Charles Sobhraj, 78, has spent the last 19 years in jail for murdering two tourists in Kathmandu in 1975, the BBC reported. He also spent 20 years in prison in India for multiple other tourist murders during the 1970s.
But a court ruling on Wednesday has ordered Sobhraj to be returned to France within 15 days, following a petition from his legal team arguing he should be released due to good behavior and his advanced age. The concession was granted thanks to a Nepalese law that allows inmates who have served at least 75% of their sentence and behaved to be released.
“Keeping him in the prison continuously is not in line with the prisoner’s human rights,” the ruling said, according to the BBC.
The verdict also notes Sobhraj’s regular treatment for heart disease as another factor relating to his release.
Sobhraj was known as the “Bikini Killer” because he targeted young women, who were drugged, strangled, beaten, or burned. He has been linked to more than 20 killings between 1972 and 1982 and often wore disguises to conceal his identity.
Before being convicted of murdering American Connie Jo Bronzich and her Canadian friend Laurent Carriere, Sobhraj spent 20 years in an Indian prison for poisoning a busload of French tourists in the country. During his imprisonment in India, he escaped briefly after drugging several prison guards, later claiming he did so to extend his sentence and avoid extradition to Thailand, where he was wanted for five additional murders. He is suspected of killing as man as 14 people in Thailand.
In 2003, after being released from prison in India, Sobhraj was arrested for Bronzich’s murder after he was spotted in a casino in Kathmandu. He was tried and sentenced in 2014 to two 20-year sentences for the murders of Bronzich and Carriere.
Sobhraj was born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, in 1944. His father reportedly denied his paternity, and Sobhraj was raised by his mother and her new husband, though Sobhraj felt neglected once the couple had additional children. Sobhraj began committing crimes as a teenager, receiving a sentence for burglary in 1963. While in prison, he manipulated the guards into giving him special privileges, including keeping books in his cell.
He continued to commit burglaries and scams once he was released, as well as stealing cars and using fake documents to travel through Europe with his pregnant fiancé, Chantal Compagnon. The coupled robbed tourists after befriending them. Sobhraj had begun amassing wealth through his crimes but developed a gambling addiction.
Sobhraj reportedly committed his first known murder in 1975 with the help of an accomplice, Ajay Chowdhury, who was known as the serial killer’s second-in-command. The first victims reportedly recruited the pair to help them commit crimes, but later threatened to expose Sobhraj for his crimes, leading him to kill them.
Sobhraj could be released as early as Thursday.