BBC orders new true crime drama ‘The Serpent’ from creator of ‘Ripper Street’

The writer of Ripper Street will return to BBC One with a brand new crime drama set in the 1970s.

The Serpent is based on the phenomenal true story of how one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century was caught and brought to trial.

The eight-part series will be directed by Tom Shankland (The Missing) and produced by the makers of Poldark and Endeavour.

The official synopsis reads: “Con man, escape artist, thief, master of disguise and psychopath, Charles Sobhraj was the chief suspect in the sensational unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal through 1975 and 1976. Having slipped repeatedly from the grasp of authorities worldwide, by 1976 Sobhraj was Interpol’s most wanted man and had arrest warrants on three different continents.

“When Herman Knippenberg, a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, unwittingly walks into Sobhraj’s intricate web of crime, he sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will see these two diametrically opposed men engaged in a chase across the porous borders of the Asian Hippie Trail in its twilight years.”

Ripper Street creator Richard Warlow commented: “I’ve been hoping for this news since Tom Shankland first told me the tale of Herman Knippenberg’s pursuit of Charles Sobhraj across the nexus points of the Hippie Trail. That the story happens to be entirely true is a gift.

“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: “Bringing the lost era of the hippie trail back to life has been a dream of mine, ever since I first went travelling in Asia and heard the name ‘Charles Sobhraj’.

“Before mobile phones, before the internet, a generation of idealistic kids set out on an iconic overland journey from Istanbul to Kathmandu in search of wild adventures. Some of them had their minds expanded forever and some found a monster waiting in paradise. I want to give a voice to those brave kids who set out with big dreams but never made it home.”

Set in Whitechapel in the East End of London around the time of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders, Ripper Street launched on BBC One in 2012 and concluded last year after five seasons.

Ripper Street is available on DVD on Amazon.