Is 'The Serpent' based on a true story? Inside bone-chilling saga of Charles Sobhraj aka the 'Bikini Killer'

Running eight episodes in total, Netflix's series ‘The Serpent’ tells the true story of Sobhraj and how he used to manipulate people for his own benefit

                            Is 'The Serpent' based on a true story? Inside bone-chilling saga of Charles Sobhraj aka the 'Bikini Killer'
Tahar Rahim and Charles Sobhraj on whom Netflix's 'The Serpent' is based (Netflix/Getty Images)

The French-Vietnamese serial killer Charles Sobhraj is one of the most notorious criminals of all time and was known by many nicknames. One is ‘The Bikini Killer’ and another is ‘The Serpent’. The second appellation is the title of the upcoming Netflix series about the heinous crime of Shobhraj, featuring Tahar Rahim as the serial killer, Jenna Coleman as his girlfriend, Marie-Andree Leclerc, and Amesh Edireweera as Ajay Chowdhury.

Stories about serial killers are always intriguing. That’s why streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and more keep on coming out with new shows based on such individuals. However, it can be hard to differentiate if a new show is based on real events or not. ‘The Serpent’ is the latest entry into the serial killer story group. So, let’s dig a little deeper and get to know more about Sobhraj and how he became one of the most-wanted criminals during the 1970s.


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Is 'The Serpent' based on a true story?

Running eight episodes in total, ‘The Serpent’ tells the true story of Sobhraj and how he used to manipulate people for his own benefit. Born on April 6, 1944, in Vietnam, Sobhraj moved to France with his mother and her new partner. As a teenager, he was involved in several petty crimes and was sent to Poissy prison, near Paris. While imprisoned, Sobhraj went on to manipulate prison officials into granting him special favors, such as being allowed to keep books in his cell.

Charles Sobhraj (Getty Images)

After getting released, he started to immerse himself in the high society of Paris and the criminal underworld. Sobhraj became rich after masterminding a series of burglaries and scams and landed himself in prison again for his wrongdoings. In 1970, he moved to India with his wife, Chantal Compagnon, who gave birth to their daughter in Mumbai. He was imprisoned after an armed robbery for jewels at Hotel Ashoka in 1973. However, he managed to escape by pretending he was sick.

He went to prison a number of times during the '70s and spent most of his life on the run, using as many as ten stolen passports.

Charles Sobhraj (Getty Images)


On the run, he met Marie-Andrée Leclerc in Thailand. She became his most devoted follower and turned a blind eye to his crimes. Sobhraj would pose as a drug dealer or gem salesman to impress Western tourists. He would steal their money and kill them if they said that they will expose him. One of his targets, Teresa Knowlton, was found dead in a tidal pool while wearing a bikini in Thailand in 1975. Over the course of a year from 1974 to 1975, Sobhraj was directly responsible for the murders of approximately 12 people.

A lot of media outlets started calling him ‘The Bikini Killer’ as the bodies of various female victims were found in swimwear. Sobhraj traveled across Asia with Chowdhury and Leclerc and killed several people in India and Nepal.

Charles Sobhraj (Getty Images)


In 1976, Shobhraj drugged a tour group of French students and killed Jean-Luc Solomon. He was sent to Tihar prison for the murder of Solomon. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Shortly before his sentence ended, Sobhraj threw a big party for all the prison officials, drugged them and when they were asleep, he easily walked out of the prison.

He lived a comfortable life in France after getting released in 1997. However, he traveled to Nepal in 2003 where he was spotted by a journalist. Sobhraj was arrested and sent to life imprisonment in 2004 for Connie Jo Bronzich’s murder. On the other hand, he was also found guilty of the murder of Laurent Carriere that took place in 1975. He was sentenced to a further 20 years. Currently, he is serving out a life sentence in Kathmandu prison, Nepal.

‘The Serpent’ will be streaming live on Netflix on March 2.