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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Who killed Aarushi Talwar? Parents’ acquittal brings question back in spotlight

The Allahabad high court acquitted the Talwars in the murder of their 14-year-old teenage daughter and Hemraj on Thursday.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2017 09:39 IST
Rajesh Ahuja
Rajesh Ahuja
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In this file photo friends and relatives of Aarushi Talwar light candles near her portrait to seek justice for her, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in Jan, 2016.
In this file photo friends and relatives of Aarushi Talwar light candles near her portrait to seek justice for her, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in Jan, 2016. (PTI)

Nearly a decade after one of the most sensational murders in India, no one knows for sure who killed Aarushi Talwar.

There is no clarity on the death of Hemraj - the domestic help employed by Aarushi’s dentist parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, in their Noida residence - as well.

Neither does there is clarity on the death of Hemraj, the domestic help employed in the Noida residence of Aarushi’s dentist parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar.

Conspiracy theories have swirled around the twin murders – the bodies recovered a day apart from the same house – a book-selling book written and even a Bollywood film made on the incident that grabbed headlines for months and riveted the nation.

On Thursday, the Allahabad high court acquitted the Talwars in the murder of their 14-year-old teenage daughter and Hemraj, bringing the spotlight back on the same old question: who killed Aarushi?

The Delhi Public School student was found with her throat slit and stab wounds to her head, in her bedroom on May 14, 2008. The immediate suspect was Hemraj, from Nepal, who was missing.

But a day later, his body was found on the terrace of the Talwar’s apartment block.

Uttar Pradesh police, which probed the crime initially, then shifted focus to the Talwars, the only other people present in the house on the night of the incident.

It was a big embarrassment for the police when their “main suspect” turned up dead. Police were accused of shoddy investigation as they reportedly failed to collect crucial evidence and did not even seal the crime scene, the Talwars’ home.

Such was the chaos that then inspector general of police Gurdarshan Singh even got Aarushi’s name wrong and referred to her as Shruti during a press conference.

Police then arrested Rajesh on charges of killing his daughter in a fit of rage when he allegedly saw her in an “objectionable position” with Hemraj.

“This is a classic example of a case where the crime scene, which provides vital clues to take the investigation forward, was trampled with. The police should have recovered Hemraj’s body on the first day itself,”said former CBI official NR Wasan, who retired as the chief of the Bureau of Police Research and Development.

But that was not the first twist in the case.

The CBI’s first investigation team, led by UP cadre IPS officer Arun Kumar, gave Rajesh Talwar a clean chit and accused the Talwars’ assistant Krishna and two servants -- Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal.

The agency even conducted a press conference to reveal its findings about the servants.

It, however, failed to prove its case against the three. There were accusations that the agency was trying to frame them by forcing confessions out of them.

When HT reached Arun Kumar for his comments after the high court judgment, he refused to say anything.

The second twist came when Ashwani Kumar took over as the CBI director in July, 2008.

Sources said he was not convinced with the first probe team’s assessment on the involvement of the servants, and he reconstituted the team with a mandate to look afresh at every aspect of the case.

The new probe team was led by AGL Kaul, who died in his sleep at the age of 52 in 2014, completed its investigation in the middle of 2010 and concluded that Talwar and wife should be chargesheeted in the case.

The agency’s lawyers also concurred with it, but still the top officials were not convinced that they had enough evidence to prove charges in court.

The probe team’s argument was, no outsider visited the Talwars when the murders took place and the other accused were innocent.

It, however, claimed the crime scene heavily dressed up, leading to suspicion that it was the doing of Aarushi’s parents.

Golf clubs belonging to Rajesh Talwar were considered to be the murder weapon, though the first CBI team had talked about a khukri, a Nepali knife.

The CBI said two of the clubs from a set of 12 were “more clean than the others” and the dimensions of one matched the blunt injuries inflicted on the victims.

One of the clubs was missing but Nupur and a family friend apparently found it in a loft while cleaning the Talwar’s house a few months before May 2009.

“But still there was no clinching evidence to show that it were the Talwars who murdered their daughter and the housekeeper Hemraj. Therefore, a call was taken to file a closure report in the case,” said a former CBI official who wants to remain anonymous.

It seems the agency’s first team was under pressure to produce results, the official added.

But the second CBI team got more than two years to probe the case and looked at all aspects.

The second team concluded that there was no intruder to the house on the night of the murders. Nothing was found stolen from the house.

“There were four persons in the house who, if you look at photographs taken just two hours before the murder, looked very happy. As per the postmortem report, Aarushi was killed between midnight and 1am. So the question was what exactly happened in the house that led to two murders,” said the official.

“But we had no eyewitness. Murder weapon was also missing. There was no visible motive in sight for the parents to kill their daughter and servant. Therefore despite, the parents being prime suspect, the closure report was filed.”

The closure report was filed when AP Singh took over from Ashwani Kumar as the CBI director in November 2010.

But the Ghaziabad court found enough evidence in the closure report to convert it into a charge-sheet and summoned the Talwars in the case. After trial, the court found both of them guilty in the case on November 25, 2013. A day later they were sentenced for life.

And nearly four years later, the higher court acquitted them , giving the Talwars the “benefit of doubt” in the face of insufficient evidence.

“The Allahabad high court seems to have concurred with our conclusion that there is no clinching evidence to nail anyone in the case,” AP Singh said when HT reached him after the HC judgment. 

First Published: Oct 12, 2017 22:17 IST

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