20 Facts about Bikini Killer Charles Shobraj

Charles Sobhraj, the Bikini Killer, is the most feared serial killer, thief, and fraudster.

For most of his life, he has been robbing tourists and using their passports and other necessary documents to fake his identity. 

He is responsible for the murders of more than 20 people, including one of his crime partners, Ajay Chowdhary. 

Charles had to go through a harrowing childhood that led him to petty crimes that got bigger and more dangerous. His life is filled with facts that are a mixture of exciting and painful events. 

In this article, I have accumulated 20 facts about the notorious serial killer, Charles Sobhraj.

20. Charles Sobhraj had an unstable childhood

A childhood photo of Charles Sobhraj
A childhood photo of Charles Sobhraj

The famous Bikin killer, Charles Sobhraj, was born as Hotchand Bhawnani Gurumukh Charles Sobhraj on April 6, 1944. 

He was born in Saigon to an Indian father, Sobhraj Hatchard Bavani, and a Vietnamese mother, Tran Loang Phun, who never married nor accepted paternity.

Charles stayed with his mother and her new husband, a French Army lieutenant, but was never treated equally as his half-siblings.

Along with his new family, Charles kept moving back and forth between France and Southeast Asia, as required by his new father. 

19. The childhood trauma and instability led Charles to crimes

Charles Sobhraj arrested by the police
Charles Sobhraj arrested by the police

Charles Sobhraj’s mental status was caused majorly due to the relationship between his parents and childhood instability inclined him towards petty crimes. 

He began with burglary and was jailed for the same at the early age of 19 in 1963.

Since his childhood, he had a charismatic personality that favored him to manipulate the prison officials to treat him in a particular manner during his first time in jail. 

18. Charles met his first wife, Chantal Compagnon, at a party in Paris

A photo of Charles Sobhraj's first wife Chantal Compagnon
A photo of Charles Sobhraj’s first wife Chantal Compagnon

Charles’s life journey began in 1963 when he met a wealthy young man, Felix d’Escogne, during his time in Poissy prison 1963. 

Their friendship grew strong, and Charles began living with Felix and moved between the high societies of Paris and Felix.

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He met his first lover, Chantal Compagnon, at one of the parties he and Felix attended. Chantal is a Parisian belonging to a conservative Catholic family from Paris. 

Her parents raised her parents with a mindset of inclining toward art, education, poetry, culture, tradition, and avoiding crimes. 

17. Chantal’s parents were against their relationship

Chantal’s father, Mr.Lemaitre, was a civil servant, and her mother, Mrs.Lemaitre, was a housewife. They believed in living a simple, down-to-earth life with their children interested in educating themselves and respecting cultural values. 

Chantal went entirely against the will of their parents when she fell for Charles Sobhraj. Since early childhood, Charles had been into petty crimes such as stealing and robbing. And, involving in criminal activities was the most unaccepted factor for Chantal’s parents. 

They asked Chantal to avoid meeting or having any relationship with Charles. However, Charles impressed Chantal’s parents by showing them his accumulated wealth and property with his charismatic personality. 

16. Charles proposed to Chantal on the same day he was arrested

Charles and Chantal had been in a committed relationship after meeting at the party. He had managed to impress Chantal’s parents as well.

In May of 1969, Charles decided on proposing Chantal. However, he was arrested on the evening of the same day.

The police arrested Charles for stealing a vehicle, and he was sentenced to full 8 months at Evreux jail, France. Chantal supported him during those 8 months and waited for him to come out.

15. Charles and Chantal got married 5 months after his release

During the 8 months of Charles’s arrest, Chantal did all the paperwork and managed lawyers. She stayed in touch with Charles and supported him in every way possible.

Charles was released from the Evreux jail, France, after serving for whole 8 months. Chantal and Charles got married 5 months after Charles was released, involving family members of both sides.

14. Chantal was pregnant with Usha Sobhraj when they flew to Asia

Usha Sobhraj Sutiff, daughter of Charles Sobhraj
Usha Sobhraj Sutiff, daughter of Charles Sobhraj

Charles and Chantal, after their marriage, flew to Aisa to avoid further arrests and to be away from crimes. Chantal was pregnant with their first daughter, Usha Sobhraj when they fled to Asia.

They flew to Asia to leave behind their criminal life and begin a sober life. They wanted to raise their child like a normal family.

13. Charles continued his criminal activities even in Asia

Although Charles and Chantal planned on leaving behind the crime life, they could not. They robbed tourists and used their identities to travel around the world. 

They presented themselves as a couple involved in business, acted friendly, helped the tourists, gained their trust, and drugged them before robbing them.

Sobhraj couple continued until Charles moved to Bombay, leaving Chantal and his baby girl behind.

12. Charles was arrested while attempting a rob a jewelry shop in New Delhi

The front face of Hotel Ashoka
The front face of Hotel Ashoka

Charles, while in Bombay, resumed stealing vehicles and smuggling and used the collected money for gambling. He became addicted to gambling along with the income from stealing and smuggling.

In 1973, Charles was arrested while robbing a jewelry shop at Hotel Ashoka. Chantal had a vital role in helping him escape the arrest by faking his illness, which could not last long. He was rearrested after a short period. 

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11. Charles involved his half-brother, Andre, in his crime activities

After being arrested in Bombay, Charles flew to Kabul, taking financial support from his father. Along with his wife, he began robbing tourists and was detained but fooled the prison guard, drugged him, and escaped.

After escaping Kabul’s prison, he then moved to Iran while his wife and daughter stayed back in Kabul. 

Charles and his half-brother, Andre, met in Istanbul and became crime partners and began conducting criminal activities in Greece and Turkey but were arrested in Athens. 

Charles changed his identity with his brother and escaped leaving his brother behind. Andre served an 18-year sentence under Turkish police. 

10. Charles kidnapped his daughter, Usha Sobhraj, drugging his mother-in-law

Charles Sobhraj and his wife, Chantal, continued robbing tourists, mainly hippie trails. However, their activity was watched by the police, and they were arrested in Kabul. 

Charles and Chantal were kept in the prison of Kabul while their daughter, Usha, was taken by the French Embassy and handed over to Chantal’s mother. 

After a few days, Charles drugged the prison officers and escaped. He goes to France, drugs his mother-in-law, kidnaps his daughter, and flies to Kabul. 

In Kabul, he again tricks the prison guards and helps Chantal escape.

9. Chantal leaves Kabul for France and vowed never to see Charles again

Ancient image of Kabul
The ancient image of Kabul

Charles and Chantal were arrested in Kabul, and their daughter, Usha, was taken by the French Embassy and handed over to her grandparents’. However, Charles drugged the correctional officers of Kabul and went to Paris, kidnapping her daughter by drugging his mother-in-law. 

He then returned to Kabul and helped Chantal escape the Kabul prison. Charles flew to Iran to evade his arrest, and during that time, Chantal took Usha and flew back to France, never to return to Kabul.

Chantal left the criminal life behind and went to France. 

8. Charles had a unique way of presenting himself to people

A recent photo of Charles Sobhraj
A recent photo of Charles Sobhraj

 Charles charmed and made friends with tourists disguising himself mainly as a gems salesman or a drug dealer.

People began to follow him blindly as he was an expert in gaining people’s loyalty by presenting himself as a decent businessman. He would start with helping the tourists and getting them out of trouble.

For instance, he once helped find the missing passports of Yannick and Jacques, former French policemen. The passports were stolen by Charles himself to create a drama of trust and loyalty. 

7. Charles and his relationship with his follower, Marie-Andree Leclerc

Charles Sobhraj's followe Marie-Andree Leclerc
Charles Sobhraj’s followe Marie-Andree Leclerc

Marie-Andree Leclerc from Levis, Quebec, was one of Sobhraj’s first devoted followers in India during Charles’s stay in Bombay. Like most of his other followers, she turned a blind eye to Charles’s crimes and his philandering with local women.

Marie traveled with Charles and got involved in all the criminal activities.

6. Charles was found guilty of murdering about a dozen people

A news headline with the victims of Charles Sobhraj
A news headline with the victims of Charles Sobhraj

Charles moved from theft, smuggling, and burglary to gruesome murders after he met with a young Indian man named Ajay Chowdhury.

Charles and Ajay committed their first murder of Teresa Knowlton in 1975.

Her body with a floral bikini was found drowning tidal pool in the Gulf of Thailand.

Initially, it was taken as an accidental death until the autopsy reports showed it to be a murder.

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The murders began increasing rapidly, and the second victim was Vital Hakim, a young nomadic from Turkey. Vital was found burned on the road of Pattaya resort. 

The other victims included Henk Bintanja and Cocky Hemker, who Charles had met in Hong Kong. These two were invited to Thailand by Charles and were given poison and again taken care of to gain their trust and loyalty. 

The visiting of Charmayne Carrou, Hakim’s ( the earlier victim ) girlfriend, to Charles’s place to investigate Hakim’s murder led to the murders of Cocky, Henk, and Charmayne by Charles and Ajay.

The bodies of Henk and Cocky were found strangled and burned on December 16, 1975. At the same time, the body of Charmayne was found drowning like Charle’s first victim Teresa.

Charles and his first follower, Leclerc, flew to Nepal on December 18, 1975, using the passports of Henk and Cocky- on the same day the bodies of Cocky and Henk were identified. 

New victims, Laurent Carriere from Canada and Connie Jo Bronzich from America were murdered between 21st and 22nd December 1975. Charles and Leclerc used their passports to go back to Thailand. 

Charles traveled to Calcutta and murdered Avoni Jacob, and obtained his passport. With Jacob’s passport, he traveled to Singapore, India, and Bangkok ( 1976 ) with Leclerc and Ajay. 

The investigations on the murder of Henk and Cocky were still ongoing and were conducted by Herman Knippenberg and Angela – his then-wife. Herman had found some clues that could lead to Charles and his clan. 

With a search warrant of Charle’s house, Herman was allowed to investigate Charles’ house and found numerous pieces of evidence, including victims’ passports, documents, poisons, and syringes.

5. Charles was a prime suspect in the disappearance of Ajay Chowdhary

A very rare image of Ajay Chowdhary
A very rare image of Ajay Chowdhary

Charles Sobhraj, Ajay Chowdhary, and Marie-Andree Leclerc had been together in almost all the murders. 

After escaping from Thailand, the trio flew to Malaysia, where Ajay was asked to steal gems. Ajay disappeared after this event, and he was never seen or heard of again. 

However, Charles and Leclerc flew to Geneva disguised as gems dealers, and Ajay was nowhere to be seen with them again. 

As per the records, Charles was the prime suspect in the disappearance of Ajay Chowdhary. He is most likely to have been murdered by Charles.

4. Charles formed a clan of three women in New Delhi 

Charles formed a clan with three women, Barbara Smith, Mary Ellen Eather, and Leclerc, in 1976 in New Delhi. They started by tricking French post-graduates as tour guides. 

They gave the students poisoned pills as the medicine for anti-dysentery, which made the students unconscious in no time. However, a few students were able to fight against the drugs, contacted the police, and led to Charles Sobhraj.

Eather and Smith confessed everything during the interrogation, and Charles was charged with the murder of Jean-Luc Solomon, who was poisoned during the robbery in Bombay. Charles and three women were sent to Tihar Jail, New Delhi.

3. A famous Netflix series portrays the life of Charles Sobhraj 

Netflix series - The Serpent
Netflix series – The Serpent

The very famous Netflix series that has been made based on the book Serpent portrays Chantal with the name Juliette Voclain and is shown to be supporting Charles throughout his journey, be it inside or outside of prison and also after parting ways with Charles.

The book was named Serpentine and written by Thomas Thompson and published in 1979. This book is basically for the backpackers traveling to Asia to be cautious about the situation.

2. Charles Sobhraj married a woman who is 20 years younger than his daughter, Usha Sobhraj

Recent wife of Charles Sobhraj, Nikita Bishwas
Recent wife of Charles Sobhraj, Nikita Bishwas

Charles married Nikita Biswas, one of his lawyers in Nepal. Nikita is 20 years younger than Charles’s first daughter Usha.

However, there is no concrete proof or record of their marriage ceremony. 

1. Charles spent his prison time as a celebrity

Charles Sobhraj faking illness when arrested
Charles Sobhraj faking illness when arrested

Charles bribed the officers in jail and lived a comfortable life during his 12 years in prison. He had done the same when he was arrested for the first time at 19.

He lived a luxurious life with TV gourmet food, and gave interviews to journalists and authors, While Charles’ partner and follower, Leclerc, died of ovarian cancer in 1984 at the age of 38. 

He is sentenced to life in prison in Nepal, where he has been living a life of a celebrity. He was arrested on September 1, 2003, and he has been in prison in Kathmandu.

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