Teresa Knowlton was an American woman. She is the first-known murder victim of the French serial killer and fraudster Charles Sobhraj.
Anne Teresa Knowlton Asia Times was born on Thursday, February 18, 1954 (age 21 years at the time of death), in San Pedro, California, US. Before her death, she was residing in Seattle. In October 1975, she stopped in Thailand on her way to Kathmandu, Nepal, to study Tibetan Buddhism at Kopan Monastery and become a nun.
Family & Ethnicity
Teresa was born to Robert Lucian Knowlton and Loretta May Iorio. She had two brothers, Robert and Ronald Knowlton. She also had a sister, Yolanda Knowlton.
In October 1975, Teresa was lured into Charles’ apartment in Bangkok, he attended a wild party thrown by Charles. On October 18, 1975, a farmer found Teresa’s dead body (wearing a floral bikini) floating on the Gulf of Thailand.
Initially, she was believed to have drowned accidentally. Seven months after her forensic results were released, and they revealed that she was murdered as someone pushed her head underwater until she drowned. Various publications gave insights as to what would have happened with her. A source stated that Sobhraj knew that Teresa would check-in to Hotel Malaysia and sent his accomplice Ajay to somehow bring her to his apartment. Another source claimed that she was drugged when refreshments were served to her, and she was stripped and a bikini was put on her. One other source stated that Teresa went out for drinks at a bar with Sobhraj and Ajay and was drugged. Teresa was then put in Sobhraj and Ajay’s car and taken to Pattaya Beach. Sobhraj then commanded Ajay to take her to swim, and in the process, drowning her. It is still unclear as to what caused Sobhraj to murder her, but according to the Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg, Sobhraj killed her because she refused to join his team and become a smuggler. Later, Sobhraj confessed to murdering her in many interviews, saying,
The girl from California. She was drunk, and Ajay brought her to Kanit House. We knew about her, you see. We knew she was involved with heroin. I killed her because she was transporting drugs.”
- Charles murdered many people, but it was after the murder of a woman named Charmayne Carrou, he was given the moniker ‘The Bikini Killer,’ which made him worldwide famous. Charmayne’s dead body was found in similar circumstances as Teresa’s (i.e., drowned wearing a floral bikini). Initially, the investigation did not connect the murders, but due to the similar fashion of murders, the public and mainstream media began calling the murderer ‘The Bikini Killer.’
- Her murder was the first-known murder and most famous murder of Sobraj as he had confessed to killing her in several interviews the most. Teresa is featured in two of Charles’ biographies: Serpentine (1979) by Thomas Thompson and The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj (1980; reissued as On the Trail of the Serpent) by Richard Neville and Julie Clarke.
- In 2021, the series titled ‘The Serpent’ based on the crime and life of Charles Sobhraj was released on BBC One and Netflix. The series also features Teresa, and she is portrayed by the Australian actress Alice Englert.