A French killer who admitted killing several Western tourists is to be released from prison in Nepal after the country’s Supreme Court ordered his release.

Charles Sobhraj, also known as The Serpent due to his reputation as a disguise and escape artist, was serving two life sentences in Nepal for the murders of an American backpacker and a Canadian tourist.

Life sentences in Nepal are 20 years. Court documents said he had already served more than 75% of his sentence, making him eligible for release.

The 78-year-old’s release order was also made for good behavior and poor health, as he suffers from a heart condition.

The Frenchman has in the past admitted to killing several Western tourists and he is said to have killed at least 20 people in Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Turkey, Nepal, Iran and Hong Kong in the 1970s.

He is believed to have primarily targeted young backpackers on the hippie trail and also became known as the Bikini Killer as the bodies of several female victims were found in swimsuits.

Thailand issued an arrest warrant for Sobhraj in the 1970s for drugging and killing six women, all in bikinis, on a beach in Pattaya. However, he was imprisoned in India before he could stand trial on these charges.

Sobhraj was held for two decades in the maximum security Tihar prison in New Delhi for drugging a group of French tourists.

He escaped from the Indian prison of Tihar in 1986 after drugging prison guards with biscuits and cakes mixed with sleeping pills, but was caught and detained until 1997, when he returned to France after his release in India.

He resurfaced in September 2003 in Kathmandu where he was arrested and convicted in 2004 for the 1975 murder of American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich.

A general view of the central prison where Charles Sobhraj, a French national known as "the snake" accused of killing more than 20 young Western backpackers across Asia, is upheld as the Supreme Court ordered his release in Kathmandu, Nepal
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Kathmandu Central Jail, where Sobhraj was imprisoned on two counts of murder

Several years later, he was also convicted of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian friend, Laurent Carriere.

Sobhraj’s life and crimes have been dramatized in a joint BBC and Netflix drama The snakereleased in 2021.

Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling also said he must leave the country within the next 15 days, but did not specify where.

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