. It actually felt really good. He preyed on young girls. They had to catch him and it was the right thing to do,” said Nathan, editorial consultant and co-founder of ‘The Himalayan Times’.

A 14-day investigation led to the arrest of the ‘Snake’, who was then returned to his ‘hole’. This time, he was sentenced to life in prison. “I think it’s nice that after all these years people are calling about the research and the story,” Nathan said.

Nepal’s Supreme Court allowed him to be released from prison on December 21, 2022, having served 19 of his 20-year term due to the age of majority. “It should have been a long time ago: his prison term was almost over and he is very old. Nepal releases prisoners who have served 75% of their prison sentence if they have shown good character,” shared Nathan.

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