Charles Sobhraj, a convicted killer who police say is responsible for a string of murders in the 1970s and 1980s, was released from a Nepal prison on Friday after nearly two decades behind bars.
The 78-year-old French national is suspected of killing more than 20 Western backpackers on the “hippie trail” through Asia, usually by drugging their food or drink in the course of robbing them.
He left Nepal early on Friday evening on a regular flight to Doha en route to Paris, said Katak Rawal, a Kathmandu airport official.
Nepal has barred Sobhraj from entering the country for 10 years, Pradashanie Kumari, acting director general of the immigration department, said.
The Himalayan nation’s Supreme Court had on Wednesday ordered his release from prison, where he served 19 years of a 20-year sentence, citing his advanced age.
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After his release, Sobhraj told news agency AFP, “I feel great… I have a lot to do. I have to sue a lot of people. Including the state of Nepal.”
Sobhraj had been held in a high-security prison in Kathmandu since 2003, when he was arrested on charges of murdering U.S. tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975.
He was dubbed the “bikini killer” in Thailand, and “the serpent,” for his evasion of police and use of disguises. He has been the subject of several dramatizations, including a Netflix NFLX.O and BBC joint production released last year.
While in prison, Sobhraj married Nihita Biswas, a Nepali woman 44 years his junior, in 2008.
“I’m happy and have great respect for our judiciary and Supreme court,” Sobhraj’s mother-in-law Sakuntala Thapa told Reuters partner ANI after news of his release was announced.
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