French 'bikini killer' convicted of second murder in Nepal

A Nepalese court has convicted Charles Sobhraj of a second murder, sentencing the alleged serial killer, con man and prison escape artist to life in prison, an official said Thursday. Sobhraj, a French citizen of Vietnamese and Indian parentage -- nicknamed the "bikini killer" -- is already serving a life sentence in Nepal for the murder of US tourist Connie Joe Bronzich on Kathmandu's outskirts in 1975. The 70-year-old was convicted this week of murdering Canadian backpacker Laurent Carriere, a district court registrar told AFP. The bodies of Bronzich and her friend Carriere, both repeatedly stabbed and burnt beyond recognition, were found a few days apart in two different areas of Kathmandu. "The judge issued a guilty verdict on Wednesday evening and sentenced Charles Sobhraj to a lifetime imprisonment on the charge of murdering Laurent Carriere," Khadga Raj Adhikari, registrar at Bhaktapur District Court, located in a city near Kathmandu. The long-pending case was originally lodged in 2007, after police managed to retrieve a lost file with details connected to the murder. Officials then shelved it, citing insufficient evidence, before reopening it last April. "The absence of witnesses forced a closure of the case, but then the prosecution were concerned Sobhraj might appeal for an early release from prison due to old age so they reopened it," Adhikari said. "The prosecution had strong circumstantial evidence against him, details of the judgement and the reasoning behind the conviction will be released next month," he added. Sobhraj, who has been linked to a string of backpacker deaths in Asia in the 1970s, has always maintained his innocence, saying he had never visited Nepal before being arrested at a Kathmandu casino in 2003. Phone calls to Sobhraj's lawyer, Shakuntala Thapa, went unanswered. Sobhraj had already served a 21-year sentence in India for culpable homicide before his arrest in Nepal, but was never convicted of murder until 2004 and his perceived ability to evade justice earned him worldwide notoriety. He has escaped from jails in Greece, Afghanistan and India, where he drugged guards with sedative-laced sweets and walked out of a New Delhi prison. His talent for disguise, evading justice and breaking out of prisons on two continents earned him another sobriquet -- "The Serpent".