Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama Strangler

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Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama Strangler
Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama Strangler

He was dubbed The Serpent, the serial killer who brought terror to South Asia as he preyed on Western backpackers along the Hippie Trail in the 1970s.

Charles Sobhraj is believed to have murdered at least 24 tourists, including 14 just in Thailand.

The Frenchman of Indian-Vietnamese descent would drug his victims then drive them out to the countryside where he would brutally kill them.

The sadist’s favourite method was to make his victims ill - using anything from diarrhoea-inducing pills to itching powder - before strangling them, mutilating them with a knife or shooting them.

Sobhraj had been serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 2004 for the murder of an American tourist, Connie Jo Bronzich, in 1975. In 2014, Sobhraj was also convicted of killing her Canadian companion, Laurent Carrière.

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Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerFrench serial killer Charles Sobhraj sits on a plane on his journey back to France (AFP via Getty Images)

But the killer, now aged 78, was freed last week and deported back to France after a court ruled in favour of his age and good behaviour.

It is not known how he plans to live the rest of his life, but he’s not the first serial killer who have been released back into society. Here are some of the most notorious…

Charlene Gallego

Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerCharlene Gallego escorted by officers to testify against her husband (Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images)

Charlene Gallego and her husband Gerald terrorised Sacramento, California, during the late 1970s, kidnapping and murdering ten victims, mostly teenagers.

The couple, who bonded over their appetite for rough sex, would kidnap young girls by luring them into a van, before they were bound, raped and murdered, and their bodies either dumped or buried.

They were caught in 1980 when a friend of two victims witnessed their abduction and reported the car’s number plate.

Gerald received a death sentence, but Charlene agreed to testify against her husband for a plea deal that reduced her sentenced to 16 years and eight months.

Following her release from prison in 1997 she changed her name and moved to Fair Oaks, California, where it is believed she still lives, now aged 66.

Gerald died of cancer in 2002 while awaiting execution.

Jiri Straka - Spartakiad Killer

Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerJiří Straka was known as the Spartakiad Killer

Known as the Spartakiad Killer - because his crimes occurred during the Soviet Spartakiad sports event - Straka is a Czech serial killer responsible for 11 attacks on women in Prague between February and August 1985, when he was aged 15 and 16.

In the course of a little more than a month from February 1985, he brutally attacked women ranging in ages from 20 to 54, killing three.

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He strangled one victim with her bra strap, bludgeoned another with a cobblestone and killed another by shoving a pair of knickers, clay, stones and dirt into her mouth until she suffocated to death.

When Straka was arrested in May 1985, police didn’t believe he was capable of what his surviving victims accused him of - until he happily confessed to them, adding that he felt no remorse and was only sorry for being caught.

Being a minor, he was sentenced to ten years in prison and chemical castration, but in 1994 he was givien amnesty by the Czech President.

After spending ten years in a psychiatric hospital, Straka was released, married the woman he had met in said hospital, and changed his last name to Novak. and moved to the Polish border. Now aged 53, he lives a law-abiding life there.

Wolfgang Abel and Marco Furlan

Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerWolfgang Abel and Marco Furlan (Internet Unknown)

German serial killer duo Wolfgang Abel and Marco Furlan were a pair of Neo-Nazis believed to have committed 28 murders in Italy, Holland and Germany between 1977 and 1984.

The men became friends in high school, united by the idea that they were destined remove ‘deviants’ - prostitutes, homosexuals, drug addicts, ‘sinful’ clergymen, and anyone involved in pornography - from the world.

Adopting the name ‘Ludwig’ the pair had a terrifying modus operandi involving burning people alive with molotov cocktails before fleeing the scene.

Their first victim in 1977 was a man who they believed was guilty of being both a drug addict and a ‘gypsy’, due to his Roma heritage.

They were captured seven years later, but by 2010 both men were out on probation, and by 2016 they were entirely free.

Silvano Ward Brown - Panama Strangler

Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerSilvano Ward Brown was known as the Panama Strangler

Known as the Panama Strangler, Silvano Ward Brown is the central American country’s first serial killer, who killed three women from 1959 to 1973.

He was 18 and had already served two years in a juvenile prison when he committed his first murder, breaking into the home of an 18-year-old woman, watching her undress, then stabbing her twice.

Brown was jailed then released in 1969, but four years later strangled a prostitute to death in the Panama town of Colon after being unable to perform sexually.

A second identical murder led police to Brown, who was found with one of the women’s clothes in his car, and he confessed to all the murders.

Brown was found to be a psychopath with a dangerous perversion. Sentenced to 20 years in prison, he was released in 1993 and now aged 81, currently lives in Panama City, working as a security guard.

Jose Paz Bezerra - The Monster of Morumbi

Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerJose Paz Bezerra was the 'Monster of Morumbi'

Bezerra terrorised sex workers in the Morumbi district of Brazil’s Sao Paulo in the 1960s and is believed to have brutally killed at least 24 women, leading to him being dubbed The Monster of Morumbi.

All of his murders ended in the same way - with the victims dumped in vacant lots naked, bound and gagged with their own clothing, sexually assaulted, and strangled.

Bezerra said his mother, who worked as a prostitute, forced him to watch when she would service clients, causing him to grow a hatred for both his mother and sex workers in general. By the time Bezerra was captured he had assaulted and murdered 20 women, most of whom bore a resemblance to his mother.

He was sentenced to more than 60 years in prison, however at the time the nation of Brazil had a loophole in their punitive laws: the maximum sentence allowed by law was only 30 years.

Bezerra was released in 2001, having served his sentence. He has since fallen off the grid and, now aged 71, is living freely, presumably somewhere in Brazil.

Pedro Lopez - The Monster of the Andes

Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerPedro Lopez was known as the 'Monster of the Andes' (© A&E Television Networks 1996-2021. All rights reserved.)

A confessed Colombian serial killer dubbed ‘The Monster of the Andes’, Lopez is is thought to have killed over 300 young girls.

His killing ways are believed to have begun aged 21, when while in jail for car theft he murdered three inmates who had gang raped him.

On his release in 1978 Lopez travelled around South America, raping and murdering young girls. He later claimed he killed 1,000 girls in that year alone.

He was arrested in March 1980, when he led police to the graves of 53 of his victims in Ecuador, all girls between nine and 12 years old. He was found guilty of murdering 110 young girls in Ecuador alone and confessed to a further 240 murders of missing girls in neighbouring Peru and Colombia.

He was sentenced to 16 years in prison in Ecuador, freed after 14 for good behaviour, and then served one year in a Colombian mental facility before being released on bail in 2002.

He quickly violated his bail agreement and, now aged 74, his location is unknown.

Karla Homolka

Serial killers who walked free from The Serpent to the Panama StranglerKarla Homolka helped her husband (Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Karla Homolka is a convicted Canadian serial killer who acted as an accomplice to her husband, Paul Bernardo, taking active part in the rapes and murders of at least three minors in Ontario – including her own sister, between 1990 and 1992.

When the pair was finally captured, Karla managed to convince prosecutors that she was an unwilling accomplice in Bernardo’s murders, resulting in a controversial deal made with prosecutors for a reduced prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

The plea bargain was dubbed the Deal with the Devil by the Canadian press, especially after a video of the crimes surfaced proving that Homolka was a more active participant than she had originally claimed.

Following her release from prison in 2005, Homolka settled in Quebec, where she married a brother of her lawyer, changed her name to Leanne Bordelais, and now aged 53 has three children.

Matt Roper

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