HE WAS MELTING ON THE TERRACE
May 16th was another scorching summer day. After the discovery of Aarushi’s murder that morning, her body was taken around 8:30 am by two UP police constables in their jeep for the postmortem. Rajesh’s brother Dinesh and driver Umesh accompanied the body in the jeep. Rajesh’s childhood friend Ajay Chadha followed in his car.
Dr Praful Durrani told TEHELKA that on that morning of the 16th, he noticed what looked like a spot of blood on the door handle leading to the terrace. When he called a policeman to the door, the policeman touched the spot with his finger and flicked it away, dismissing it as rust and announcing that the door hadn’t been opened in weeks. When Durrani showed him what looked like another spot of blood on the floor, the policeman was just as dismissive. Eventually he was persuaded to try to open and investigate the terrace. But a hunt for the key led nowhere and the policeman just let the door be. Durrani says he told all this to the CBI’s first team. The CBI’s second team never took his statement and has not mentioned his earlier statement in the closure report.
The CBI claims that on that morning, Rajesh’s friends Dr Rajiv Kumar and Dr Rohit Kochar, who’d also arrived at the house by then, stumbled upon bloodstains on the locked door handle of the terrace and some wiped bloody footmarks and wiped bloodstains on the upper staircase. The CBI says that when Rajesh was asked for the keys to the terrace, he just looked at the bloodstained handle and went back inside his house; and that the police also saw these bloodstains and directed their investigating officer (IO) to open the door, but were somehow unable to open it. So they let it be.
Rajesh told TEHELKA he has little recollection of what happened that morning since he was still in deep shock — but he does state vehemently the family never stopped the police from collecting any evidence or going to any part of the house. Dr Rohit Kochar told TEHELKA that a group of people noticed the bloodstains on the terrace door that morning, and that since Rajesh was in a very bad state they decided not to bother him and instead called a policeman called Akhilesh Kumar. After Kumar had also seen what the group had seen, they sent someone downstairs to find the key. Kochar adds that Rajesh did come up a few steps and peek at the hubbub upstairs at some point and then went away, but that he never came all the way up to the terrace door to see what was going on. Since nobody could locate the terrace key, the police didn’t bother to force it open. Kochar says he’s told this story to both the CBI’s first and second teams.
Where is the CBI’s investigation of the three other suspects — Krishna, Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal?
Kochar and Durrani’s eyewitness accounts to TEHELKA both point to the same thing — that the CBI is trying to cover up the UP police’s exceptional negligence by transferring the blame to the grieving father.
At the postmortem house the party had to wait a while for the staff to arrive. Soon the police said they couldn’t sit around waiting, so would they please vacate the jeep? Dinesh tried to find a spot of shade in the angry sun and sat on the ground with his dead niece’s body in his lap. Once the doors opened, Dinesh and Ajay were appalled by the putrid, dank conditions and Ajay got supplies to get the place cleaned up.
The postmortem report ruled out rape for Aarushi. When they returned to the house after the postmortem, the family placed Aarushi’s body over slabs of smoky ice to preserve it in the heat. The media’s fury tightened its grip on their home. The last rites began. Nupur was distraught. Rajesh was beside himself, banging his head and moaning. Both sank deeper into their grief.
Once the body was sent to the cremation ground later that day, the CBI says the Talwars’ staff showed “undue haste” in cleaning Aarushi’s room with soap and water. The Talwars say instead that Nupur’s mother Lata Chitnis and their clinic manager Vikas Sethi received permission from the police who were present to clean the house. The Talwars say a) the police presented no objections to this since they said they’d already collected all necessary evidence b) Sethi also asked the police at this point whether they wished to collect Aarushi’s bloody blanket and mattress on the bed, and the police demurred again replying this wasn’t necessary since a part of the mattress had already been collected by the investigating team c) The police suggested to Sethi that, given the media clamour downstairs, the mattress should be taken to the terrace for now. When Sethi found the Talwars’ terrace locked and could not find the key, he placed the items on a neighbouring terrace.
Next, the CBI claims call records of Rajesh’s brother Dinesh show he and friends Dr Sushil Chaudhary and retired police officer KK Gautam got in touch with each other on the 16th — that Sushil contacted Gautam and conveyed Dinesh’s request that rape not be mentioned in the postmortem report — for a reason unexplained by the CBI. How the CBI found the alleged content of their conversations is also unclear. The CBI also says that before the postmortem, Dinesh had tried to influence the doctor who conducted the postmortem, Dr Sunil Kumar Dohare, to speak to someone on the phone. Dinesh categorically denies ever trying to influence the postmortem and adds that the CBI couldn’t find records of any such calls he is supposed to have made from the postmortem house.
The next day, the 17th, Rajesh and Nupur collected Aarushi’s ashes from the cremation ground locker and left for Haridwar to immerse them. The CBI says that that morning, call details and Gautam’s statement show that Sushil phoned Gautam and insisted he accompany him to the Talwar house; once there, Dinesh asked Gautam to get the terrace door opened by the police. According to the CBI, Gautam went up and saw bloodstains on the stairs and drag marks in front of the terrace door and called the police. The police arrived and when no one could produce the terrace key, the lock was broken. Dinesh amends the CBI’s account by saying he and Gautam were conferring that morning about going up to examine the door but that a policeman preceded them upstairs and they simply joined him.
The CBI adds that when the door opened everyone now noticed more bloody drag marks. A putrefying body was covered by a panel from the roof cooler and a bedcover lay draped upon the iron grill separating the Talwar’s terrace from neighbouring ones. The CBI says since Dinesh couldn’t identify the body, he called Rajesh and Nupur, who were on their way to Haridwar, to return home.
Back home, Nupur sat clutching the urn with her little girl’s ashes in the car, since she considered it inauspicious to take the ashes inside. Rajesh went upstairs to identify the body. The CBI says Rajesh did not identify the body upon seeing it and, later, “a friend of Hemraj” identified it as Hemraj. Alternatively, Rajesh claims when he arrived he found the body to be too putrefied and bloody to identify conclusively; he noticed the t-shirt on the body said ‘New York’ and the police informed him the person was wearing a kada — so Rajesh went downstairs to ask Nupur whether Hemraj had worn these two items, and when she confirmed this, called Dinesh to identify the body as being most likely Hemraj.
By the time they returned from Haridwar that day, it had begun to rain.