The purported murder weapon in the Aarushi-Hemraj case -- one of two golf clubs -- have become the focus of attention in the trial in the special court in Ghaziabad.
The clubs are from a set of 12 that Aarushi's father Dr Rajesh Talwar, a novice golfer, owned. The set was sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) for examination, after which the lab reported that there was a "negligible amount" of dirt lodged in the cavity of the numbers engraved on two, as compared with the others.
It is from this finding, that the CBI drew the inference that two of the clubs were "cleaned" by the accused couple, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. But the scientific expert who carried out the tests failed to tell the court that less dirt meant evidence of cleaning.
This, however, was a minor problem. The CBI's closure report, filed in 2010 -- and the document which forms the basis of the case against the dentist couple, identifies a different golf club altogether as the murder weapon.
The murder was committed using a 5 iron, says the closure report. Its dimensions matched the wounds that killed Hemraj and Aarushi, the agency claimed. But this isn't one of the clubs that had less dirt on it than the others.
The two that the CFSL's Deepak Tanwar told the court about were a wood (the type of club that golfers use to drive balls far) and a 4 iron.
Para 21 of the closure report says no blood or body fluid was found ion the golf clubs, but that the "dimensions of the striking surface of golf stick bearing number 5 were identical" to the dimensions of the injuries sustained by the victims.
So what the court heard was a non sequitor: two golf clubs had less dirt than the others (were cleaned to cover up the crime, if you go with the CBI argument), but the murder weapon was a third club on which the forensic expert found nothing unusual.
If a golf club was the murder weapon, which one was it?
The only way to explain one's way out of this has been used once berfore by the CBI: a typographical error. Forensic evidence that Hemraj's blood was found in the bedding of one of the early suspects in the case, Krishna, has been blamed on a typo.
If the CBI goes by the description provided by its expert without the convenience of an inconsistency, then it would have to admit that the "murder weapon" that the Talwars handed over was in fact not cleaned.
One piece of circumstantial evidence -- that suggested the couple tried to cover up their alleged crime -- would therefore go out the window of the courtroom in Ghaziabad.
The agency may now say that the closure report got it wrong/left it ambiguous. That really, when it said "bearing number 5" it meant "exhibit number 5" (a supposedly dirt-free 4 iron).
So which golf club was it that killed Aarushi and Hemraj? Was it the 4 iron that was wiped? Or was it the 5, whose "dimensions matched the wounds" but was cleaned? This is the question the CBI will face over the course of the trial.
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Avirook Sen has been a journalist and writer for over 20 years. A former resident editor of Hindustan Times (Mumbai) and editor of Mid-Day, he has written with passion and insight on subjects as varied as sport and terrorism for top publications across the world. His first book, Looking for America, was published in 2010 to enthusiastic reviews. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org