Aarushi-Hemraj murder | ‘Missing’ golf club, locked grille door: 5 unsolved mysteries
Much of the evidence in the Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj murder case was circumstantial, but many pieces of the puzzle still remain unsolved.india Updated: Oct 12, 2017 15:27 IST
The Allahabad high court on Thursday acquitted Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the 2008 double murder of their daughter Aarushi Talwar and domestic help Hemraj.
The CBI failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Talwars killed Aarushi and Hemraj and the evidence was purely circumstantial, TV reports quote the HC bench as saying.
The high-profile case, which came under intense media scrutiny, was defined by a botched crime scene, flip-flops by the police and conflicting interpretation of events by different investigative agencies.
The Noida police, which was the first response team on the crime scene, came under heavy criticism for not taking care to preserve evidence and the crime scene. A special investigation unit of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over from the Noida police on May 31, 2008, but came out with conflicting findings.
The analysis of the crime scene was based on circumstantial evidence, but many elements remain either shrouded in mystery or can lend themselves to differing, even opposing interpretations.
Here are some aspects of the case and the crime scene that still appear hazy:
CBI’s flip-flops on Hemraj’s friends
The first CBI investigating team, headed by joint director Arun Kumar, an Uttar Pradesh-cadre IPS officer, gave contradictory versions to the Noida police’s version.
The CBI probe focussed on three Nepalese friends of Hemraj -- Krishna, Raj and Vijay -- claiming they had killed Aarushi after she resisted their attempts to sexually assault her and then killed Hemraj, who was the only withness.
The three men were arrested and the CBI claimed they had confessed during narco analysis tests. But they were later released for lack of evidence, since none of their DNA or fingerprints were found at the crime scene.
Later, the CBI teams completely abandoned and discredited this theory, which lead to speculation that Kumar had tampered with evidence to protect the Talwars.
The mystery of the outermost grille-door of the Talwars’ flat
The court statements of Talwars’ domestic help Bharti Mandal, who arrived at the flat around 6am on May 16, 2008 — the day Aarushi’s murder came to light — have been vital for the prosecution.
According to Mandal, the outermost grille did not open when she put a hand over it. She said Nupur opened the wooden door from inside and told her Hemraj might have locked the grille while going out to fetch milk.
Nupur told her to go down and wait for her to throw the key. Mandal returned with the key. “I came to the main door and put a hand over the grille-door, it opened up.”Once inside, she saw the Talwars crying and was shown Aarushi’s body. “Aunty (Nupur) told me, look what Hemraj has done”.
The CBI theory is the outermost grille was never closed from outside. Their argument was that in the time Mandal went down to catch the key, Nupur opened the grille, which was latched from inside, then went back inside to wait for Mandal.
Defence lawyers counter this by saying that the outer grille was never closed from inside, and that Mandal was “tutored by the CBI” and made “fatal improvements by introducing her ‘hand on door’ theory”, which she never told the Uttar Pradesh Police in her statement on May 16, 2008.
Further, Rajesh’s driver Umesh stated the door in Hemraj’s room was not operable and a refrigerator was kept before it. Umesh was declared a hostile witness. A UP police investigator has maintained he did not see any refrigerator placed before the door in Hemraj’s room.
The ‘missing’ golf club
The CBI’s special investigation team (SIT) investigating officer AGL Kaul told the court the golf club came to light when Rajesh was in CBI remand. The first CBI team had looked into a ‘khukhri’ being the murder weapon, but a forensic expert suggested that the “triangular-shaped head injury” suggested a gold club.
Rajesh had a set of 12 golf clubs. Kaul said two of the clubs were found “more clean than others” and dimensions of one of the two clubs matched the dimensions of blunt injuries inflicted on the two victims.
Kaul told the court Rajesh picked up a club in Hemraj’s room and hit him and a blow also landed on Aarushi.
In a photograph of the crime scene, only one club was visible in Hemraj’s room, while the other went “missing.” It was found by Nupur and Dr Ajay Chaddha, a family friend of the Talwars, from a loft inside the house, a couple of months before May, 2009, while they were cleaning the house.
Kaul told the court that previously when Rajesh was asked about the missing club, he could not give a satisfactory reply.
The CBI seized a set of 12 clubs from Rajesh on October 30, 2009. When asked how the entire set could have been produced when one of the clubs had gone ‘missing’, Dr Chaddha responded on Rajesh’s behalf in an email saying Nupur and he had later found it in the loft. The email was sent only on June 1, 2010.
Defence lawyers have challenged the CBI’s golf club theory as “propounded by Dr Dahiya and also supported by two post-mortem doctors who previously opined ‘khukhri’ as a weapon”. They have also challenged the email.
Aarushi’s autopsy revealing a ‘dilated vaginal cavity’
In court proceedings, Dr Sunil Kumar Dohare, the medical officer who conducted the postmortem on Aarushi’s body, said he had discovered that her vaginal cavity was abnormally dilated, and there was the presence of white discharge, as if someone had tried cleaning it.
Dohare told the court that these were “subjective findings” and hence, were not included in his post-mortem report.
An 18-page report by a committee at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) forensic experts, a CFSL scientist, and medical officers, including Dohare, who conducted the post-mortems on Aarushi and Hemraj had made no mention of these findings at all.
Though each page of the report carried Dohare’s signature, he pointed out that he was only responsible for the contents that concerned the post-mortem. According to the report, nothing abnormal was detected in Aarushi’s genitals.
Pillow, pillow covers and ‘typographical’ errors
A pillow with cover seized from Hemraj’s room became one of the most highly debated exhibits.
A controversy erupted over it when a CBI official, in his report on June 4, 2008, erroneously stated it was seized from Aarushi’s room.
Another controversy broke out over a purple pillow cover seized from Rajesh’s assistant Krishna’s house on June 14, 2008. The pillow with cover and the purple pillow cover were sent for tests to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting & Diagnostics (CDFD) at Hyderabad.
When the CDFD sent its initial report on November 6, 2008, it erroneously stated the presence of Hemraj’s DNA in the purple pillow cover, which brought Krishna under suspicion.
The report lay buried till the Talwars raised the issue before Allahabad high court in March, 2011.
Counsels for the CBI later termed the happening a “typographical error” and clarified that the description of the two exhibits had got interchanged.
After official back and forth, revised test results read Hemraj’s pillow with cover had his DNA. The defence lawyers alleged “tampering of evidence” by the CBI.
(Facts mentioned in the story are based on voluminous court proceedings. Omissions are not intended to cause any prejudice. )