‘Serpent’ serial killer Charles Sobhraj returns to France after 19 years in prison | France

Charles Sobhraj, a convicted killer known as “the Serpent” who police believe targeted western backpackers on the hippie trail in the 1970s, has returned to France after nearly two decades behind bars in Nepal, BFM TV reported.

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Nepal’s supreme court ordered the release of Sobhraj on Wednesday, citing his advanced age and health.

A French national who was born to an Indian father and Vietnamese mother, Sobhraj, 78, landed at Paris’s main international airport on a commercial flight shortly after 7am.

Charles Sobhraj on the plane from Kathmandu to France.
Charles Sobhraj on the plane from Kathmandu to France. Photograph: Atish Patel/AFP/Getty Images

Sobhraj was met by his lawyer inside a terminal building, according to the author Jean-Charles Deniau, who wrote “Moi, le Serpent” (Me, the Serpent) and was in contact with Sobhraj after his arrival.

Border police were conducting identity checks, French media reported. Sobhraj’s lawyer did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Sobhraj, who was given his nickname for his evasion of police, had been held in a high-security prison in Nepal since 2003, when he was arrested on charges of murdering the American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975. He was later found guilty of killing Bronzich’s Canadian friend, Laurent Carriere, and had served 19 years of a 20-year sentence.

He was suspected of more murders, including in Thailand, where police say he killed six women in the 1970s, some of whom turned up dead on a beach near the resort of Pattaya.

He was jailed in India for poisoning a group of French tourists in the capital, Delhi, in 1976, before he could stand trial on the charges against him in Thailand.

Sobhraj told the French news agency Agence-France Presse on the flight out of Nepal that he was not guilty of murdering Bronzich and Carriere and that the case against him was built on fake documents.

“I have a lot to do. I have to sue a lot of people,” AFP quoted Sobhraj as saying.

In 2021, the BBC and Netflix NFLX.O produced a drama series based on the story of Sobhraj’s alleged killings.

France’s interior and justice ministries did not respond to questions from Reuters about whether Sobhraj might face criminal charges in France. The statute of limitations for most serious crimes in France is 20 years.

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