Kathmandu, Sept. 19 (Agencies): Notorious “bikini killer” Charles Sobhraj was arrested in a casino in Nepal today in connection with two murders committed almost three decades ago, police said.
“We are questioning him in connection with the murder of two tourists in 1975,” a police officer said without giving details.
Sixty-four-year-old Sobhraj, a French citizen born to an Indian father and Vietnamese mother, has been living in France since he was released from Delhi’s Tihar jail in 1997 after serving 20 years for a string of charges, including murder and robbery, often involving tourists.
In 1975, Thailand issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of drugging and killing six girls, all wearing bikinis, on a beach at Pattaya. But he was jailed in India before he could stand trial on those charges.
Also known as “The Snake”, his exploits across Asia have spawned two books and a movie.
Sobhraj was arrested from the Royale Casino at the luxury Yak and Yeti Hotel in Durbarmarg here at 4 am, the casino’s security officer said. Tek Bahadur G.C., deputy superintendent of police at the Kathmandu district police office, confirmed the arrest. Police began looking for the “bikini killer” after the daily Himalayan Times published his photograph on Wednesday.
Nepalese police are yet to decide whether to move against him on the basis of the 28-year-old murder charge or carry out fresh investigations. “We are looking into the possible charges to file against him,” Bahadur said.
.He is likely to be produced at the district court here in a day or two after charges are filed.
Sobhraj was spotted at the casino last afternoon, an employee said. Police said he was staying at a hotel in Nayabazaar near the Thamel tourist centre.
Although Sobhraj hit headlines with the killings in Thailand and Nepal, he was jailed in India on different charges. He was brought to justice in July 1976 after drugging a busload of French engineering students.
Planning to steal their passports so as to more easily elude authorities, Sobhraj handed what he said were dysentery pills to the 60 students in the lobby of the Vikram Hotel in Delhi. His plan backfired when the students started passing out while he remained in the lobby.
On being turned over to police, it came to light that he was also wanted for the killing of Frenchman Jean-Luc Solomon, who died in a botched robbery. Sobhraj was handed a seven-year jail sentence for this crime and a further five years for the attempt to poison the French students.
Sobhraj had the run of Tihar jail, where he bribed his way into a privileged life. Over the years, “Sir Charles”, as his jailers called him, came to lord over everyone. Guards procured for him everything he wanted — food, visitors, mobile phones, and numerous female companions. He also had access to typewriters, a television, fridge, library and drugs.
Wanting to evade deportation and probable execution in Thailand where a 20-year warrant was still valid, Charles arranged to remain at Tihar till such time as the warrant ran out.
On March 16, 1986, he threw a birthday party, invited all guards and prisoners who were treated to laced grapes. He fled, but arranged to be arrested after 24 days by Mumbai cop Madhukar Zende. Sobhraj was sentenced for the escape, drug assault and possessing an Italian-made pistol.
He was eventually set free on February 17, 1997.