TV was full of blood that night.
Seven bomb blasts had killed 60 people in Jaipur two days ago, and there were grisly images on screen. Some 260 kilometres to the east of Jaipur in Delhi’s suburb of Noida, 13-year-old schoolgirl Aarushi Talwar — who loved the rugged MTV show Roadies and the comedy Friends — sat far away from the blood-soaked TV news bulletins, buried in a half-finished novel, Chetan Bhagat’s 3 Mistakes of My Life.
Soon there would be blood in her room as well.
At 11.10 pm, May 15, 2008, the Class IX student of Noida’s ritzy Delhi Public School gave her mother, dentist Nupur Talwar, a quick hug and peck on her cheek. Not too far away was an advance gift from Nupur and her dentist husband Rajesh for Aarushi’s birthday on May 24, which had arrived in the mail that afternoon. It was a digital camera.
At some point that night, Aarushi and the family’s housekeeper Hemraj Banjade were brutally killed. Their necks were slit with a knife suspected to be a khukri, their heads bludgeoned with the butt of a yet-to-be identified heavy object.
Twenty months on, it is still not known who did it and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which earlier said it had no evidence against the father, will soon administer him a truth serum, a process technically know as a narco-analysis test, to ask him questions under the influence of chemicals.
The morning was broken by loud thumps on the door at the family’s second-floor flat at L 32, in Jalvayu Vihar, an upper middle class residential hub in Sector 25. It was 6 a.m. The maid Bharati, 25, who uses a single name, soon stopped knocking and realised that the door was shut from outside, and not inside.
Banjade, 45, was missing. Nupur Talwar called him on his mobile phone. It rang. Someone answered, then hung up. The phone — apparently with the murderer — was still in or around Sector 25, phone tower investigations showed.
Then, she says, she decided to wake up Aarushi for her school and walked into her room.
Aarushi lay dead on her bed, her undergarments pulled down, with the odour of blood hanging heavily in the air. A bottle of Ballantine whiskey lay nearby. Her lime green tuition bag lay next to her head, though it was perched on a table in a corner of the room the previous night. The wall adjoining the bed had blood stains, partially dry. The carpet on the floor and the doormats smelled of blood.
There were signs of desperate scuffles inside the room.
Within hours, Noida Police declared Banjade the main accused, ignoring the bloodstains leading from the room to the staircase. A day later, his body was found on the third floor terrace in an empty water cooler, killed the same night, with similar injuries on his body.
There is still no chargesheet.
Noida Police gathered 26 fingerprints from the crime scene. Of them, 24 were useless because incorrect procedures were followed, the CBI said. The scene of crime wasn’t cordoned off and witnessed a melee of onlookers, ruining evidence.
On May 23, 2008, Noida Police arrested Rajesh and accused him of carrying out “honour killings.” According to the then Inspector General of Police, Meerut range, Gurudarshan Singh, Rajesh had allegedly seen Aarushi and Banjade in an “objectionable but not compromising position.” But Rajesh got bail 50 days later when the CBI, which was handed over the case two weeks after the killings, cleared him.
The CBI arrested three suspects within two months of the murders but is yet to gather clinching, admissible evidence against the three — Rajesh’s medical assistant Krishna Thadarai (27, who allegedly had a tiff with Rajesh a few weeks before the murders), domestic help Rajkumar Sharma (21, employed by the doctors Praful and Anita Durrani, who were the Talwars’ friends) and another housekeeper Vijay Mandal. They were arrested but bailed out.
The murder weapons were never found. A footprint in blood, size eight, didn’t match with any suspect’s. Neither did a hand marked in blood on the roof.
The mysteries didn’t end there.
The mobile phones of Aarushi and Banjade were missing; Aarushi’s Nokia N-72 phone was traced in September last year to Bulandsheher daily wage labourer Ram Bhool, who said his sister had found the abandoned phone. All data had been deleted.
Some of Aarushi’s autopsy papers were found missing from the Noida district hospital.
Also missing were her vaginal swabs, which were allegedly switched with somebody else’s.