Tangled web

Published : Feb 11, 2011 00:00 IST

The Aarushi case remains a mystery, and the role of the investigating agencies is open to question.

in New Delhi

THE investigation into the Aarushi Talwar murder case came to an abrupt end in the last week of December. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) closed the case, citing lack of conclusive evidence and inability to establish motives for the double murder. It submitted a closure report in the court of the Special Magistrate, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

Aarushi, 14, a student of Class IX in Delhi Public School, Noida, was found murdered in her room at her parents' house on May 16, 2008. She was the daughter of a dentist couple based in Noida, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. A day after, the body of Hemraj, the family's domestic help, was found on the terrace of the house in a putrefied state. Both had their throats slit and a blunt injury on the forehead.

After a week-long investigation, the Noida police arrested Rajesh Talwar. Several theories were put forward to explain the case, none of which was substantiated. The police suggested that Rajesh may have killed his daughter and his servant because he found out that they shared intimate relations.

The case was handed over to the CBI on June 1. The agency's investigations led to the arrest of Krishna Thadarai, another domestic help of the Talwars, and Rajkumar, who worked as a domestic help for a friend of the family, Praful Durrani.

Later Talwar was released on bail by the CBI, which said that the scientific examination results could not connect him with the crime and that judicial custody remand of the accused Rajesh Talwar is not required in the interest of justice. The other suspects were also released on bail.

The closure report has given a clean chit to both Krishna and Rajkumar, but not Rajesh Talwar. It says: The investigation revealed several suspicious actions by the parents post occurrence, but circumstantial evidence collected during investigation has critical and substantial gaps. There is absence of a clear-cut motive and incomplete understanding of the sequence of events and non-recovery of one weapon of offence and their link to either the servants or the parents. It is for this reason that Rajesh Talwar could not be charge sheeted. The report also says: The U.P. police during their investigation had suspected Dr Rajesh Talwar to have committed the crime due to grave and sudden provocation on finding his daughter in a compromising position with Hemraj.

Misrepresentation of facts

However, the report, of which Frontline has a copy, is fraught with inconsistencies. It tries to build on the initial police hypothesis that Rajesh killed Hemraj and Aarushi because he suspected they were on intimate terms. But it does not have all its facts right. It says that Aarushi's hymen was ruptured, had an old tear and was fimbriated. It adds that the vaginal orifice was unusually large and the mouth of the cervix was visible.

However, the post mortem report, also accessed by Frontline, does not say any of this. Indeed, the post mortem says that no signs of rape or sexual act were visible.

The CBI report says that Aarushi had a blunt injury on her forehead and also in the occipital region. However, the post mortem report does not mention any injury in her occipital region. This is a significant point since the blunt injury suffered by both the victims was caused, the CBI suspected, by a golf stick used by Rajesh Talwar.

Nupur and Rajesh Talwar alleged that the closure report fabricated some of the statements that they supposedly made to the police and then the CBI. One point centred round the keys to Aarushi's room. The girl locked the room from inside every night while her parents kept a duplicate key. Nupur Talwar told Frontline that on the night of the murder she had gone to switch on the Internet router in a sleepy state and had left the keys hanging on her door and that this was how the killers might have got access to her room. This I have told the police several times and it is also there in my statement, she said. Yet, the CBI report said that Aarushi's parents could not explain where the keys to the room were or whether she left the door open or not.

The report says that Dr Praful Durrani saw Rajkumar at around 12-30 p.m. that night. Durrani refutes this, saying that he must have seen Rajkumar at around 11-30 p.m on May 15. A gap of an hour is significant as the post mortem says that Aarushi was killed sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. on May 16. The lawyer for the Talwars, Rebecca M. John, says that the timings in the sequence and reconstruction of the events was fabricated to strengthen the police hypothesis and to implicate Aarushi's parents.

DNA and fingerprints

The lack of proper examinations during investigations has drawn criticism. Out of 26 fingerprints collected by the police, 24 were found to be too smudged to be used as evidence. Many other items collected from the scene of the crime, such as bedsheets and glasses, were not sent for examination. After the CBI took over the case, the fingerprints were sent to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, or CDFD, Hyderabad, which did not find any conclusive evidence against any of the accused. Many people, including Aarushi's parents, campaigned to get the evidence examined through Touch DNA' technology, which has reportedly been used successfully in many international cases. The CBI said that there were no provisions in India to get the evidence examined through this technology.

However, a DNA-testing scientist and a former employee with the CDFD, G.V. Rao, wrote in his blog: This blog comes after convincing myself that inappropriate advice and lack of ability from so-called DNA experts of the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, or CDFD, Hyderabad, has led CBI to get placed in such difficult state of affairs in the Aarushi Case. The foremost point of consideration is that the so-called experts were not experienced enough in Forensic DNA testing, but are qualified in Microbiology and Silk Worm Genetics and they do not possess any Forensic Science qualifications. Simply they are not aware that mixtures of DNA contamination need to be handled by experienced experts and not by any tom, dick or harry. The CBI was grossly misled by the CDFD to believe that Touch DNA test' would not be useful in coming to a conclusion. How did the CDFD realise that the samples in the Aarushi case were contaminated without actually testing the crime scene samples?

Speaking to Frontline over the phone, he said: Touch DNA is possible in India. In fact, I have tested samples using this technology in CDFD itself in 1995 in the Magunta Subbarami Reddy case. [Reddy, a liquor baron, was a member of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh who was killed by the Maoists.] It is just the incompetence of a few people who tested the samples that led to complete destruction of Aarushi's case. The specialists who tested the samples were not specialised in DNA testing at all and do not have enough experience. If they could not do it properly, the samples could have been sent to any good laboratory elsewhere in the world.

The CDFD website www.cdfd.org.in mentions that the three scientists who were involved in testing the samples were not DNA experts: Dr Nagaraju J is an expert in Molecular Genetics; Dr Madhusudan Reddy Nandineni is an expert in Genomics and profiling applications; and Dr Gowrishankar J is a bacterial genetics expert.

Police failure

The Uttar Pradesh police, who first handled the case, must accept primary responsibility for the failure to nab the guilty. Conventional evidence such as fingerprints and blood marks were not properly examined. After the CBI took over, the investigating team was replaced midway, without giving any reason. Neither of the two CBI teams had the advantage of having been at the scene of the crime when the evidence was fresh; the first took over after about a fortnight of the crime.

The closure report says that the weapon used to slit the throats of the victims could not be found and that this was one of the reasons for closing the case. It says: The injuries to the neck of both the victims were caused by small and sharp weapon (small surgical instrument) by a surgically trained person in a precise manner. This statement clearly hints at the suspected involvement of Rajesh Talwar, who is a dentist. However, the report also repeatedly mentions that the only expert committee constituted by the first CBI team had concluded that the cut marks could have been made by a khukri. A khukri was recovered from Krishna but was not sent for DNA testing. This, according to Rebecca John, is criminal as a khukri can deliver both sharp and blunt injuries, as were seen on the bodies of both the victims.

The CBI report says that a golf stick, which was collected from Rajesh Talwar's house almost two years after the incident, could be one of the murder weapons as it can be used to inflict a blunt injury. Two out of a whole golf set of golf sticks at the Talwar home, the CBI says, were unusually clean, as if they were cleaned with a particular intent.

In reply, Rebecca John said: First you collect the golf stick after two years from the new residence of the Talwars. Even during the shifting of house from Noida, police personnel monitored all the belongings. And suddenly one day, the CBI thought the golf stick is the murder weapon.

Nupur Talwar said: Rajesh never played in the course. He used to just practise golf intermittently with one or two sticks and he used to take those sticks. That is why they may have been clean as he never used the whole golf set.

The CBI report says only a plywood wall separated Aarushi's room from that of her parents. The implicit suggestion is that any noise from Aarushi's room could easily be heard in the Talwars' bedroom. However, Rebecca John said: The complete sound reconstruction with switched-on air conditioners in both the rooms was done by the first CBI team led by Arun Kumar. It found that the sound from both the rooms could not be heard. It is false that the rooms were separated by a plywood wall. The plywood covering was just for beautification and the walls of both the rooms were regular brick and cement walls.

As for Krishna and Rajkumar, the report says that there was no evidence against them except the narco analysis report, which was not reliable. In the case of Rajesh Talwar, however, narco analysis results were accepted.

The CBI report says nothing about which of the two victims was killed first.

The Talwars oppose the closure of the case. They say that the report not only is inconsistent but contains false proclamations. Nupur Talwar said that it would take much more for them to get a sense of closure of this case as it meant the loss of their only child.

There are many unanswered questions in the case. Why was the first CBI team changed at an important juncture ? Why was no action taken against the Noida police officers for their slipshod investigation and sensationalisation of the case?

Meanwhile, story mills have been working at such a pace that no longer are the lines demarcating fact and fiction clear. Musings of public figures have also added to the murky waters. For example, the writer Shobhaa De tweeted: Is it true Nupur is not Aaroshi's biological mother? Will the CBI confirm? If Nupur isn't her real mom, then who is? Why r we kept in the dark? Rebecca John says that Nupur Talwar immediately sent all relevant documents regarding Aarushi's birth to the writer thus proving the reality' of her bond to her daughter.

How many reel and real investigators must be silenced before we really find out what happened to Aarushi?

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