Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Charles Sobhraj

The Bikini Murders

After assembling his coterie, Charles Sobhraj began to kill. There were rumors that he had killed before but for the first time Charles began leaving a trail.

His first victim was an American pilgrim named Jennie Bollivar, who had come east to find herself through meditation and immersion into a Buddhist lifestyle. Instead, she made the mistake of falling in with Charles and his crowd for a few days. Why Charles murdered Jennie isn't clear, but the Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg believes Sobhraj killed her after she refused to join his entourage and become a smuggler.

Jennie was found dead in a tide pool in the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, wearing a simple flowered bikini. At first it appeared the beautiful young woman had drowned after a night of hashish and beer, but months later when an autopsy was performed, the forensic evidence made it clear someone had held her head under water until she drowned.

Vitali Hakim
Vitali Hakim
The next victim was a young nomadic Sephardic Jew, Vitali Hakim, who like Jennie, had come east looking for life's meaning, but instead fell into Charles' trap and found death. Vitali moved in with the entourage and stayed for several days. He accompanied Ajay and Charles on a trip to a nearby resort town on the Gulf of Thailand and, according to Charles, opted to stay with friends he had met there. Yannick and Jacques were puzzled by this, because Vitali had left his clothes in a closet in the apartment and had turned over his passport and traveler's checks to Charles for safekeeping.

Several days later, a horribly burned body was found on the road to Pattaya -- the resort destination of Charles, Vitali and Ajay. The male body showed signs of having been beaten, but it was clear to police that the poor man had been alive when he was doused with gasoline and set ablaze. Police assumed the man had been set upon by Thai bandits and slain. They did not connect this murder with the death of Jennie Bolliver.

In December 1975, Vitali Hakim's friend came east looking for him. His hotel noted that Hakim had checked out several weeks earlier and never returned. Vitali had left a message for his girlfriend, however, and unwittingly drew another victim into Charles's murderous web. Charmayne Carrou, a French citizen, turned up dead in circumstances almost identical to Jennie's death. Apparently she traced Vitali's whereabouts to Charles Sobhraj and started asking too many questions. Months later when an autopsy was performed, officials discovered that Charmayne had been strangled, not drowned, and that she had been suffocated with such force that bones in her neck shattered.


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