The Allahabad high court is on Thursday expected to give its decision on a plea of the dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar against the life sentence awarded to them for the murder of their teenage daughter, Aarushi, and domestic help Hemraj.
Despite Talwars’ conviction, the 2008 double murder that gripped the country still remains a mystery, spawning books, films and countless conspiracy theories.
A look at the key turning points in the 11-year-old case:
Aarushi’s body is found: The 14-year-old is found dead in her bedroom at the Talwars’ Jalvayu Vihar apartment in Noida on the night of May 15, 2008. The Delhi Public School, Noida, student was found with her throat slit and stab wounds to her head. Her parents, Nupur and Rajesh Talwar, and their live-in domestic help Hemraj were believed to be in the house at the time of the murder.
Another body: Hemraj, who was from Nepal and was missing at the time, was the immediate suspect. But a day later, his body was found on the terrace of the Talwar’s apartment block. Retired police officer KK Gautam claimed he discovered Hemraj’s body, which had begun to decompose, on the terrace. The needle of suspicion now shifted to Rajesh and Nupur.
Police’s version: Rajesh Talwar murdered Aarushi and Hemraj after he found them in an “objectionable” position, police said. The honour killing angle was denounced by Aarushi’s school friends and even the National Women’s Commission, which sought an explanation from the police over the character assassination of the teen.
Police under fire: It was a huge 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 the then inspector general of police Gurdarshan Singh even got Aarushi’s name wrong and referred to her as Shruti during a press conference.
CBI takes over, another botched investigation: On May 31, 2008, the CBI took over the probe that exonerated the dentist couple and pointed finger at Talwars’ assistant Krishna and domestic helps, Rajkumar and Vijay. The agency, 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. After another botched up probe, the CBI handed over the investigation in 2009 to a new team headed by AGL Kaul, described as an ace investigator.
Citing critical gaps in investigations, Kaul’s team recommended the case be closed and named Rajesh Talwar as the sole suspect based on circumstantial evidence but didn’t charge him for lack of evidence. The Talwars opposed the closure of the investigation in 2011, saying Rajesh was innocent. A court also rejected the CBI’s claim that there was not enough evidence and ordered proceedings against the Talwars.
The ‘missing’ murder weapon: 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.
A book and a movie: Seven years after the double murders, journalist Avirook Sen’s book Aarushi once again thrust the case in the limelight. Sen, a former Hindustan Times editor, pointed to glaring loopholes in the probe. He also questioned judge Shyam Lal’s motives, also known as ‘Saza (punishment) Lal’ for his high rate of conviction – in sentencing the Talwars and the CBI’s alleged flawed procedures.
Sen’s account set the tone for the Hindi film Talvar, starring Konkana Sen and Irrfan Khan. The Meghna Gulzar-directed film portrayed the murders and the subsequent events from the perspective of several witnesses. In the film, the teenager was named Shruti Tandon, perhaps a throwback to the press conference when a top police officer repeatedly referred to Aarushi as Shruti.
The trial: According to case details, on the night of May 15, Rajesh Talwar heard some noise from his daughter’s room. When he pushed the ajar door he allegedly found Aarushi and Hemraj in an intimate position. Enraged, he bludgeoned them to death with a golf club. The couple’s failure to explain the double murders in their house stacked up as crucial circumstantial evidence, leading to their conviction.
Conviction: Rajesh and Nupur were convicted and sentenced to life by a CBI court in Ghaziabad on November 26, 2013. Legal experts questioned the verdict as judge Shyam Lal based the conviction on a chain of 26 circumstances that pointed to the guilt of Talwars. Many questions that hard forensic evidence could have resolved remain unanswered. Lal also failed to mention the motive behind the double murder except alluding to grave and sudden provocation after Talwars witnessed “their 14-year-old daughter and domestic help Hemraj in a compromising position”.
‘Freaks in history of mankind’: Lal, while pronouncing the verdict, said Nupur and Rajesh Talwar were “freaks in the history of mankind, where the father and mother became the killer of their own progeny”. He also said the Talwars were also guilty “of secreting and obliterating the evidence of the commission of the murders to screen themselves from legal punishment”. The Talwars challenged their conviction in the Allahabad high court, saying they were framed. The verdict is likely on Thursday.