Dead man walking in Sobhraj case in Nepal?January 3rd, 2009 - 10:12 am ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Jan 2 (IANS) As Charles Sobhraj awaits Nepal’s top court to pronounce its verdict on a sensational murder trial that harks back to the bygone hippie era of free sex and drug experimentations in the 70s, his lawyers have raised the spectre of a dead victim being actually alive and at large.On Jan 13, Nepal’s Supreme Court is scheduled to say whether the 64-year-old, who grabbed headlines worldwide for a string of audacious crimes that spanned over a dozen countries, had come to Nepal in 1975 and murdered an American tourist, Connie Jo Bronzich.
While Sobhraj was sighted in a Kathmandu casino in 2003 and arrested for the murder of the 28-year-old woman, Nepal police say there was a second murder as well.
However, the alleged killing of Laurent Armand Carriere, a Canadian who shared the same budget hotel room with her in Kathmandu, remains shrouded in mystery.
Sobhraj’s lawyers are asking the court to consider the possibility of Carriere being still alive.
Kathmandu valley was rocked by two gruesome murders in December 1975 when two bodies, both bearing multiple stabbings and charred beyond recognition, were found in two separate places.
The woman victim, recognised by a ring she still wore, was identified as Bronzich. While police claim the male victim was Carriere, it is being contested by Sobhraj’s lawyers.
“Police say the male body was first identified by a fellow American tourist, Kent C Anschutz,” says Shakuntala Thapa, Sobhraj’s lawyer as well as the mother of the 20-year-old Nepali woman he got engaged to last year while serving a life term in Kathmandu’s Central Jail.
“They say Anschutz recognised it on the basis of its size. Carriere was reportedly a giant of a man who measured 6.6ft.
“How could he do that since the charred body was badly shrivelled up?”
Thapa is also dismissing that police statement that later, Carriere’s brother Gill Carriere came to Kathmandu and identified the body.
“There is absolutely no record to prove that,” she says. “All the police have produced is a typed statement, allegedly by the brother, which could be faked. The typed statement has even got the victim’s name wrong, calling him Jaurent Carriere. How can we accept it as authentic?”
Thapa says her arguments are supported by the letter police sent 11 days after the discovery of the body, saying it could not be identified and should be cremated.
“Nepal police suppressed this vital letter,” she says. “But we have managed to obtain a copy and have submitted it along with other documents.”
According to the lawyers, while the American Embassy in Kathmandu and New Delhi took an interest in Bronzich’s murder investigation with embassy officials attending proceedings, there was no one from the Canadian Embassy to inquire about Carriere, adding to the doubts.
“In fact, the manager and owner of the hotel where Carriere and Bronzich stayed told police that Carriere had fled without paying the bill for his two-day stay and they suspected he had killed Bronzich,” Thapa says.
In their final argument in court, Sobhraj’s lawyers have also focused on Bronzich’s past, hinting it could be connected to her death.
Bronzich is said to have been a drug addict. The articles found by police in her hotel room included a manual on drug use and her travelling companions reportedly told police in 1975 she had urged them to visit a drug dealer.
Her husband John Bronzich died of a suspected drug overdose in the US and so did her then boyfriend.
From behind bars, Sobhraj conjectures that Bronzich’s hurried departure from Ithaca soon after the death could have been to escape some vengeful drug mafia. She fled to India and from there came to Nepal by land.
Thapa is asking for a manhunt for Carriere.It remains to be seen if the court will be swayed by the arguments.
Sobhraj, convicted by a district court of Bronzich’s murder in 2004, lost an initial appeal against the 20-year life sentence in 2005.
Since then, he has been battling the conviction in Supreme Court with the final verdict having been repeatedly delayed. (Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at Sudeshna.firstname.lastname@example.org)