New book creates fresh worry for Sobhraj

November 12th, 2008 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 12 (IANS) Counting the days for Nepal’s top court to deliver its final verdict in a decades-old murder case that has put him behind bars for life, yesteryear’s crime maestro Charles Sobhraj is now in a fresh tizzy over media reports about a new book that could rake up the past life he had hoped to put behind him.
Sobhraj, busy in his dismal cell in Kathmandu’s Central Jail trying to find loopholes in the Nepal police’s charge that he killed an American tourist in 1975, is dismayed to learn from Indian media reports that an old acquaintance has written a new book that could remind people about him adversely.

The very title of acclaimed screenplay writer-journalist and Channel 4’s commissioning editor Farrukh Dhondy’s upcoming novel, “The Bikini Murders”, has caused alarms to go off in the Sobhraj camp.

In the 70s, when he was hunted by the police of over a dozen countries and accused of being involved in a string of murders of western tourists, the tabloid press dubbed Sobhraj “the bikini killer”.

Almost four decades later, the nickname resurfaced to plague the 64-year-old after he was arrested from a casino in Kathmandu in 2003 and slapped with the murder of Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975.

During his sensational five-year trial, Sobhraj has been smarting at the media using the same nickname for him. Finally, in July this year, his Nepali fiancée Nihita Biswas issued a statement on his behalf, warning that he could sue for defamation since no other court ever convicted him of murder.

The Kathmandu district court alone found him guilty of the murder of Bronzich and sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2004. However, the statement said that he was contesting the verdict and till the Supreme Court of Nepal gave the final decision, the case remained sub judice.

Family sources said Sobhraj’s lawyer in Paris, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, has been asked to get details about Dhondy’s book and, if necessary, warn the author and publishers that they would be sued for defamation.

Dhondy was reported as telling the Times of India that neither Sobhraj nor his French ex-wife feature in the novel and that he picked up the title from newspapers.

However, the Saigon-born Sobhraj is unlikely to be satisfied with the denial, especially as the novel’s hero Johnson Thhat is also reportedly born in Saigon, is a tourist killer and is caught from a Kathmandu casino.

Since his imprisonment in Nepal, Sobhraj has also slapped a warning on Bollywood filmmaker Prawaal Raman after reading reports that the maverick director was making a film based on his life.

Not satisfied with that, Sobhraj also tried to contact Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who Raman has signed up to play the lead in the controversial film, in order to block the film or get the filmmaker sign a contract with him, which would help him control its contents and see that there is no unflattering depiction of him.

During his long trial in Nepal, Sobhraj’s lawyers say he was partly convicted due to a judge misreading a letter published in a book on him and partly due to his formidable reputation. So with the final verdict looming closer, Sobhraj is jittery about any new book, film or media buzz that could harden public opinion against him once more.

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