For the first time in the course of the seven-year trial that ran across through several courts, Sobhraj’s lawyers have unearthed and presented old police documents that put an entirely different cast on the murder of American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich, whom Sobhraj is accused of having killed in 1975.
The stabbed and badly burnt body of a woman discovered near Kathmandu airport in December 1975 is regarded to be the body of the 31-year-old Bronzich. That is also the assumption made in the several books written on Charles Sobhraj and a host of documentary films. However, the documents submitted to judges Ram Prasad Shah and Gouri Dhakal say the passport carried by the dead woman was not Bronzich’s.
Bronzich was issued a passport a week before the murder in Nepal. However, Sobhraj’s lawyers have submitted a letter from the American Embassy saying the details in the dead woman’s passport do not match those in the one issued to Bronzich. Was it then Bronzich, who travelled to Nepal on a fake passport or someone else? If it is someone else, then the case built up by police that Sobhrah murdered Bronzich for some stones she had bought in India, is bound to collapse.
The murder, Nepal Police believe, is linked to the discovery of another body found in Bhaktapur city the same week. In their arguments, police say it was the body of Bronzich’s male companion, a Canadian named Laurent Armand Carriere. Since both were killed the same way, Bishwambhar Shrestha, the Kathmandu district court judge who convicted Sobhraj of Bronzich’s murder in 2004, concluded in his judgement that they were committed by the same person.
However, Sobhraj’s lawyers have submitted documents from the Bhaktapur police’s crime register that say the other body was than of an “unidentified foreign woman, probably American”, Yet police later told three courts that Carriere’s brother travelled to Nepal to identify him. But they failed to produce any formal documents to prove that the brother had indeed come and identified the body. In fact, a book on Sobhraj – The life and crimes of Charles Sobhraj by Richard Neville and Julie Clarke – says the second body could not be identified and had to be cremated nameless. Ironically, the prosecution has tabled the book as evidence that Sobhraj visited Nepal in 1975 and killed Bronzich and Carriere.
Sobhraj’s fiancée indicates a passage in Life and Crimes that says around that time, there were several murders in Kathmandu and it was not safe for people to travel alone. The book also mentions the discovery of a headless body. Sobhraj’s lawyers say the two killings could have been perpetrated by the same killer or gang.
Sobhraj has therefore welcomed the fortnightly delay announced by the two judges to deliver the final judgement. “It means they are going through all the documents we submitted,” he said in a message sent to TNN. “There are incredible contradictions by police and lack of evidence. We have emphaised that in the final argument given in writing and we hope they will be taken note of.”