Netflix's 'The Serpent' Targeted Travellers for Theft and Murder. Here's What We Can Learn

Netflix’s true crime drama “The Serpent,” set in1970s Bangkok, follows a Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg who investigates the disappearance of two Dutch backpackers. His pursuit leads him to Charles Sobhraj, his wife Marie-Andrée Leclerc, and friend Ajay Chowdhury. The three had been drugging, robbing and killing tourists who crossed their path along the 'Hippie Trail' for years, using drugs, parties, and charm as lures.

The true story was apparently so shocking and vile that the writers had to actually leave out some of the horrific atrocities committed by the trio.

I like to watch True Crime to see what I can learn about predators. If you watch a lot of true crime, you'll find that you start noticing common themes, and specifically common tactics and strategies that the abusers use to choose, isolate, and hurt victims, and how they get away with it. For this reason I recommend being a student of true crime movies, rather than a passive viewer. In this post we discuss what we can learn about travel safety from this show and the horrific crimes committed by Sobhraj.

1. Watch Your Drinks

Sobhraj and his wife both drugged dozens, if not hundreds of people (the true number of their victims is unknown). They drugged victims' drinks at clubs, and when the victim passed out they pretended to be thoughtfully taking them home to rest. Many of those victims were later robbed and murdered. They would also drug their house guests to make them believe that they were sick. Then, they would offer them 'medicine' that they had to take every day, which was actually poisoning them. They did this in order to manipulate people into working for them for free, while they stole their belongings, passports, and essentially enslaved them.

Never accept a drink from a stranger (or even the person you're staying with). You never know who people are and what they're capable of. Make sure you buy your own drinks, and never let them out of your sight even for a second.

2. Be extremely safe when drinking or taking drugs

When you're drunk or on drugs, you have no situational awareness and no ability to defend yourself physically. This is why so many predators target women who have already been drinking or taking drugs, and why women leaving a club are so often targeted. They know that they won't be able to fight back, and that no one will be suspicious if they act as the 'hero' who carry's the girl home. You have to be able to defend yourself and you have to be able to yell for help.

The most dangerous places in foreign destinations are often the same places that people go to party and socialize. This isn't a coincidence, It's because predators know they'll find foreign targets who have money and will be drinking. If you're going to drink, make sure you do so in a safe place, with one or more trustworthy friends who can watch over you. One friend in the group should always stay sober. Never leave the place you're drinking with people you meet, or to wander around the streets at night. It's way too risky.

3. Don't tell people what your plans are or what you have

There's a scene in the show where Sobrahaj's wife Marie meets a young couple on the street. They tell Marie about their travel plans and that they have gemstones which they plan to sell. As soon as Marie hears this, she invites the young couple for lunch. Of course, Marie and Sobhraj generously offer to pay for lunch, and once some trust is gained they offer to drive the couple to a tourist spot they mentioned up in the mountains. The innocent couple are thrilled by the offer. Once they get to the mountain, secluded from anyone who could possibly help, Sobhraj drugs them with spiked tea, steals their gems, money, and passports, and murders them.

Never tell people you meet about your travel plans, including where you're staying, what route you're taking, etc. Also, never ever reveal anything of value you have on you. Never brag about having rich parents, going to a private school, or anything that could indicate that you have something they could steal or hold you hostage for.

4. Conceal all signs of wealth

We already discussed keeping your travel plans and possessions to yourself, but it's also important not to show your wealth through your clothing and accessories. Remember that wealth is subjective, and while you may not be wealthy in America or Canada, you are absolutely wealthy to criminals in Mexico or Brazil. And these criminals are professionals at spotting it. Wearing luxury clothes, showing nice purses and jewelry make you an automatic target. Blend in as much as you can to local attire.

5. Don't trust people because they look nice. Women are predators too

We often picture bad guys as male. But this show highlights how there are many females who are accomplices to evil men, if not running the show. Ghislaine Maxwell is another example of this. Women are often used to lure people because they're seen as more trustworthy and harmless than men. No one thinks a small woman they meet travelling is going to kidnap and murder them, and that's exactly what they take advantage of.

Never break any of the rules on this page simply because the person is a girl or woman. We may not hear about female predators as much, but they are just as horrific as the male ones. Also remember that 'nice' and charm' are not character traits, but acts. A person isn't charm-ing, but they use charm. Just because someone is nice to you at the grocery store does not mean they are actually a nice person, and does not mean you must be nice to them back. People are charming when it serves a purpose. They're not charming to everyone all the time. So if you meet someone who just seems so nice and charming and charismatic, ask yourself, what purpose do they have being nice and charming to you, someone they don't even know? Do not mistake this as an immutable character trait.

the serpent neflix
does this look like a couple that would hurt you?

6. Never go somewhere secluded with a stranger

When Sobhraj didn't drug victims to render them defenceless, he would often lure them out to some secluded location where he could get away with his crimes without being stopped. Beaches, waterfalls, mountains, anywhere remote where he wouldn't get caught. Although it may seem like an intriguing adventure, if someone you meet asks to take you to a 'local favorite' or a 'local's secret' destination, say no. If you want to go, go on your own terms with your own friends, not strangers who could very well be luring you somewhere you don't even know.

7. Never let someone take your passport

This may seem obvious, but sociopaths are extremely good at deception and manipulation. There could be many reasons someone gives you for needing your passport. Never allow it, and always keep it on you or in a safe place like a locked safe. Once Sobhraj got ahold of his victims passports, he convinced them that they were lost or expired, and told them that if they got caught by police they'd go to jail. He used this fear to manipulate his victims into staying away from others and inside his house, where they were guilted into working for their stay.

If you lose your passport or someone uses it against you, don't take their word for it. Immediately go to your country's embassy in that country. Call your parents and tell them what happened. They will help you get a new passport, and you'll be okay. Always remember this, if someone is trying to control you, they do not have good intentions for you and you should never stick around to find out what they are.

8. Know the Grooming process

The grooming process is used by predators of all kinds. In short, the grooming process is

  1. identify target

  2. gain targets' trust

  3. isolate target from others

  4. begin abuse

If you start to notice that someone you met is trying to isolate you from others, doesn't want you to call your parents or friends, wants you to keep secrets or tell lies, you need to get real observant and real careful about what their motives are. Don't be fooled into thinking that you're too 'smart' to be victimized, or that the person your with is 'too nice' to be victimizing you intentionally. Predators are viciously cunning and manipulative. It's always easy to watch a show like this and pull your hair out yelling 'why are they letting this happen to them! why don't they just leave!' at the TV. But in reality it could happen to anyone. The best preparation we have is to understand the tactics these predators use and their behavioural indicators so that we can see them no matter who they come from, and stay the heck away.

Suggested Reading:

To continue learning about how to be a high risk target, check out our post on situational awareness, our post on confident presentation, and our post on predatory tactics.

Thanks for reading! If you're interested in self defense and street safety, have a look around our blog and website, and don't forget to follow our instagram and facebook for great tips!


Author: Gemma Sheehan, Founder of Girls Who Fight Inc.

Gemma is an ex-MMA fighter who started Girls Who Fight Inc to bring the value of martial arts and self defense training to the female audience.



The Girls Who Fight Film, By Jennifer Roberts

37 views0 comments