Nepal police reveal Dutch signature betrayed French killer

13th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

KATHMANDU, Aug 13 (AFP) - Serial killer Charles Sobhraj was sentenced to life in prison in Nepal in large part due to signatures he allegedly forged in the name of a Dutch man killed in Thailand three decades ago, an investigator said Friday.

KATHMANDU, Aug 13 (AFP) - Serial killer Charles Sobhraj was sentenced to life in prison in Nepal in large part due to signatures he allegedly forged in the name of a Dutch man killed in Thailand three decades ago, an investigator said Friday.  

Sobhraj, a 60-year-old French national who preyed on Western tourists in Asia in the 1970s, was Thursday sentenced to life by a Kathmandu court over the 1975 murder of an American woman.  

Sobhraj, who has been dubbed 'The Serpent' for his audacious escapes from the law, said he would appeal. He had been living free in Paris since 1997 when he completed 21 years in prison in India.  

Lead police investigator Ganesh K.C. said a key factor in Thursday's ruling was analysis of signatures under the name of Henricus Bintanja whose Dutch passport Sobhraj allegedly used to enter and leave Nepal in 1975.  

Bintanja and his fiancee, Cornelia Hemker, were strangled to death that year with their burned bodies found in a ditch outside Bangkok, according to press reports of the time.  

"The airport disembarkation card and hotel registration from 1975, both made under the Dutch name, were kept as part of the investigation. The signature matched the handwriting of Sobhraj's French passport," K.C. told AFP.  

Sobhraj had told AFP last year he was on his first trip to Nepal and was working on a documentary on handicrafts.

Reputed to be a compulsive gambler, Sobhraj was arrested in the all-night casino of Kathmandu's five-star Yak and Yeti Hotel last September.  

"The passport question was key as it showed the court that Sobhraj lied when he said he had never been previously to Nepal. And changing passports matched his modus operandi from killings in other countries," K.C. said.  

"The verdict itself was based on circumstantial evidence on the murder of Connie Jo Bronizch," he said.  

Bronizch, a 29-year-old Californian exploring Nepal in its hippie heyday, was found dead with her companion, Canadian hiker Laurent Armand Carrierre. Both their bodies were badly charred.  

Carrierre's case comes under the jurisdiction of a separate district court, which is only likely to prosecute Sobhraj if he is freed on an appeal in the Bronizch murder.  

Sobhraj's lawyer, Sanjeev Ghimere, said an appeal would likely be filed by the end of the month.  

"We hope he can be set free as in Thursday's hearing there were no witnesses," Ghimere told AFP.  

Sobhraj was born in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, to an Indian father and a Vietnamese mother. He was taken to France as a youth and his mother remarried a Frenchman.  

The most infamous incident in which Sobhraj was implicated was the so-called 'Bikini Murders' in the 1970s when young Western women were found drugged and drowned at Thailand's Pattaya beach resort.  

Sobhraj never stood trial in Thailand, as by the time he was released in India too much time had lapsed to prosecute the killings in Southeast Asia.  

He could have faced the death penalty in Thailand. Nepal does not have capital punishment and prisoners convicted to life sentences in the Himalayan kingdom are usually released within 20 years.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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