Dead ends and bizarre twists


Four years after Aarushi’s murder, the CBI has arrested Nupur Talwar as a prime suspect. Gaurav Jain poses some hard questions for the agency in this macabre narrative

No bail-out Nupur Talwar being taken to Dasna jail
No bail-out: Nupur Talwar being taken to Dasna jail, Photo: Nachiketa Sharma

FOUR YEARS after the murders, people still mainly want to know — who did it? But by now the Aarushi-Hemraj case has become so entangled that there is no easy way to get answers. The truth lies in the details. Let’s begin with the basics.

Framed? Nupur Talwar with daughter Aarushi’s portrait
Framed? Nupur Talwar with daughter Aarushi’s portrait, Photo: Garima Jain

The murder victims: Aarushi Talwar and her family’s domestic staffer Yam Prasad Banjade, aka Hemraj, were murdered on the night of 15 May 2008 inside the family flat in Noida, UP. Aarushi’s body was discovered on 16 May while Hemraj’s body was discovered on 17 May. The CBI’s suspects so far: 1. Dr Rajesh Talwar (Aarushi’s father) 2. Krishna Thadarai (Rajesh’s dental clinic assistant) 3. Raj Kumar (domestic staffer with the Talwars’ friends Drs Praful and Anita Durrani, who lived nearby) 4. Vijay Mandal (another domestic staffer in the Talwar neighbourhood). Hemraj, Krishna and Raj Kumar had all been recruited through the Talwars’ previous domestic staffer, Vishnu, and were friends.

The CBI proposed to close its investigation in December 2010, stating that it considered Rajesh Talwar guilty but didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with the crime. The CBI court then shockingly ordered that not only Rajesh, but Nupur Talwar also be tried for murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. As this goes to press, Nupur has been denied bail by the sessions court in Ghaziabad and is in Dasna jail (unlike the CBI’s four other suspects, all of whom were given bail). The parents’ Supreme Court appeal to overrule the CBI court is still pending.

Part of the mystery of this case has always been that it seemed to be like an Agatha Christie locked-house murder, and the CBI court order against the Talwars also concludes that there couldn’t have been any outside intruders that fateful night. The court bases this on the understanding that the house was secure without any sign of forcible entry and no robbery accompanied the murders — but doesn’t account for the fact that Hemraj’s room inside the Talwars’ flat had an independent door to the outside world.

The order also quotes the domestic maid’s testimony that she found the house latched or locked from outside the morning after the murders — so someone must have exited the house and locked the parents inside their home. The CBI has also not explained some of its other mystifying claims, such as how its ‘experts’ concluded that Aarushi was killed by someone close to her, or why they believe that the door to Aarushi’s room was open when she was attacked.

What is more relevant now is the fact that the Aarushi and Hemraj murder mystery is likely to go to trial in the CBI special court in Ghaziabad. As the trial approaches, there are some secretive points about the case that will be of utmost interest to citizens concerned about justice, to curious whodunit readers and viewers, and to those journalists hunting for a sensational breakthrough in the story. The CBI has its work cut out for it in the trial — here are 10 key questions that lie at the heart of this murder mystery that the agency needs to address:

1 WHY IS the CBI ignoring alarming evidence from its own investigation, such as the forensic report confirming that Hemraj’s blood was on a pillow cover seized from Krishna’s room? While it has offered an extensive report on its investigation of Rajesh Talwar, why is the CBI not revealing any details of its investigation of its three other suspects despite the strong clues of their involvement?

2 WHY DO Raj Kumar’s former employers Dr Praful and Dr Anita Durrani claim that the CBI is misrepresenting their testimony about Kumar’s alibi the night of the murders? They claim that Kumar was free of all duties by before midnight on the night of the murders, and that his bathroom was outside their house’s main back door so he could come and go whenever he wanted.

3 IF, AS the CBI says, Rajesh committed the murders under sudden provocation, why didn’t his clothes from that evening have either of the victims’ blood on them? A strong thread of the discourse around this case has been one of class bias. Critics ask, with just cause, whether those who believe the Talwars innocent, do so because they are ‘People Like Us’. With this in mind, the question to ask is: why is the CBI biased against the testimonies of the underclass?

The CBI confirms that two days before the murder, Krishna was infuriated with Rajesh Talwar because the latter had scolded him for making an incorrect dental cast. The Talwars’ driver Umesh Sharma has told the authorities that Krishna later exclaimed to him that he would deal with Rajesh Talwar. Umesh Sharma has also said that he found Rajesh to be in the same clothes on the morning of 16 May as he’d been on the evening of 15. The Talwars’ maid’s description to the authorities of Rajesh’s clothes on the 16th morning also matches driver Umesh’s description of what Rajesh was wearing on the 15th night, which were without any bloodstains.

WHY WAS the CBI’s first investigation team on this case replaced by a second one, especially since the first team had announced it was about to chargesheet the culprits? Why does the CBI now not mention the first team’s investigations — such as its sound reconstruction test at the Talwars’ house in June 2008 that concluded that sound from Aarushi’s room couldn’t be heard in her parents’ room; or its UV Light Testing on 1 June 2008 that apparently didn’t pick up any bloodstains to indicate that Hemraj was killed anywhere except the terrace?

5 IF AARUSHI’S parents had tampered with the crime scene, why would they have left the biggest clue — the Ballantine’s whiskey bottle with many fingerprints and both victims’ bloodstains — sitting in plain view on their dining table for the police to find the next morning? If they were guilty, why did they protest the CBI’s move to close the case last year and insist that investigations continue? If they have something to hide, why are they agitating for advanced forensics to be applied such as touch DNA?

THE TECHNOLOGY to solve this murder mystery exists. Touch DNA is a technique that’s been used in criminal cases worldwide since it can analyse evidence even after years of contamination. Why is the CBI refusing to simply put all speculation to rest once and for all and get touch DNA testing on the evidence it has gathered, such as the whiskey bottle with still-unidentified fingerprints?

The Talwars have been asking for advanced forensics like touch DNA. Why is the CBI refusing to do that?

WHY DO experts at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi completely contradict the CBI’s latest theories about the murder weapon? The authorities first posited that the murder weapon was a khukri (a curved Nepali knife), then they shifted to a scalpel, then to a golf club (or perhaps a combination of golf club and scalpel). Now, the CBI found Krishna’s khukri to be clean of any human blood, and its only evidence for the golf club theory is that two of Rajesh’s clubs in his golf set were cleaner than the others — disregarding these two inconclusive accounts leaves you with the experts’ opinion presented in a report in The Indian Express on 7 June 2008, which said that AIIMS experts concluded that Aarushi was murdered with a sharp-edged knife, given the deep cut on her throat (with probably a wooden handle to administer the blunt injuries) — rather than a surgical instrument like a scalpel, which “is so small it can only cut the skin layer by layer”.

8 DOES THE CBI believe or not believe in the results of the multiple lie detector, brain-mapping and narco-analysis tests the suspects have undergone? For example, why does the CBI still consider it suspicious that Nupur Talwar couldn’t explain where the key to Aarushi’s self-locking door was on 16 May morning (till it was discovered later), even though Nupur has successfully answered this question during the several lie detector, brain-mapping and narco-analysis tests she’s passed, stating that she probably made the crucial mistake of leaving the key in the door after visiting her child on 15th night.

WHY DO the post-mortem doctor Sunil Dohre and his assistants’ statements to the CBI rubbish their own original report? How credible is it that they somehow remembered radical new facts for the CBI about Aarushi’s body that are not present in their original post-mortem report — drastic facts such as her hymen was “ruptured”, had “an old tear”, “the vaginal orifice… was unduly large”, “mouth of cervix was visible”, her private parts were extraordinarily dilated and cleaned after the murder. These new facts are not only radical but contradict the original report, since extraordinary dilation and cleaning is inconsistent with the post-mortem report’s claim about presence of whitish discharge under the External Examination header of Vagina.

10 HOW ARE we being ‘sensitive’ to the underclass by unquestioningly believing the police and CBI’s insinuations that Hemraj-the-grandfather was in a sexual relationship with a child, while discounting the testimonies of the maid and driver Umesh Sharma?

There’s one last clue to watch out for as this murder trial commences — at this late stage four years later, whichever journalist now quotes ‘anonymous sources’ in this case is not worth listening to. The news cycle is about to crank up again, and you should watch out for how the media’s anonymous sources almost always contradict the brave testimonies of the domestic staff.

In the first 48 hours after 15 May 2008, perhaps it was still easy to solve this mystery. Four years later, it will take much more effort — asking some hard questions and applying advanced forensics like touch DNA. However, with its resolute refusal to deploy available technology, the CBI has an alarmingly vague case against Aarushi’s parents. But if you ask these 10 questions that the CBI’s own investigations have thrown up, and ask them insistently enough, this case can still be cracked.


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