He was born Charles Gurmukh Sobhraj in Saigon, Vietnam, which was under French rule at the time, and later claimed French nationality because of this. His unmarried mother was Vietnamese, with some sources naming her Noy and others, Song. His father was a Sindhi Indian from Mumbai and deserted the family soon after Sobhraj’s birth. Sobhraj was adopted by his mother’s new boyfriend, Alphonse Darreau, a French lieutenant stationed in Saigon. The couple married and the family moved to Marseille, France.
Sobhraj had an unsettled childhood, as the family moved constantly between France and Indochina, never feeling quite at home in either place. At a fairly young age, Sobhraj began to display personality problems and discipline became an issue. In his teens, he turned to petty crime, which soon began to escalate out of control.