Teresa Knowlton was an American woman who is the first-known murder victim of Charles Sobhraj, a French serial killer and fraudster.
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. Her zodiac sign was Aquarius. At the time of her death, she was based in Seattle. In October 1975, she visited Thailand on her way to Kathmandu to study Tibetan Buddhism at Kopan Monastery and become a nun.
Family & Ethnicity
Teresa was the daughter of Robert Lucian Knowlton and Loretta May Iorio. She had two brothers named Robert and Ronald Knowlton and a sister named Yolanda Knowlton.
Teresa attended a wild party thrown by Charles in his Bangkok apartment. On October 18, 1975, Teresa’s body was found floating on the Gulf of Thailand by a farmer. She was wearing a flowered bikini.
Her death was believed to be a case of accidental drowning until her autopsy revealed that someone held her head underwater until she drowned. There have been many claims about her murder. According to a source, Sobhraj knew that Teresa would check in to Hotel Malaysia, where he sent his accomplice Ajay to lure her to his apartment in Bangkok. Another source claimed that while being served refreshments, she was drugged and stripped and a bikini was put on her. Other accounts suggest that Sobhraj, Ajay, and Teresa were out for drinks at a bar, where she was drugged. Sobhraj and Ajay then drove her in their car to Pattaya Beach, where Ajay was asked to take Teresa to swim and drown her. There’s no specific reason as to why Sobhraj murdered her, the Dutch diplomat Herman Knippenberg believes Sobhraj killed her after she refused to join his entourage and become a smuggler. Sobhraj later confessed to her murder in an interview, 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.”
- After Charles murdered another woman named Charmayne Carrou in a similar fashion (i.e., found drowned wearing a flowered bikini) to Teresa. Even though the initial investigation found no connection to Carrou and Knowlton’s murders, the mainstream media and public connected the murders and termed their murderer ‘The Bikini Killer.’ Ever since Charles Sobhraj became popular worldwide as ‘The Bikini Killer.’
- Teresa’s murder was the first-known murders of Sobraj and he confessed to killing her in several interviews. Teresa appears in two of Charles’ biographies, i.e., 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, BBC One and Netflix co-produced a series titled ‘The Serpent,’ based on the crime and life of Charles Sobhraj. In the series, Teresa’s character is played by the Australian actress Alice Englert.