Charles Sobhraj – 1972-1976

By | January 3, 2017

He hired a publicist and sold interviews

charles-sobhraj

French citizen, Charles Sobhraj, is taken to court in Kathmandu

THE CRIME:

Charles Sobhraj was born illegitimately in Saigon, Vietnam on 6 April 1944. His Indian father deserted the family and Sobhraj’s mother took up with a Frenchman who moved them to Paris in 1953. The young Charles did not take to his new life and began to get involved in crime.

He was not a particularly accomplished criminal and frequently ended up in prison. His first stint behind bars came in 1963. In 1970 he moved to Bombay and became a smuggler and black marketeer. Two years later, in September 1972, he bungled a burglary and fled to Kabul, Afghanistan where he was jailed for trying to avoid paying his hotel bill. He managed to escape from prison by drugging his guards. He fled Kabul by hijacking a car and forcing the owner, Habib, into the boot where he suffocated — it was Sobhraj’s first killing.

He moved to Teheran where he began stealing and ended up in an Iranian jail. Freed, he moved to Turkey in November 1973, where he hired his brother as his partner in crime and then to Greece where he was caught but escaped from jail. He moved back to India, then to Kashmir where he met Quebecoise Marie-Andree Leclerc and they became a murderous robbing double act, first in Hong Kong then in Thailand.

They murdered several hippies who had come to the country for enlightenment and by 1976 Sobhraj was wanted for eight murders in Turkey, Thailand and India. He fled Bangkok with the help of a corrupt local official and, when police searched his apartment, they found documents relating to 20 victims. Back in Agra, India, in July 1976 he gave a group of 60 French engineering students a medicine to prevent dysentery. In fact, he intended to drug them into sleep and then steal their valuables. He miscalculated the dosage and some collapsed in the hotel lobby while others accused him of trying to poison them.

WHERE:

Turkey; Thailand; India; Afghanistan; France

WHEN:

1972-1976

THE AFTERMATH:

He was arrested on 5 July 1976. In July 1978 Sobhraj was found guilty of culpable homicide after Leclerc testified against him. She was found guilty of drugging the students, jailed, paroled and died of ovarian cancer in April 1984. Sobhraj was given seven years’ hard labour.

He was tried for murder in 1982 and sentenced to life in jail. Remarkably, in March 1986 he threw a party to celebrate ten years in jail and managed again to drug his guards and escape. He was caught and returned to jail. On 17 February 1997 he was freed and returned to France where he hired a publicist and sold interviews. On 19 September 2003 he was arrested in Kathmandu in connection with two unsolved murders in Nepal in 1975. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 August 2004.

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