The Serpent: Surgeon who saved serial killer Charles Sobhraj reveals he was terrified of dying and begged for his life
29th January 2021

THE cardiac surgeon who saved the life of The Serpent serial killer said today: “I held the heart of a heartless man in my hand.”

Millions of viewers of the BBC crime drama have been gripped by the chilling portrayal of Charles Sobhraj who was linked to more than 20 murders.

He is currently serving life in Nepal and while in prison he suffered heart failure which almost killed him.

Sobhraj was saved in a three-hour op carried out by Dr Raamesh Koirala, one of Nepal’s top surgeons.

The pair got to know each other well during dozens of appointments and the doc revealed that although Sobhraj – now 76 – has lost his hair and good looks, he has lost none of the sinister charm which helped him snare his victims.

Dr Koirala, 53, told The Sun: “He is softly spoken and is a master at hiding his emotions. He is very cool and calculating, very self-centred, a narcissist.


“He committed all of those brutal murders so you would think he would be a fearless person.

“But by the time he came to me he was very fearful, he was terrified of dying himself and was desperate for me to save his life.

“I don’t think he is a psychopath but he is very self-centred. Whatever you talk to him about he thinks he knows everything and thinks he is the most important person in the world.

“But rather than call him a psychopath I would consider him a cold-blooded murderer.”

But rather than call him a psychopath I would consider him a cold-blooded murderer.”

The eight-part BBC drama shows how calculating Sobhraj used his knowledge of gems and of the backpacker route across South East Asia to lure unsuspecting westerners into his circle of friends.

He then tried to involve them in his money-making scams and if they refused he poisoned them.

He was dubbed the Bikini killer after victims he targeted on the Hippie trail were found wearing just swimwear.

He was also dubbed The Serpent because of his ability to slither away from justice.


When Thai authorities tried to extradite him from India he threw a party for inmates and guards and knocked them all out with sleeping pills before walking out of prison.

At one stage he was suspected of crimes in France, Greece, Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Pakistan and Nepal.

But by the early 2000s the only case facing him anywhere in the world was the unsolved murder of an American backpacker in Nepal.

By then he was living in France and revelling in his fame – he is believed to have been given millions for the film rights to his life.

But in 2003 he made the puzzling decision to travel to Nepal where he was arrested within weeks of his arrival and later sentenced to life.

Dr Koirala said: “He was living a nice life in France and this was the only country in the entire world he was facing a prison sentence.

“What normal person would have travelled to that one country where you could be jailed?

“But he was very calculating and because he is so self-centred I think he thought the case against him would be weak and he could beat it.”


Sobhraj asked the doc to operate on him in 2017 when he suffered congestive heart failure.

Dr Koirala, a married dad-of-one who has performed 6,000 heart ops, said: “When I told my wife she said: ‘Does he even have a heart?’

“At first I said I would not operate because of who he was.

“But I was asked again so I said yes because our ethics do not allow us to not operate whatever the person has done.

“Whenever I operate I don’t think about the person I am operating on, I just perform the surgery.


“But when I opened his chest, for one blink of the eye I thought I am holding the heart of a heartless man.

“I quickly put that out of my mind so I could perform the operation which involved the replacement of a heart valve and which was a total success.”

After the surgery in 2017 at the Shahid Gangalal National Heart Centre in Kathmandu, Sobhraj recorded a video in which he said: “Yesterday I had surgery and they made a replacement of the valve so I feel very good.

“There is no problem at all and I am very confident of course.”

Nearly four years on from the surgery Dr Koirala said his most infamous ever patient is still doing well in the Central Jail in Kathmandu.

The surgeon, who wrote a book about his relationship with Sobhraj called Inside the Heart of the Bikini Killer, is currently binge-watching The Serpent.

He said: “It is an excellent programme, I have seen a few television shows about Charles Sobhraj but the BBC one is the best.”

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