A half-Indian, half-Vietnamese man who became notorious worldwide in the 1970s with a string of tourist killings attributed him, has been found guilty of coming to Nepal illegally more than three decades ago in a six-year-old case.
Charles Gurmukh Sobhraj, who was dubbed the "Bikini Killer" by the tabloid press in the 1970s for allegedly having befriended and then poisoned over a dozen western tourists for their money and passports, was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 2000 Nepali rupees (around 25 U.S. dollars) by the Patan Appellate Court on Thursday.
Judges Mohan Prasad Ghimire and Ishwor Prasad Khatiwada said they had found Sobhraj, now a French citizen, guilty of having entered Nepal illegally in 1975, using the passport of a Dutch tourist, Henricus Bintanja.
The verdict is important because it will now help Nepal's Supreme Court decide a murder case against Sobhraj that began in 2003 after his sensational arrest from a casino in Nepali capital Kathmandu.
Nepal police said Sobhraj came to Kathmandu from Bangkok in 1975 using the passport of Bintanja, whom he had killed in the Thai capital. They also said that he befriended an American tourist in Kathmandu, Connie Jo Bronzich.
Bronzich's badly burnt body was found on the way to Kathmandu'sTribhuvan International Airport in 1975.
Police claimed she was killed by Sobhraj, who had come to Nepalon Bintanja's passport.
Though Sobhraj said he never came to Nepal before 2003, he was found guilty of the murder of Bronzich and given life imprisonment by Kathmandu's district court. When he challenged the verdict in Supreme Court, the apex court returned the case to the appellate court, asking it to first decide if he had come to Nepal illegally in 1975.
Now with the lower court finding him guilty, it has been officially established that Sobhraj was in Nepal in 1975. Consequently, when the case goes back to the Supreme Court, the judges there are also likely to find him guilty of Bronzich's murder.
The murder case generated immense interest worldwide due to Sobhraj's past and also because while serving his sentence in Kathmandu's Central Jail, he contrived to become engaged to a Nepalese woman, Nihita Biswas.