Nepal

Nepal court rejects bikini-killer appeal

Biswas, fiancee of 65 year-old serial killer Sobhraj of France, speaks to the media at the Supreme Court in Kathmandu
Biswas, fiancee of 65 year-old serial killer Sobhraj of France, speaks to the media at the Supreme Court in Kathmandu Reuters

Nepal's Supreme Court rejected on Friday an appeal against a murder conviction by Charles Sobhraj, the alleged serial killer, conman and prison escape artist linked to a string of backpacker deaths in Asia. Sobhraj, a French citizen born of Vietnamese and Indian parents, is serving a life sentence in Nepal for the murder of American tourist Connie Joe Bronzich in 1975. 

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Bronzich was stabbed repeatedly before being burnt almost beyond recognition and then dumped on the outskirts of the Nepali capital. Sobhraj was found guilty of her murder six years ago.

The 66-year-old is known as the "bikini-killer" for his links to a string of poisonings, killings and robberies of backpackers across Asia in the 1970s.

He has already served a 21-year sentence in India for culpable homicide, but until 2004 he had never been convicted of murder. Sobhraj has always maintained his innocence in the Bronzich case, saying he had never visited Nepal before he was arrested at a
Kathmandu casino in 2003.

In a 2006 interview with the AFP news agency, Sobhraj said he was confident he would not be convicted due to lack of evidence. But, after judgement was postponed two weeks ago, Supreme Court judge Ram Kumar Prasad Shaha said that while there was no direct evidence against Sobhraj, the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to justify his 2004 conviction.

On hearing the verdict, a 22-year-old Nepali woman, Nihita Biswas broke down in tears. She is believed to have married Sobhraj while he was in jail.

Defence lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre accused the court of fabricating evidence and, prior to the verdict, said she had little hope his conviction would be overturned.

Sobhraj's talent for disguise, evading justice and breaking out of prisons on two continents earned him another sobriquet, "The Serpent". He also tried to escape from Kathmandu's central jail in November 2004 but guards uncovered the plot.

Sobhraj may also face charges in Nepal for the murder of Laurent Carrière, a friend of Bronzich. The bodies of Bronzich and Carrière were found in separate locations but just two days apart, and Carrière had also been repeatedly stabbed and burnt.

Sobhraj faced trial only for Bronzich's murder, but police in Nepal say they are preparing to bring charges against him for Carrière's killing.

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