Marathi | HIndi

Epaper
Follow us:
Home >Photos >International>Who is Charles Shobraj: The notorious Bikini killer
Who is Charles Shobraj: The notorious Bikini killer English.Lokmat.com

Who is Charles Shobraj: The notorious Bikini killer

The serpent This is a moniker for the notorious serial killer Charles Sobhraj, known for his ability to deceive the authorities and slither out of the clutches of the law
Born as Hatchand Bhaonani Gurumukh Charles Sobhraj in 1944 to a Vietnamese mother and Indian father in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, Sobhraj’s early life was spent shuttling between Asia and France after his parents got divorced. His mother found love again with a French lieutenant, and they both brought up Charles. As a teenager, he became involved in petty crimes. He found himself in jail for the first time in 1963, having been convicted of burglary.
After he was released, Charles found himself able to move effortlessly between the murky criminal underworld of Paris and the city’s high society. He was charming and began masterminding a series of scams and burglaries. He went to prison again for his illegal dealings. He met his future wife Chantal Compagnon during this time. But Charles was arrested on the day he proposed to her for attempting to evade the police while driving a stolen vehicle.
He then spent eight months in prison, marrying her immediately after he was released.In 1970, Charles married Chantal Compagnon. The couple moved to Asia when they were expecting their first child, robbing tourists and travelling on stolen passports. Chantal gave birth to their daughter Usha in Mumbai. Charles increased his criminal activities and also became a master of devising plans to get out of jail.
He then fled to Kabul, where he first began to rob backpackers on the hippie trail. On more than one occasion, Charles feigned sickness in order to be taken to hospital, claiming to be suffering from appendicitis or vomiting fake blood.
He also drugged the prison guard once in Kabul and fled to Iran.By the time Charles carried out his first murder, he had teamed up with a young Indian man, Ajay Chowdhury, in Thailand. Their first victim was Teresa Knowlton, a backpacker who was found drowned in a pool in 1975. She was wearing a bikini, just like Charles’s future victims, earning him another moniker, the Bikini Killer.
In Thailand, Charles alternated between posing as a drug dealer and a jewel salesman. He also met Marie-Andrée Leclerc there, who became his devoted accomplice. Charles is believed to have killed at least 12 backpackers on the hippie trail in south-east Asia in the 1970s. They were poisoned, drowned, strangled, stabbed and burned alive.
Charles Sobhraj then came to India. He attempted to drug 22 members of a French tour party in New Delhi and was detained at Tihar jail. He was later sentenced to 12 years in prison for manslaughter in 1976. Here he lived a life of luxury as he bribed the guards and acquired a television set and gourmet food for himself. 10 years later, just as his sentence was coming to an end, he managed to escape from prison.
This was at a time when a Thai arrest warrant had been issued against him, which meant the death penalty. However, his escape and subsequent recapture extended his prison sentence in India, avoiding execution in Thailand.
Randeep Hooda played Charles Shobhraj in the 2015 film Main Aur Charles, tracing how the serial killer used his ineffable charm to commit a myriad of crimes and his multiple escapes from the prison.
Charles Sobhraj became a free man in 1997 after he was released from jail. He then became a media star, charging journalists for interviews, earning millions for the story of his life.
However, in 2003, Charles made the strange and audacious decision to travel to Nepal, where he could be arrested. He was soon spotted and sentenced to life imprisonment, where he now remains, aged 76 and in very poor health. Meanwhile, Charles’s accomplice, Marie-Andrée Leclerc, was also jailed and in 1983, she was allowed to return to Canada because she was suffering from cancer. She died in 1984, aged 38. In the Netflix series, The Serpent, described as 'A hidden darkness on Asia's hippie trail. The twisting, real-life story of a murderer, thief and seductive master of disguise', Tahar Rahim plays Charles Sobhraj and Jenna Coleman plays Marie-Andrée Leclerc.

Related Stories