Sobhraj plans luxury bath, visit to gurdwara, if freed

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : With Nepal’s Supreme Court informing that the final verdict on the more than 30-year-old murder case, that can put Charles Sobhraj behind bars here for life, would be delivered Sunday, the notorious criminal has started planning the things he would do if the judges pronounce him not guilty.

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“I would walk out of the prison into a good hotel and then soak myself in the bath for two hours,” the 63-year-old mastermind behind a string of crimes in Asia in the 70s, who is currently fighting a four-year battle for freedom in Nepal, told IANS.

“With a telephone,” he added.

The telephone would be to celebrate the release with his second wife, who lives in Paris, and the nine-year-old daughter they have.

He then plans to go to the Sikh temple in nearby Lalitpur district to offer his thanks in a gesture that ties him to his Indian father by tradition.

“Whenever my wife and I pass through London, we drop in at the gurdwara there,” he said.

Sobhraj is keeping his fingers crossed that the verdict would not be delayed once again.

It was to be pronounced on Nov 4, however, was postponed as one of the two judges who heard his final appeal had to go out of the capital.

The verdict of judges Anup Sharma and Top Bahadur Magar will finally put an end to a drama that began in 1975 with the discovery of the dead body of an American backpacker, Connie Jo Bronzich, on the way to the Kathmandu airport, and reached its climax in 2003 when Sobhraj was sighted in the city’s tourist hub by a local daily.

The Himalayan Times daily published photographs of Sobhraj for several days, along with reports that relied on books written on Sobhraj by journalists, which Sobhraj dismisses as inaccurate.

The reports revived the memory of Bronzich’s murder and led the police to arrest Sobhraj from an upmarket casino in September 2003.

However, he was not charged with murder at first. Instead, police accused him of having visited Nepal in 1975 on a fake passport.

Though the district court dismissed the case, the police, most probably egged on by the tremendous publicity the case generated worldwide at Sobhraj’s name, re-arrested him from the court premises and laid the fresh charge of murder.

The Bronzich case had rocked Nepal in the 70s because soon after the discovery of the American’s body, police also came across the corpse of a Canadian, Laurent Armand Carriere, who Bronzich had befriended during her Nepal trip.

Though police also suspected Sobhraj of being behind Carriere’s murder, the case could not be re-opened for technical reasons.

Sobhraj, who himself submitted a written argument in Supreme Court in September after his lawyers had argued his case, says he never came to Nepal before 2003, was not found guilty of murder anywhere in the world and was convicted after an unfair trial in Nepal where the police did not have any evidence, did not call any witnesses for cross-examination and did not arrange for an interpreter.

What would have been an ordinary crime became the stuff Hollywood films are made of with the proceedings being joined by the man who was the investigating police officer in 1975.

Bishwo Lal Shrestha, who subsequently left the force and became a lawyer, was appointed, by a quirk of fate, by Bronzich’s father to get justice for his slain daughter.

After the verdict, Sobhraj plans to publish his memoirs, chronicling his Nepal saga, while a French television company will make a new film on the ordeal.