BBC One’s The Serpent explores the crimes and capture of French serial killer, Charles Sobhraj.
However, it also looks at the impact he had on those around him, in particular, Marie-Andrée Leclerc, his girlfriend (played by Jenna Coleman in The Serpent cast).
Marie-Andrée, who goes by Monique in the TV series, met Sobhraj while on holiday in India in 1975.
Read on for everything you need to know about the real-life Marie-Andrée Leclerc, and what happened to her.
Who was Marie-Andrée Leclerc?
Born 1945, Marie-Andrée Leclerc was a medical secretary who originally hailed from Quebec, Canada, and who reportedly met Charles Sobhraj while holidaying in India in the spring of 1975.
In July 1975 she reportedly joined him in Thailand, becoming his girlfriend and alleged accomplice. She was accused of helping to drug victims of Sobhraj’s scams, and later using the passports of his murdered female victims.
How much Leclerc did or did not know about her partner’s violent crimes is still a source of debate, as Jenna Coleman discussed during a press Q&A.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press, Coleman said she was drawn to the complex character of Leclerc “from my first reading of [The Serpent] – I was sent the six scripts, so I got to read them all in one go, and that’s kind of what really, really brought me in”.
Describing a scene in episode two during which Leclerc listens in to “violence… going on,” Coleman said that she was drawn to the many questions still surrounding her real-life character’s motivations.
She said: “What was so interesting about her, it’s almost – I think what kind of sums it up in a way is that scene at the end in episode two, when all of the violence is going on, and she’s listening [in]… what was an interesting thing to oscillate between… [was] the person that she was, and this narrative that she’s living. But I think what’s really interesting is it’s almost like she created her own narrative, and she’s living in her delusion, really.
“So I guess for me it was more about squashing the truth, it was kind of like not accepting the reality of what was actually going on and meanwhile she’s kind of almost like living her own movie star life in her mind, which made it really complicated in a great way, in a really great way. There kind of felt like in-between the lines that Richard [Warlow, The Serpent writer] wrote there were a thousand possibilities which kind of always draws you in.”
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Was ‘Monique’ brainwashed by Charles Sobhraj?
Coleman has said that she was interested in the questions surrounding Leclerc and whether or not she was “brainwashed” by Charles Sobhraj.
“I think the [question of] ‘is she a victim or is she not’, how much of her was brainwashed, how much of it was a choice to be there and a choice to live in the delusion; I think that’s what’s really interesting, to make the choices that she made in keeping this reality in a way that she could so that she could keep existing and being with Charles.”
On speaking with a Quebecois accent in the series, Coleman added: “It was daunting, it was very daunting to turn up on set with Tahar [Rahim, who is French]!”
Did Marie-Andrée Leclerc go to prison?
Leclerc was captured at the same time as Charles Sobhjraj in July 1976, when an attempt to drug a group of French students went wrong and he was apprehended, along with his accomplices.
She was charged with murder and imprisoned in India, but when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer she was given permission to return to Quebec for treatment in 1983.
At the time, she claimed that she had also been a victim of Sobhraj, although others argued that she must have been aware of the violent incidents going on around her.
“You can not be in an apartment and there are people who are chained in your apartment without seeing them,” contemporary journalist Huguette Laprise told Radio-Canada.
Leclerc’s cancer diagnosis proved terminal, and she died 20th April 1984, at the age of 38.
The Serpent begins tonight (1st January) at 9pm on BBC One. Looking for something else to watch? Visit our TV Guide.