Variously described as ‘
He was born Charles Gurmukh Sobhraj in Saigon, Vietnam, which was under French rule at the time, and later claimed French nationality because of this.
His unmarried mother was Vietnamese, with some sources naming her Noy and others, Song. His father was a Sindhi Indian from Mumbai and deserted the family soon after Sobhraj’s birth. Sobhraj was adopted by his mother’s new boyfriend, Alphonse Darreau, a French lieutenant stationed in
Sobhraj had an unsettled childhood, as the family moved constantly between
In 1960, at age 16, Sobhraj began stealing and in 1963, age 19 he received his first jail sentence for burglary and was sentenced to three years at Poissy prison near
In 1969, when Sobhraj was paroled, he moved in with Felix d’Escogne, a man he had met whilst in jail. He simultaneously lived the high society life in
On the night that Sobhraj proposed to Chantal, he was arrested for evading police in a stolen car and sent back to Poissy prison for a further eight months, charged with car theft. Chantal waited for him and upon his release, they married. She soon fell pregnant but the couple began to worry about the fact that the French authorities had Sobhraj in their sights and the threat of arrest was ever-present. They decided to leave
In 1970, the couple arrived in
In December 1971, the couple fled to
In 1973, Sobhraj committed an armed robbery at a jewellery shop in Hotel Ashoka,
They settled in
For the next two years Sobhraj was on the run from authorities and travelled around Eastern Europe and the
In 1975, Sobhraj moved to
Using his fluency in French, he homed in on French tourists. Sobhraj stole former French policemen, Yannick and Jacques’ passports, and then helped the men retrieve them. Dominique Rennelleau from
The first known victim was Teresa Knowlton, a young woman from Seattle who had travelled from
Jennie Bollivar, a young woman from
The killers’ next victim was a young nomadic Sephardic Jew, Vitali Hakim. His body was found burned on the road to the Pattaya resort where the ‘family’ were staying.
Henk Bintanja, 29 and his fiancée Cornelia Hemker, 25 were Dutch students who had met Sobhraj in
During this time, Charmayne Carrou, the girlfriend of Sobhraj’s previous victim, Hakim, came to investigate his disappearance. Anxious that she may discover what they had done, Sobhraj and Chowdhury swiftly dealt with the problem. Bintanja and Hemker’s bodies were found strangled and burned on 16th December 1975.
Later that same month, Carrou was found drowned in similar circumstances to Bollivar, wearing a similar flower-patterned bikini. At first, police investigators did not connect the two cases but when they did, Sobhraj became known as ‘The Bikini Killer’.
Sobhraj decided it was time to move again and on 18th December 1975, he and Leclerc used Bintanja and Hemker’s Dutch passports to enter
Sobhraj and Leclerc used Carriere and Bronzich’s passports to return to
Sobhraj fled to
Herman Knippenberg, a Dutch embassy diplomat, was investigating the murders of Bintanja and Hemker and Sobhraj was his prime suspect. Knippenberg began building a case against him and a month after Sobhraj had left
Sobhraj’s new recruits were two lost tourists, Barbara Sheryl Smith and Mary Ellen Eather, whom he met in Mumbai. Sobhraj then befriended French tourist Jean-Luc Solomon whom he poisoned in a south
In July 1976,