Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Sobhraj


Charles was also convicted in connection with the abortive attempt to rob the French tourists and that 5-year sentence added to his seven-year term. The sentence, while obviously better than death, presented a problem for Sobhraj. The warrant from Thailand was good for 20 years, which meant that as soon as he was done serving his hitch in Tihar, he would be deported and very likely executed.

Twelve years would be enough time for witnesses to disappear or prosecutors to lose interest. But escape from Tihar, an easy feat for a man like the Serpent, meant he would be an international criminal and a wanted man. He needed a plan and had a few years to come up with a good one.

Biding his time, Charles literally ran Tihar. He wanted for almost nothing and counted both guards and prisoners as his friends. In fact, as he was finishing his 10th year behind bars, he threw a party for his friends. This time, it didn't matter when the sleeping pills took effect, and in the middle of his party, as cons and guards alike passed out from the drugs, Charles Sobhraj walked out of the jail.

He later said it wasn't his plan to flee the subcontinent, he just wasn't ready to leave Tihar yet and wanted to stay a few more years. So he arranged to be caught and was sentenced for the drug assault and escape. His gamble paid off. Over time, authorities around the world forgot about Charles Sobhraj and the case against him in Bangkok eventually withered away as witnesses died or evidence was lost.

On February 17, 1997, the Serpent walked out of Tihar Prison. He was in the prime of life, 52 years old. There was little chance that Thai officials could make a case against him so many years later, but Charles was a man without a country. He was to be deported from India, so he was kept in custody until authorities found a country that would take him. 

Charles Sobhraj leaves India, deported
Charles Sobhraj leaves India, deported

In the end, he returned to France where today he charges reporters for interviews. In March 2002 an Indian film company announced that it was making a film about his life. The project is not exactly a Sobhraj biography "because we have taken some creative liberties, and because it's not an exact biography of his life," the assistant director told Nihar Online, an Indian Web-based newspaper. "The film will in no way glorify a killer. It is instead a question of man, morality and redemption."

The idea of redemption remains questionable. Several years into his incarceration in India, Charles was interviewed by an Australian writer. Vowing never to repeat his past mistakes, he stopped short of saying he would never kill again.

"I have already taken from the past what is best for me, what helps me live in the present and prepare for the future," he told Richard Neville. "If I play back a murder, it will be to see what I have learned from the method. I won't even notice the body."


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