Sunday nights of late have involved watching the BBC TV series ‘The Serpent’. It tells the true story (with imagined dialogue) of a serial killer of young people on the hippy trails in the Far East in the early 1970s. His name was Charles Sobhraj, born in Vietnam with French parentage on his father’s side. His modus operandi was to befriend, groom and lure unwary young travellers to his accommodation, principally in Bangkok, and then drug, rob and, in some cases, kill them. Although suspected and arrested on a number of occasions he managed to escape custody until 1976 but in the 1980s he escaped, was recaptured and served another 10 year term, before returning to Nepal in 2003 where he was wanted on a murder charge. Aged 76, he is now serving a life term.
Sobhraj was depicted as being manipulative, unemotional and lacking empathy. He was also brazen in his contempt for the authorities that tried to apprehend him. He worked with two accomplices who also demonstrated cold detachment from the horror that they became part of.
He was in part brought to book by the unceasing work of a Dutch diplomat who, in his consular role, was concerned about the disappearance of two Dutch nationals in Thailand. The TV series suggests that he was the hero of the piece, putting family happiness, career progression and his own sanity at some risk as a result of his dogged determination to track Sobhraj down and make the relevant authorities take action when they seemed slow or reluctant to do so. His persistence over a lengthy period of time clearly paid off.
There are some lessons here for us about how to follow up concerns when we feel we are banging our heads against a wall of disbelief, official indifference or snail like progress as we try to navigate labyrinthine procedures. No doubt we have all been there at various times in our lives and sadly our experience of church may be one of these times. We don’t recommend compromising health and happiness to pursue issues but not giving up and seeking allies to share the load remain critically important.
But don’t start chain smoking. If you’ve watched the series, you will know what I mean.