Man who interviewed The Serpent in 2003 recalls how ‘consistently upbeat’ serial killer Charles Sobhraj spoke of his prison experience – or how the Daily Mail rewrites me & the Daily Telegraph

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The Daily Mail Chloe Morgan has published a feature on Charles Sobhraj which essentially uses my recent Telegraph story I wrote about my encounter with the infamous serial killer, adds a bit more background and puts it out there as something new.

A writer who interviewed serial killer Charles Sobhraj while he was behind bars has recalled how he spoke of his prison experience as if he were ‘enjoying a rustic holiday.’

BBC’ eight-part series The Serpent revisits the crimes of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, played by French actor Tahar Rahim, who preyed on young backpackers along South-East Asia’s hippie trail and gained the nickname The Serpent because of his skills at deception and evasion. 

It details his killing spree in 1975, and how his accomplice Marie-Andrée Leclerc, played by Jenna Coleman, stood by him despite full knowledge of his crimes and promiscuity.  

Speaking to The Telegraph about his first-person account of interviewing the serial killer in prison, Tom Vater explained: ‘Consistently upbeat, he sold me his prison experience as if he were enjoying a rustic holiday. 

‘They hold a hundred people in each barrack here. More than two thousand inmates in all. Prison life in Nepal is as archaic as the court system.’

He added: ‘Luckily, I have privileges – a room to myself and a TV. Through my lawyer, I check my email every day.’

Charles Sobhraj picked off his victims in the heady world of 1970s Thailand, India and Nepal – drugging, poisoning and dumping their bodies with casual ease. 

He is known to have killed at least 12 people, but the true tally is believed to be at least double that number.

Tom told how he first encountered the gem stone smuggler in December 2003, when he was shackled and taken into the cell by two guards.

At the time, Sobraj was accused of having killed two backpackers on Freak Street, south of the city’s historic Durbar Square, where holiday-goers gathered in the 1970s.

He offered a bright smile,’ recalled Tom. ‘Sobhraj, entirely unruffled, launched into a convoluted monologue, crammed with erudition, describing himself as a victim of dark forces conspiring to take his freedom.’

The writer went on to say that the serial killer, then 58, was awaiting trial and concerned about saying anything that could incriminate him – but asked to see Tom again once he had spoken with his lawyer.  

By the time Tom saw Sobhraj for a second time, the serial killer had still refused to admit a single murder – but had long been a name that everyone had heard of.

‘The man in front of me thrived on his myth, proclaiming innocence and hinting at terror in the same breath,’ recalled the writer. 

He appeared to juggle several identities at once and clearly enjoyed himself…his persistently engaging demeanor coupled with the false modesty of a veteran of the Asian highways must have dazzled youngsters on the Seventies hippie trail. 

‘But on a cold December day in 2003, two days before Christmas, his ingratiating self-aggrandizement was as disturbing as his outrage.’

He went on to claim how Sobhraj told him that while he was in the news, he didn’t receive any visits from the police at his hotel, nor was he questioned.

However, three days before he was set to leave Nepal, he brazenly recalled being arrested while eating dinner at the casino – yet boasted about still not being charged due to lack of evidence.  

Following his interaction with the serial killer, Tom compared several of Sobhraj’s characteristics to successful politicians – including his communication skills and ‘boundless energy to sell his brand.’

A Nepali court sentenced the notorious criminal to life imprisonment in connection with the killing of an American backpacker in 1975.  

Sobhraj, who is now aged 76 and serving his sentence in Nepal, had already spent 20 years in prison for a string of crimes, including murder and robbery.  

I am shocked,’ said Sobhraj as he walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

‘I have been found guilty without witnesses and evidence. Not a single witness was called,’ said Sobhraj. ‘We are going to appeal.’ 

His fame rose once again inside prison and he has since married 24-year-old Nihita Biswas, the daughter of his Nepali lawyer famous for his appearance on India’s equivalent to Big Brother. 

Marie-Andrée Leclerc was accused of complicity in the murders, namely those of Jean-Luc Salomon and Avoni Jacob. 

In 1980, she and Sobhraj were convicted of the murder of Avoni Jacob, though she has always denied involvement in the killings and was later released on the condition she remained in India. She returned to Canada to die of cancer in 1984. 

Read the full lurid story here.

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