Marie-Andrée Leclerc and Charles Sobhraj's relationship was even more disturbing in real life

BBC’s The Serpent depicts the life and crimes of the notorious serial killer and Marie-Andrée Leclerc

Charles Sobhraj and Marie-Andrée Leclerc in The Serpent
(Image credit: BBC)

Marie-Andrée Leclerc and Charles Sobhraj have been chillingly brought to life on-screen in BBC’s The Serpent by actors Jenna Coleman and Tahar Rahim. 

The eight-part series charts the horrific crimes and manipulations of real-life serial killer Charles Sobhraj, helped along the way by Marie-Andrée. Based on true events, it will no doubt have shocked some viewers who may not have been initially aware of the scale of Sobhraj’s murderous past. 

The real Sobhraj stole from and murdered backpackers on Asia’s so-called 'hippie trail' back in the 1970s. Many people will be taken aback by Marie-Andrée’s apparent willingness to assist him. However, in real life, their relationship might have even been more disturbing than the BBC show portrays...

Why did Marie-Andrée Leclerc help Charles Sobhraj?

Despite Charles Sobhraj’s evil crimes, as The Serpent presents, Marie-Andrée Leclerc was drawn in by his outward glamour and charisma. Marie-Andrée is undeniably as glamorous as she is sinister, with Jenna Coleman's makeup looks and '70s waft fringe garnering as much attention as her chilling portrayal. 

The Quebec-born medical secretary is thought to have met Charles Sobhraj in 1975 during her travels to India. She later returned to Asia in July 1975, meeting Sobhraj for the second time in Thailand. Following this, she became embroiled in his deceitful plans. 

Sobhraj was a chilling expert at manipulating people, giving himself the alias of Alain Gautier. Leclerc was known under the alias Monique and she was reportedly persuaded to go along with his plans under this new persona. 

Charles Sobhraj in The Serpent

(Image credit: BBC)

Leclerc denied any knowledge of the murders, though both she and Charles Sobhraj are believed to have become the main suspects in more than 20 murders between 1975 and 1976 in South East Asia. They were also assisted by Ajay Chowdhury, who helped the couple manipulate their victims and then later, dispose of the bodies. 

The two were finally arrested after Sobhraj attempted to drug a group of students, who ended up calling the police.

Marie-Andrée Leclerc's diaries

Speaking to RadioTimes, Jenna Coleman who plays Marie-Andrée Leclerc in The Serpent said she read Marie-Andrée Leclerc's diaries to prepare for the role.

"The way she lived was completely delusional,” the actor reportedly told the publication. “It was all about squashing all of it away and not letting the truth in. She had an obsessive nature and was incredibly emotional.”

When it comes to why Marie-Andrée did not walk away from Sobhraj, Coleman stated, “I think Charles had this power over women”. She added that, “In her earlier life Leclerc was religious and the way she writes in her diary, it felt like this obsessive devotion to Charles. 

"The way she pivots on what Charles does and how Charles treats her—it’s like her every waking thought is this complete addiction to him. She’s completely connected to him. No matter what he does, even to the extent of murder.”

More from woman&home:

What happened to Marie-Andre Leclerc?

After the crimes, Marie-Andrée Leclerc is understood to have been imprisoned and accused of complicity in the murders. 

Despite being convicted of murder, she appealed and was released, with the condition that she couldn't leave the country. She was then allowed to return to Canada after being diagnosed with cancer in 1983 and died the following year. 

Emma Shacklock
Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with five years experience working in digital publishing, ranging from book publishing to magazines. She currently looks after all things Lifestyle for Woman&Home, GoodToKnow and My Imperfect Life.

Before she joined Future Publishing, Emma graduated from the University of Warwick with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Comparative Literary Studies. After leaving education, she started out her publishing career in the world of books, working as a Publisher for an independent digital publisher specializing in back-list and debut commercial fiction novels. With a huge book list and a passion for bringing the best stories to the broadest audience possible, Emma filled her spare time with reading the latest best-sellers and catching up on hit adaptations.

In 2017 she joined TI Media as a fiction writing coordinator on Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly Fiction as part of the features team. From here, she used her love of books, working to bring short stories to our dedicated readers and began writing for the books pages of Woman, Woman’s Own and Woman&Home, as well as online features ranging from genre round-ups to travel pieces for 

After honing her skills, Emma branched out online in 2020 when Future gave her the opportunity to focus on digital-first. When she’s not writing about the next big lifestyle trend, she enjoys cooking, long walks and watching as many crime dramas as she can!