Mammoth Screen, the production company behind Poldark and Victoria, have been commissioned by BBC1 to make new drama The Serpent.
The eight-part series will be written by Ripper Street’s Richard Warlow, directed by Tom Shankland (The Missing, Ripper Street, House of Cards) and is based on the true story of one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century.
The story revolves around con man Charles Sobhraj who was the prime suspect in a string of sensational unsolved murders through 1975 and 1976 of young travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal.
By 1976, he was Interpol’s most wanted man and unwittingly crossed paths with Herman Knippenberg, a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok.
Controller of BBC Drama Piers Wegner said: “The Serpent tells the story of Charles Sobhraj, who preyed on the lives of young backpackers in Thailand in the 1970s. Richard Warlow’s scripts will bring this notorious story to life on BBC1, for the first time showing the great lengths Dutch embassy diplomat Herman Knippenberg went to get justice for Sobhraj’s innocent victims.”
Writer Richard Warlow said: “I don’t think I could ever invent the corrupt magnetism of Sobhraj’s evil charisma, nor the everyman’s decency with which Knippenberg – now our friend and collaborator – brought some measure of justice to those who went to seek new horizons but never returned.”
Director Tom Shankland added that bringing “the lost era of the hippie trail” to the screen had been “a dream of mine, ever since I first went travelling in Asia and heard the name ‘Charles Sobhraj.'”
He continued: “I want to give a voice to those brave kids who set out with big dreams but never made it home.”
Executive Producer at Mammoth Screen Preethi Mavahalli said: “We have spent several years researching and collecting the first hand testimony of the brave survivors who helped unravel Sobhraj’s dark web of deceit, crime and murder.
“Now we can finally tell this truly stranger than fiction story of the so-called Serpent, one of the most elusive killers of all time, and Herman Knippenberg’s quietly obsessive pursuit to catch him. We couldn’t ask for better than our all-talented team of Richard Warlow and Tom Shankland at the helm!”
The Serpent will air on BBC1.