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The Serpent: Charles Sobhraj eye-witness details inaccuracy with BBC drama

The Serpent: Jenna Coleman stars in BBC series trailer

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All eight episodes of The Serpent are streaming on the BBC iPlayer now, with the series concluding this weekend (Sunday, February 14) at 9pm on BBC One. Tahar Rahim portrays serial killer Charles Sobhraj, alongside Jenna Coleman as Marie-Andrée Leclerc also known as Monique, Billy Howle as Herman Knippenberg and Ellie Bamber as Angela Knippenberg. Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to author and psychotherapist Georgina Nunez, who encountered Charles Sobhraj in the 1970s to find out more about the show’s accuracy.

Georgina Nunez was just 18-years-old when she met Charles Sobhraj (played by Tahar Rahim).

She had left her home in the Netherlands to embark on a journey of a lifetime, with her end destination being Goa, India.

Nunez had been travelling with her boyfriend, who had begun to live off her money, leaving them both broke midway through their trip and where she crossed paths Charles Sobhraj.

In her memoir, Roads and Redemption, Nunez details her encounter with the convicted serial killer.

READ MORE The Serpent: What happened to Charles Sobhraj’s first wife ‘Juliette’?

Nunez told Express.co.uk: “The problem was, I went with my boyfriend at the time, and in Greece already, he claimed that all his money was stolen. He probably hadn’t taken any money to start with. So he wanted to live on my budget and he drank a lot of coffee, which was extremely expensive.

“So by the time we were in Pakistan, I was really tired of him and plus, I had hardly any money left, like a few $100 to go to India and back to the Netherlands.”

She met Sobhraj in 1972 and was immediately offered a job as a hostess.

Nunez recalled: “He offered me a job as a hostess because I could speak many languages, English, French, German, and Dutch and he said, I will be in fancy hotels, I could earn $1,000 which for that time (1972) was significant for myself, and I would stay in good hotels and meet with the upper class and I mean, that was very enticing.”

She describes Sobhraj as “very slick”, “professional” and “personable” but noted, “something was off”.

Nunez had no knowledge that Sobhraj would go on to become the notorious ‘Bikini Killer’, also known as The Serpent and The Splitting Killer.

Sobhraj preyed mainly on Western tourists and in 1976, is believed to have killed approximately 10 people.

His known victims were Teresa Knowlton, Vitali Hakim, Stephanie Parry, Cornelia Hemker and Henricus Bitanja, Laurent Carriere, Connie Bronzick, Allen Jacobs and Jean-Luc Solomon.

The Serpent on BBC begins in 1975, marking the death of Sobhraj’s first known victim 21-year-old Teresa Knowlton.

Knowlton was found drowned in a tidal pool in the Gulf of Thailand, wearing a flowered bikini.

Much of the series centres around Kanit House in Bangkok Thailand, where Sobhraj and his accomplice Marie-Andree Leclerc (Jenna Coleman) would drug their victims and rob them, with many encounters ending in murder.

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At the beginning of the series, Sobhraj is seen selecting his victims from various parties held at Kanit House.

However, Nunez believes this is one of The Serpent’s inaccuracies.

She said: “Charles didn’t give big parties, you know, he was not, you know, into that.”

In The Serpent, Marie/Monique is seen giving their victims a drink of poisoned tea, disguised as dysentery medicine.

The medicine would often put their victims to sleep or make them seriously unwell.

While Sobhraj and Leclerc did poison their victims, Nunez argues using tea is another of the show’s inaccuracies.

Nunez explained she knew this because she was once asked by Sobhraj to poison and steal from a man when they were staying in Pakistan.

“[In the Serpent TV series] He gave the lady tea and put sleeping powder in it but that’s not possible, because it will be too bitter,” she told Express.co.uk.

“That’s why it should be coffee and that’s what I had to do when I had to rob somebody – coffee, then you put in a sleeping powder, not in the tea.”

Reflecting on her own experience, Nunez told Express.co.uk she went through with the theft to save her own life.

She explained Charles had stolen the taxi of a Pakistani man named Mohammad and held him in the boot of the car on a midnight journey through the desert.

“He flew us to Lahore, Pakistan, where we met a wonderful taxi driver, a fairly nice guy in six children snd we went on a trip with him,” Nunez said.

“But the day after the taxi driver was trapped in the back of the car, and we had to drive through the desert, and he [Sobhraj] kept on giving him poisonous injections. And we couldn’t go outside. Finally, I did nevertheless, and the man was in the pool of blood.

“Well, first at first, I thought he just given him sleeping stuff so that he can steal his taxi. And as I said ‘Yeah, but the man can’t breathe he is in the desert, he is in back of the car…’

“And I said, ‘Give me my passport back or give me my papers back.’ No. I said, ‘Look, if you don’t want to give me my papers back, can I leave? At least.’ And he said ‘No, because if you leave, if many people that can kill you that I know that or I will go to the police and say that you killed the taxi driver.’”

In her memoir, Roads and Redemption, Nunez details the exact moment she realised she was in danger in more detail.

She writes: “Every half-hour or so, Charles instructs Rachel to prepare another syringe of the so-called ‘sleeping potion’ for our passenger.

“Each time he gives those directions, I become more alarmed and worried about Mohammad. How long has it been since he’s had anything to drink? How long can a man survive in this heat, under these conditions? The car is filled with bad vibes

“At last, I can’t stand it anymore. I go against Charles’ rule. I can’t see him behind the car shooting up Mohammad, but I want answers. I open the door. ‘It’s not a good idea to make Charles mad,’ Pierre warns. I don’t respond.

“I step out and walk to the back of the car, where Charles leans over the open trunk. His mouth is tight and he holds the syringe in hand. The damned b****** is so preoccupied he doesn’t notice that I’m now standing next to him.

“I look into the trunk. What I see is appalling. Mohammad, positioned like a foetus lies in a pool of blood. A cry of anguish escapes my mouth.

“’My God what have you done? Is he dead?’ I bend over to feel his skin. It is cold, not hot. I look a little closer and, horrified, notice that Mohammad’s eyes have rolled up into the back of his head.

“’What are you doing out of the car?’ Charles demands. But he seems to realize that at this point it isn’t worth it to deny the obvious, and comments in his typical detached manner.

“’He probably died because he was obese and allergic to the sleep medication.’“

“I don’t believe him. Why is there so much blood? I feel sick, thinking that this is a kind, hard-working father, with three children to support, all of whom will be orphaned.

“Why has Charles done this? Just so he could steal a taxi? I realize Charles is the type who would steal a crutch from a blind beggar. I realize I am a prisoner in the hands of a dangerous, bloodthirsty predator. If he can do this to Mohammad, what could he do to me? My fear grows as it becomes clear I could be murdered.”

Nunez claimed she later met an undercover policeman posing as an American pilot who had lost his passport. In exchange for a passport, the man had promised to help her escape Sobhraj’s grasp.

She said: “I had some sort of psychological know-how already. I thought ‘Well, the only way to escape is to pretend.’

”I thought maybe I could steal the passport and give it to the man who claims he will help me escape and give me safe home.

“And so I justified it, I felt terrible, by the way, but I just fight it by thinking well, he’s rich, he’s insured. It’s his stuff versus my life. I mean, you know, stuff versus a human life.”

The Serpent was directed by Tom Shankland and written by Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay, who first began working on the series in 2013.

To create the series, they spoke closely with the real Knippenberg.

Executive producer Preethi Mavahalli told Express.co.uk and other press: “We wrote to Herman, who wrote back to us and Tom and I had a couple of really long conversations with Herman.

“And he kind of gave a whole side of the story that we didn’t know about that really wasn’t in the public domain.

And I think that’s when the story started to emerge this cat and mouse story between Charles and Herman.”

The Serpent is streaming on the BBC iPlayer now and airs Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.

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