Herman Knippenberg: Whatever Happened To The Man Who Helped Catch Charles Sobhraj?

For many years, French serial killer Charles Sobhraj terrorized Western tourists travelling along the so-called Hippie Trail that ran through Thailand, Nepal and India throughout the 1970s. Sobhraj drugged, robbed, defrauded, and murdered his unlucky victims until he was finally captured in 1976, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Herman Knippenberg, a Dutch junior diplomat who helped bring an end to Sobhraj's reign of terror in Southeast Asia.

At the time, Knippenberg had been posted as the third secretary at the Dutch Embassy in BangkokThailand. In 1976, he was alerted to the strange case of two missing Dutch nationals, Henk Bintanja, aged 29 and Cornelia Hemker, aged 25, who had disappeared while travelling along the Hippie Trail, according to Express. As it turned out, they had been murdered, and they were not the only ones.

When Knippennerg dug deeper, he uncovered a pattern of unsolved murders and disappearances involving travelers and tourists who trekked the Hippie Trail. "It was absolutely imperative to stop the killings. As I have said to friends before, even if it was not in the parameters of my work, if I could make the difference I felt in that moment I could and I would," Knippenberg later told Hello Magazine.

Kippenberg now lives in New Zealand

Soon, Knippenberg (above, left) came to understand that, not only were the cases connected, but one person, a Frenchman named Charles Sobhraj, was responsible for over a dozen of the killings. Together with his then-wife, Angela, and fellow diplomat Paul Siemons, Knippenberg began collecting evidence to help put Sobhraj away for life.

Earlier this year, the BBC released a crime drama titled The Serpent, starring Billy Howle as Knippenberg, which reenacted the saga of Sobhraj's capture and detailed Knippenberg's role in bringing him to justice. Knippenberg praised the BBC for their portrayal, saying that "I think that Billy Howle did a fantastic job. It was so real at times, some of the scenes I saw. I was gripped myself and had to make up my mind whether indeed it was as Billy Howle played it or as I had experienced it, it came dangerously close," via Hello Magazine. (The Serpent is coming to Netflix on April 2.)

These days, Knippenberg, now 76, prefers to keep a low profile. He lives a quiet life in New Zealand with his second wife, Vanessa. And as for Sobhraj, he is serving out a life sentence in Kathmandu prison, Nepal, per Express.