The Serpent and his sidekick: New BBC series tells story of ‘bikini killer’ Charles Sobhraj starring Jenna Coleman as ‘brainwashed’ lover who helped him murder at least a dozen tourists on the 1970s hippie trail in Asia

  • Charles Sobhraj murdered at least a dozen Westerners on the 1970s hippie trail 
  • Would drug victims to rob them and trick them into trusting him with scams
  • Gained nickname bikini killer after body of first victim was found in tidal pool 
  • Marie-Andrée was Sobhraj’s girlfriend who ignored him murdering Westerners  

He was the killer who drugged and killed at least a dozen Westerners on the Hippie Trail in Asia in the 1970s.

Now, a new series revisits the crimes of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who gained the nickname The Serpent because of his skills at deception and evasion, and will premiere tonight on BBC One.

The eight-part drama will detail his killing spree in 1975, and how his accomplice Marie-Andrée Leclerc, played by Jenna Coleman, stood by him despite full knowledge of his crimes and promiscuity.

She’s admitted it was disturbing to play girlfriend who had ‘no empathy’, and would help the killer drug and rob unsuspecting tourists to finance their lifestyle.

Here, Femail revisits the hideous crimes of ‘the bikini killer’ Sobhraj, who was eventually hunted down and sentenced to life in prison.


Born to an Indian father, Hatchand Sobhraj and Vietnamese mother Tran Loan Phung, Sobhraj grew up in Saigon before his parents divorced and his father cut of all contact with the family.

He was later adopted by his mother’s new boyfriend, a French Army lieutenant stationed in French Indochina, who is thought to have neglected him in favour of his own children with Sobhraj’s mother.

As a teenager he spit his time between Indochina and France, beginning to commit petty crimes such stealing cars and robbing housewives at gunpoint. He served his first prison sentence for burglary in Paris in 1963.

In prison he met volunteer Felix d’Escogne, a wealthy young man who he would eventually move in with use to help accumulate riches through a series of burglaries and scams in high society Paris.

New role: Jenna is currently starring in BBC drama The Serpent, where she plays the 'brainwashed lover' of 'bikini killer' Charles Sobhraj, played by Tahar Rahim

Jenna Coleman has revealed her discomfort at playing the partner of bikini killer Charles Sobhraj, who had ‘no empathy’ as he carried out his horrific crime spree. Pictured, Coleman and Tahar Rahim as Marie-Andrée Leclerc and Sobraj

Jenna Coleman stars in new 1970’s BBC drama ‘The Serpent’

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