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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Charles Sobhraj: Apradh R Sajay

The third book to be written about Charles Sobhraj focuses only on the criminal's trials.

books Updated: Jan 16, 2006 21:22 IST

Nearly three years after his sensational arrest and jailing in Nepal for a three-decade-old murder, internationally notorious serial killer Charles Sobhraj has inspired the first book on his life in this Himalayan kingdom.

With the Vietnam-born Sobhraj's final appeal scheduled to come up before Nepal's Supreme Court in about two months, two Nepali journalists have published the first book in Nepali on the crime maestro of yore.

Charles Sobhraj: Apradh R Sajay (Charles Sobhraj: Crime and Punishment) written by Ananta Raj Luitel and Bikash Bhattarai hit the stands in Kathmandu Monday.

Interestingly, Sobhraj, now a French citizen, is also writing a book inside Kathmandu's Sundhara jail. "This is about my experiences in Nepal," he had told IANS.

Sobhraj, who was dubbed the Bikini Killer and Serpent in the 1970s because of the trail of drugging, theft and killings he left across several Asian countries, has provided inspiration for scores of headlines across the world, at least two books and an equal number of films.

Though Nepal was the only country to find Sobhraj guilty of murder and it is the place where fate finally caught up with him, his dramatic arrest in September 2003 and subsequent life imprisonment apparently did not move any Nepali author to write a book.

Until now.

Both Luitel and Bhattarai hold degrees in law and cover court proceedings for two well known dailies in Nepal.

They have been covering the sensational trial of Sobhraj since his arrest from a casino in Kathmandu in 2003, the district court handing him down a 10-year jail term and last year, the Patan appellate court turning down his appeal.

By a quirk of fate, Luitel works for the Himalayan Times, the English daily whose reporters first detected Sobhraj making a phone call from a booth in Thamel, Kathmandu's tourist hub, and published his photograph. This led to police swooping down on him and reopening a double murder case committed in the 70s.

Crime and Punishment is starkly different from the earlier two books inspired by Sobhraj - The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj by Richard Neville and Julia Clarke and Serpentine by Thomas Thompson.

While the earlier books are based on Sobhraj's entire crime career and allegedly interview the Frenchman, Luitel and Bhattarai have painstakingly reconstructed the trials of Sobhraj in Kathmandu.

"The Kathmandu district court sentenced him on the basis of circumstantial evidence," says Luitel. "There were no eyewitnesses or direct evidence.

"The full text of the verdict established the trend of convicting an accused on this basis and I immediately felt this could be developed into a book."

The book, written in Nepali, doesn't have any "intimate" conversations with Sobhraj.

"We have included his statements made during the two trials," Luitel says.

The book also includes the viewpoints of eminent Nepali lawyers on the verdict that finally nailed Sobhraj for murder.

Criminal lawyer Ranjit Bhakta Pradhanang fought the case on behalf of Connie Jo Bronzich, the American backpacker whose body was found charred beyond recognition in Kathmandu valley.

According to him, the verdict was just and the circumstantial evidence proof enough.

But Basanta Ram Bhandari, who defended Sobhraj, cites instances from Sobhraj's cases in Indian courts where the judges said circumstantial evidence was not enough to convict a man for murder.

Besides Bronzich's murder, Sobhraj was also charged with the murder of her boyfriend Canadian Laurent Carriere.

However, the case had to be dismissed as the 30-year-old case file could not be found.

"Our book takes no sides," Luitel says. "The case is still under review. If the Supreme Court finds him innocent he will walk out a free man. If it finds him guilty, he remains behind bars. We simply recorded the legal drama."

The English version of the book is planned by 2007.