Dhondy book lands as ‘evidence’ in Charles Sobhraj case

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : While Nepal’s book stores are yet to start stocking Farrukh Dhondy’s recently published potboiler about a serial killer, “The Bikini Murders” is already on its way to one of the most important places in the Himalayan republic – the Supreme Court.

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Dhondy’s book has been submitted to the office of Nepal Attorney General Raghav Lal Vaidya by the lawyers hired by the family of an American tourist who was killed in 1975.

Backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich’s memory was resurrected in public mind in a sensational trial nearly three decades later that ended with the arrest of yesteryear’s serial criminal Charles Sobhraj, who was found guilty of the murder and given life imprisonment.

Now, as the 64-year-old Sobhraj, whose criminal career spanning over a dozen countries inspired several books and films, appeals against the verdict in Nepal’s Supreme Court, Bronzich’s lawyers have included Dhondy’s novel as the latest “evidence” to prove that the man once dubbed the Bikini Killer by the tabloid press is undisputedly guilty.

In the incredible five-year-old trial that drew worldwide attraction, the prosecution as well as the victim’s lawyers have tabled at least four books as evidence. They include a book on analysing character through handwriting, a record by two Nepali journalists of Sobhraj’s trial and punishment, and two other books: “The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj” by Richard Neville and Julie Clarke, and “Serpentine” by Thomas Thompson.

Tapes of at least four films made on Sobhraj have also been presented as evidence. Once, the apex court resembled more a cinema hall as the judges watched the films throughout the day.

Now, Dhondy’s book, in which the black hero Johnson Thhat bears an uncanny resemblance to Sobhraj and like him is caught from a Kathmandu casino, will strengthen the case against Sobhraj, the lawyers believe.

Unknown to them, almost immediately after the novel was launched in India, Sobhraj acquired copies of it through his lawyer Shakuntala Thapa – who is also the mother of the 20-year-old Nepali woman he got engaged to this year.

Both Sobhraj, Thapa and the fiancée Nihita Biswas have read the book from cover to cover, looking for incriminating stuff.

To their relief, Dhondy writes that there was no evidence in the Nepal case, just as Sobhraj has been claiming since his arrest in 2003.

Now rid of tension, Sobhraj is even critiquing the book, prison sources said.

“It’s awful,” said Sobhraj who has been writing his autobiography in Kathmandu’s Central Jail. “The English is poor and the plot boring stiff. I wonder if anyone would buy it.”