Angela Kane on tracking down ‘Serpent’ serial killer
VIENNA, Austria — German disarmament expert Angela Kane investigated serial killer Charles Sobhraj in Bangkok in the 1970s, helping to secure his arrest.
Now, as the 78-year-old French criminal is set to be released from Nepali jail, Kane is “curious” to see what happens next.
Sobhraj carried out a string of murders across Asia, portrayed in the Netflix series “The Serpent.”
He was still awaiting release from prison on Thursday, December 22, after a Kathmandu court ordered him freed on health grounds.
Kane, now 74, said she was living in Thailand with her diplomat husband when the Dutch embassy received a letter from the worried parents of two backpackers who had not been in touch for weeks.
That’s how the story began to “unravel,” Kane told AFP from Vienna, Austria, where she is a nuclear disarmament specialist and vice-president of the International Peace Institute.
At one point, Kane and her husband found that Sobhraj’s neighbors had spotted the missing tourists, she said.
The two amateur investigators were frustrated when they learned the killer had fled, but kept digging.
They assembled “a whole list of addresses,” uncovered a missing Dutch woman’s handbag in the flat where Sobhraj had stayed, and Kane helped translate clues in a diary.
They passed the information they collected to international police agency Interpol, where Thai police officer Sompol Suthimai “took the case very seriously.”
Sobhraj was arrested in India in 1976 and ultimately spent 21 years in jail there, with a brief break in 1986 when he escaped and was caught again in the coastal state of Goa.
Released in 1997, Sobhraj lived in Paris, giving paid interviews to journalists, but went back to Nepal in 2003, where he was later jailed.
Sobhraj has been linked to more than 20 murders across Asia.
Posing as a gem trader, he would befriend his victims, many of them Western backpackers on the 1970s hippie trail, before drugging, robbing, and murdering them.
Kane is disappointed with the way she says the Netflix series portrays her – she told AFP she was much more than “the diplomat’s wife.”
“I was very instrumental in all of this, which I felt, to my great regret, was very much underplayed,” she said.
“I was a lot more feisty, and I was a lot more self-assertive than it ever comes through.”
Kane would later separate from her husband. She said it was important “to move on… And not everyone felt that way.”
Her work took her to Nepal several times while Sobhraj was behind bars – but she never wanted to meet him.
“He’s a despicable human being,” she said, adding that she finds it “reprehensible” that he can still make money through publicity.
She said she was “curious” to see what becomes of Sobhraj.
But “I think at one point the interest in him as a serial killer and the interest of people in him will decline,” she said.