How Many Victims Did Charles Sobhraj Actually Have?

The cunning conman and murderer Charles Sobhraj eluded authorities for years as his wave of crime and murder swept across Southeast Asia's infamous Hippie Trail. Yet despite his eventual arrest in 1976, an air of mystery continues to shroud Sobhraj's murderous 13-year life on the road with his girlfriend and their accomplice — one that will be explored in BBC One's series The Serpent (pictured above), scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix on April 2.

The exact number of victims Sobhraj killed is not known for certain. While Cosmopolitan underlined that he was arrested for nine murders, Esquire claimed that he took the lives of approximately 12 people. Yet each publication differs in its speculation of additional potential victims. The former claims Sobhraj might have taken as many as 30, while the latter suggests that he might have taken more than 30. Elsewhere, GQ claimed that estimates cap his possible victim count at 24.

Sobhraj's total number of victims will likely remain a mystery. His cunning nature and the lax processing procedures of his countries of choice mean that some of the hitchhikers and adventurers who lost their lives in his clutches will likely remain unseen indefinitely.

Sobhraj drugged his victims before killing them

Despite his uncertain victim count, the charismatic killer was consistent in his procedure — he almost always began by drugging his victims. From here, things could vary depending on the situation. Sometimes Sobhraj would choke or stab his victims to death. On one occasion he drowned a woman in a tidal pool. Perhaps most disturbingly, he would usually conclude his murders by lighting the victims' bodies on fire — sometimes while they were still alive.

Sobhraj's gruesome killings aligned with his penchant for thieving, which undoubtedly helped him on his travels. In a bizarre twist, he would often steal each victim's passport and assume their identity after taking their life. Per GQ, his unique ability to assume various identities helped him evade authorities on multiple occasions. He escaped a total of three prisons through the course of his bloodstained travels, and each breakout took place in a different country.