How ‘The Snake’ Sobhraj was arrested in Goa 4 years ago

Charles Sobhraj, 78, is about to be released from prison in Nepal because of his advanced age. (document)


Retired Mumbai assistant police chief Madhuka Zend, who arrested serial killer Charles Sobraj from Goa in 1986, reacted cautiously to news of his imminent release from a Nepali prison on Thursday, saying that although he thought people like Sobraj Horrible criminals shouldn’t come out of jail with life sentences and the idea of ​​the criminal justice system should be taken into consideration.

Nepal’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release of Sobhraj, 78, a Frenchman of Indian and Vietnamese descent who has been held in a neighboring country’s prison since 2003 on murder charges, citing health and age.

Zende, who captured the notorious serial killer in a hotel in Goa decades ago, told PTI that criminals like Sobhraj are dangerous to society and could commit crimes if they get out of prison. more crimes.

The septuagenarian confessed to killing 40 to 42 women and was a hardened criminal who could do anything if he came out, Zende said.

The retired police officer recalled that when Sobhraj was arrested from the Goa hotel, he tried unsuccessfully to evade the police by hiding his identity.

“I don’t think he should get out of prison for life, he could commit more crimes, he’s a danger to society, but what matters is what the criminal justice system thinks,” Zender said.

What the judicial system thinks is more appropriate, he said, adding that “judges are more learned than ordinary people, that is their decision and it would be wrong to comment on that”.

Recalling Sobhraj’s arrest, Zende said, it became international news in 1986 when he escaped in dramatic fashion from New Delhi’s maximum security Tihar prison.

In mid-March 1986, Sobhraj scripted his great escape from Tihar prison by offering drug-laced sweets to prison staff on the pretext of celebrating his birthday.

He said that while there were six guards, three vehicles drove into the Tihar prison and 16 prisoners escaped, including the notorious French serial killer, before no one knew what he looked like.

“The next day, a newspaper in Mumbai published a picture of Sobhraj. I arrested him for a robbery in 1971, so the newspaper published a report that an inspector of the Mumbai police knew Charles Sobhraj,” he said.

Then Maharashtra DGP Suryakant Jog read the news reports.

He said that on March 29, 1986, the Railway Police arrested a man associated with Sobhraj and relayed the matter to the then DGP.

The DGP immediately called Zende and made a plan to apprehend the notorious criminal.

As a result, multiple police teams were formed, one of which, led by Zende, was dispatched to Goa.

Initially, there were only two officers in the team and more were added later, he said, adding that the team traveled to different locations in the tourist country to find Sobhraj.

Zende knows that Sobhraj has an American wife whom he may contact by phone.

“I went to the CTO (Central Telegraph Office) to check the call records. On showing the call records, an officer there gave information that there is a hotel called “O Coqueiro” in Goa (Polworim), foreign People can get international calls instantly,” he said.

Zende and his team rushed to the hotel.

During questioning near a motorcycle taxi stand, a man provided information that a foreigner had been renting motorcycles and roaming around the state, the retired police officer said.

“On April 6 (1986), our group was at the hotel and I saw Sobhraj walk in. I immediately hid. Two police officers were asked to stay outside the hotel, two in the compound, two and I was together. I wasted no time and jumped at him,” Zende said, recalling the dramatic moment.

“Sobhraj tried to evade us and said ‘he doesn’t know who Charles is’. I replied, ‘Charles I know you well, I arrested you in 1971, you can’t forget me’,” said the former Mumbai policeman.

“He tried to reach for his revolver, but we confiscated it immediately,” he said.

Zende said Sobhraj was taken to Mumbai and arrested, and he was later flown to New Delhi on a Border Security Force (BSF) plane.

In 1971, Mumbai police arrested him in connection with a robbery, he said.

Sobhraj, who committed the robbery at the Ashoka Hotel in Delhi, came to Mumbai and committed a similar crime at the Air India cashier, the retired police officer said.

Zende said he was arrested along with five others, and weapons and ammunition were recovered from his possession.

Sobhraj was later nicknamed the “Bikini Killer” for killing at least 20 female tourists in South and Southeast Asia. He was convicted in several cases and was imprisoned between 1976 and 1997.

(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)

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