By Rachael Bell
In September 2003, Charles Sobhraj was arrested at the posh Casino Royale located in the Yak and Yeti Hotel in Katmandu, Nepal. He was booked on immigration charges for having used a fake passport when he entered Nepal in 1975, AP Worldstream reported. However, the real reason they arrested Sobhraj was to question him about the murders of 2 backpackers, radiology student Connie Jo Bronzich, 29, of Saratoga, California and her boyfriend Laurent Ormond Carrierre of Manitoba, Canada.
The couple's bodies were discovered in 1975 in a field on the outskirts of Katmandu. Their bodies had been burned in an attempt to destroy the evidence. Sobhraj denied the charges and claimed that one of the victims was never properly identified nor did the authorities have any proof he was in the country at the time of Bronzich and Carrierre's murders, Sudeshna Sarkar stated in a March 2005, Deccan Herald article.
In October 2003, the District Court Judge Bir Singh Mahara overhearing Sobhraj's case ordered his release and simultaneously prearranged another hearing scheduled for later that month. While leaving the courthouse, Sobhraj was quoted saying, "the court vindicated me. The verdict proves what I said was true," AP Worldstream reported. Yet, the authorities had a change of heart and later re-arrested him on murder charges.
He was tried in the summer of 2004 and found guilty of the double murder. He was sentenced thereafter to life in prison and all his personal possessions were seized. Sobhraj was shocked by the speed of the trial and its outcome stating that he had, "been declared guilty without proof and without witnesses," Agence France Presse said. Consequently, he immediately began the appeals process.
At the time he was working on his appeals process, Sobhraj attempted an audacious escape from his prison cell in November 2004. AP Worldstream said that he used his laptop computer, a wireless phone and a cellular phone to e-mail a friend, whom he asked to send a chemical compound that causes people to lose consciousness. He planned to use the chemical mixture to drug the guards and escape but police foiled his attempt. Eighteen years earlier, Sobhraj attempted a similar jailbreak by drugging guards with food laced with sleeping pills. His scheme that time was successful and he managed to escape but he was recaptured three weeks later.
In the meantime, the Patan Appellate Court in Nepal ordered that the murder case be further investigated, based on the lack of evidence presented at trial. AP Worldstream said that the court "asked the government to question two police officers plus people connected to a hotel where the victims stayed, including the owners and manager, and produce them before the panel." The investigation is still ongoing and a decision is expected by late summer 2005.