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The Real Serpent: Investigating A Serial Killer | Preview (Channel 4)

Channel 4 has commissioned “The Real Serpent: Investigating a Serial Killer “ a unique three-part series that sees Charles Sobhraj agree to a number of psychological and criminal interrogations about murders he has never been tried for.

On 23 December 2022,  Sobhraj, known as The Serpent because of his snake-like ability to seduce his victims and cheat justice, was released from prison in Nepal after nearly 20 years.  He agreed to be filmed for six months and have his account of the murders he is linked to challenged by former detectives and a leading forensic psychologist, in order to try to get to the truth.

Sobhraj has been convicted of two killings but admitted to ten murders in 1977, only to later withdraw the confessions. He is suspected of many more murders, but has never been tried for the majority of them, leaving the families of the victims with no closure or accountability.

In this unique investigation, former senior Metropolitan Police detectives Jackie Malton and Gary Copson re-examine the murders and interview key protagonists and witnesses, in order to challenge Sobhraj’s claims that he did not kill anyone and to try to discover the truth about the crimes.

Leading forensic psychologist Paul Britton conducts hours of interviews with the serial killer to make an assessment about whether he is a psychopath and still presents a danger to the public.

In the series, Sobhraj, who preyed on Western tourists travelling on the hippie trail of India, Nepal and Thailand in the 70s, admits to over a hundred instances of drugging and theft.  He confessed to ten murders in 1977 for a book released in 1979 but later withdrew the confessions. 

He is suspected of many more murders, but the experts in this series focus on five widely covered killings in Thailand in 1975.  Sobhraj denies involvement in murder but in the unprecedented interrogations over the three hour-long episodes, his claims come under intense scrutiny.

In 1978, Sobhraj was convicted in India for a 1976 culpable homicide and robbery and jailed for a decade.  In his tenth year in prison, Sobhraj staged an audacious prison break; subsequently caught, he was sentenced to another 10 years. 

By the time of his release in 1997, the statute of limitations in relation to the Thai murder cases had expired and Sobhraj was able to return to France without fear of extradition to Thailand.  In 2003, Sobhraj went to Nepal, where he was arrested, tried, and given a life sentence for the 1975 murder of Connie Jo Bronzich.  In 2014, he was also sentenced to killing her Canadian companion, Laurent Carrière. 

In December 2022, the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered his release from prison because of his old age, after he had served 19 years of his prison term.

The three-part series from Monster Films is a unique attempt to get to the truth of the horrific crimes; to explore whether there is any hope of accountability and justice for the victims; and to understand why Sobhraj, who is so closely linked to so many murders, is able to roam free all over the world.

Monster Films says: “We first made contact with Charles Sobhraj in 2016 when he was in prison in Nepal.  8 years in the making, this series provides an unparalleled insight into the life and crimes of the man the world knows as The Serpent.”

Shaminder Nahal, Commissioning Editor and Head of Specialist Factual at Channel 4 says: “In the 70s, thousands of young people flocked to Asia to have adventures and learn about the world. Some of them ended up dead because of Charles Sobhraj...

"He targeted backpackers - drugging, robbing and in some instances, killing them. Today he is a free man, never having stood trial for many of the murders he is linked to. The big questions underpinning the series are whether fifty years on, there is any hope of getting to the truth of these historic crimes and to get some accountability for the victims and their families...

"And how it is possible that a man believed to be one of the 20th century’s most devious and ruthless serial killers, is no longer in prison.” 

Begins Tuesday 19th March on Channel 4.


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