Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Sobhraj

On the Run

Of course, it was not Laddie DuParr who fled Nepal after killing Annabella. Charles used Laddie's passport to fly home to Bangkok where he sold some jewels Laddie had purchased in Delhi. Then, using the passport of Henk Bintanja, he returned to Katmandu the next day. Police managed to trace the last few days of Laddie and Annabella and when they caught up with Charles, Marie and Ajay, the trio managed to bluff their way through questioning.

While he was in Bangkok, Charles had made a startling discovery. Dominique, Yannick and Jacques had put the pieces together and realized they had been under the care of a homicidal maniac. They broke into Charles' office and found dozens of passports and identity papers belonging to unfortunate tourists who had met up with Sobhraj. The three Frenchmen fled Sobhraj's apartment and Thailand, heading home to Paris. Before they left they told police what was going on in the apartment building.

On the run from Nepalese authorities, Charles and company crossed the border into India and made their way to Calcutta. They fit well in what is perhaps the most poverty-stricken place on the planet. Charles had no money, knew he was wanted by Nepalese police and could only guess what was waiting for him back in Bangkok. But he believed he was superhuman and that no mere mortal could bring him down. Charles had a plan. All he needed was a clean passport and some money.

He found both in the person of Israeli scholar Avoni Jacob, who died in a run-down Calcutta hotel room where he had been drugged and strangled. Jacob's passport and traveler's checks -- about $300 in total -- were missing.

Using Jacob's passport, Charles led Ajay and Marie to Singapore. The three were so down on their luck that Marie was forced to use the passport of a Frenchman they had rolled. Charles assured Marie that no Indian border guard would know enough to question why she had been given a man's name, and he was right. Charles was always right.

And so he returned to Bangkok where he promptly drugged and robbed a rich American, stealing his identity. Although Avoni Jacob's papers were still usable, Charles had learned that it never hurt to have a spare passport. For some reason, luck was on his side, because the police, armed with the information from Yannick and friends, quickly brought the trio in for questioning for the bikini murders. It was a laughable, half-hearted investigation. The Thais were not interested in ruining their tourist trade by having a highly publicized trial.

The Dutch embassy, led by Herman Knippenberg, was adamant about having a full-scale investigation. Knippenberg was particularly driven to prosecute Sobhraj or Alain Gauthier, or Robert Grainer, or whoever this man pretended to be. The diplomat was convinced the man police had questioned was responsible for the deaths of at least two Dutch tourists.

It was not to be. Years before, Charles had told his brother that the Far East was the land of greased palms, where anything could be bought if the price was right. He proved it in early 1976 when he paid $18,000 to have a Thai police official look the other way while he and his cohorts fled the country.

They stopped briefly in Malaysia where Charles sent Ajay to the mining towns to procure some gems. Ajay returned with several hundred carats of jewels worth about $40,000. Charles intended to sell the jewels in Geneva to raise capital. But first he had to take care of one loose end.

No one knows exactly what happened to Ajay Chowdhury in Malaysia, but when Charles met Marie at the airport to catch their flight to Geneva, Ajay was not with him. She inquired as to his whereabouts but the look in Charles' eyes told her never to ask that question again. To this day, authorities believe Ajay Chowdhury, the partner-in-crime to so many of Charles' murders, had outlived his usefulness and lies buried somewhere in the steaming Malaysian jungle.

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