Charles Sobhraj, a convicted murderer who police believe is responsible for a string of murders in the 1970s and 1980s, including that of a Canadian, was released Friday from a prison in Nepal after nearly two decades behind bars.
Sobhraj, 78, a French national, arrived at Kathmandu airport later on Friday to board a regular flight to Doha en route to Paris after immigration clearance, said Basudev Ghimire, an immigration officer at the Kathmandu airport Kathmandu.
Nepal has barred Sobhraj from entering the country for a decade, said Pradashanie Kumari, acting director-general of the immigration service.
On Wednesday, Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered Sobhraj’s release from prison, citing his advanced age.
Suspected of murdering more than 20 Western backpackers on the “hippie trail” across Asia, Sobhraj had been held in a high-security prison in Kathmandu since 2003, when he was arrested on charges of the 1975 murder of American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich.
Dubbed the “bikini killer” and “the snake” in Thailand for his evasion from police and use of disguises, he has been the subject of several dramatizations, including a joint Netflix/BBC production released last year.
In 2008, while in prison, Sobhraj married Nihita Biswas, a Nepalese woman who was 44 years his junior.
“I am happy and have great respect for our judiciary and the Supreme Court,” Sakuntala Thapa, Sobhraj’s mother-in-law, told Reuters partner ANI after news of his release was announced.
Sobhraj denied murdering the American woman and his lawyers said the charges against him were based on assumptions.
In 2014, Sobhraj was also found guilty of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian boyfriend, Laurent Carrière.
But Sobhraj was suspected of many more murders, including in Thailand, where police say he drugged and murdered six women in the 1970s, some of whom were found dead on a beach near the resort of Pattaya.
‘You are Karel’
He was imprisoned in India for poisoning a group of French tourists in the capital New Delhi in 1976, before he could stand trial for the charges against him in Thailand.
Sobhraj escaped from Tihar Prison in India in 1986 after drugging prison guards with cookies and cake laced with sleeping pills.
Police arrested Sobhraj days later at a restaurant in the Indian beach resort state of Goa.
“I walked up to their table and said, ‘You are Charles,'” Madhukar Zende, the police officer who caught him in Goa, told The Indian Express newspaper in an interview published Friday.
To this day, a statue of Sobhraj stands in the restaurant in Goa. He was imprisoned in India until 1997 when he returned to France.
Born to a Vietnamese mother and Indian father, he was described by his associates as a swindler, a seducer, a robber and a murderer.
His actual number of victims, spanning decades and several countries, is unknown.