Aarushi trial: A case full of holes

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 12, 2013 10:25 hrs

When did the trouble really start for Rajesh and Nupur Talwar — the dentist couple now being tried for the 2008 murder of their daughter Aarushi and servant Hemraj? When was it that the case against them began taking the shape in which it is being presented in a Ghaziabad courtroom with a broken dock?

The charges against the parents were crystallized in an October 2009 document written far away from the crime scene, at the Directorate of Forensic Sciences in Gandhinagar. The author of that document is likely to take the stand as a prosecution witness any time now. His name is Dr M.S. Dahiya, and he didn’t visit the scene in order to write his report.

It will be up to the court to decide whether Dahiya is allowed to testify. The defence is likely to object saying the scientist is really offering no “evidence”. That he is being put on the stand merely to forward a theory; one that, coming from him, will cloak the obvious shortcomings of the case under the blanket reasonable conclusions after a “scientific enquiry”.

The blanket is thin — and full of holes.

A premise is the starting point of any scientific theory and as any student of physics knows, a really small change in initial conditions can lead to colossal divergences in results. In this case, the premise the good Dr Dahiya relied on was false. His starting point was the “fact” that Hemraj’s blood was found in Aarushi’s room.

From there, sitting in his office in the dry state of Gujarat, he dreamt up a scenario that reads like a judgment rather than a “crime scene analysis”, the document’s actual title.

Dahiya was supplied with photographs, CDs, reports and statements, but he admits very early in the piece that these weren’t as reliable as a visit to the crime scene, one which he never made. The “fact” that Hemraj’s blood was found in Aarushi’s room can be traced to an error in a 2008 letter written by an SP which listed the seizures of items from Aarushi’s room.

A blood-stained pillow cover and pillow belonging to Hemraj were included, whereas these items were actually recovered from the servant’s room, not Aarushi’s.

The CBI did its best to establish the error as the truth, but failed rather publicly when the item itself was displayed in court: it still carried the original tag, which clearly said it was seized from Hemraj’s room.

I had spoken to Dahiya about his “premise” in July last year. He had told me that he had only gone by what was “provided” to him, in between lots of “I cannot remember(s)”.

In his analysis, Dahiya takes off from the point where Hemraj is in Aarushi’s room at a clearly inappropriate time: around midnight. “It has been attempted to be projected that Mr Hemraj was assaulted and killed on the rooftop”, he writes, “…The presence of the blood of Mr Hemraj on the pillow in the bedroom of Ms Aarushi, however, negates that plea conclusively.”

A key phrase in the CBI’s allegations is a charge of “dressing up” of the crime scene. This phrase appears in the para preceding the quote above, and has been in frequent use ever since. Another idea, that of Aarushi being killed by someone “close” to her appears in the same report.

Although psychology isn’t exactly Dahiya’s area, he wasn’t short of a little lecture on the subject: “The common/similar nature and dimensions of the injuries inflicted on both deceased establish the common origin of their assassin(s). This similarity also goes to prove that they were victims of similar anger or grievance against them. That is, both victims were probably part of some transaction that was enough of a provocation to enrage the assassin(s) to kill them with equal brutality.”

Dahiya came into the picture shortly after a new CBI team was installed to investigate the case—seen as going nowhere at the time. The new team carried out little investigation. Had its officers gone through the records as they were at the time, they would have found evidence clearly incriminating one of the Talwars’ employees, Krishna; on whose bedding, several flats away, there were traces of Hemraj’s blood detected.

Instead, this team began revisiting old witnesses and recording “improved” statements. Key among them was Dr Sunil Dohare, the doctor who conducted Aarushi’s post-mortem. Having certified that there was “no abnormality” in Aarushi’s genitals, Dohare gave several subsequent statements to the new team. Crucial among which was one made about a
month before Dahiya wrote his story. In September 2009, Dohare introduced (on being asked) three critical elements into the picture. The first was the unusual dilation of Aarushi’s vagina, something he hadn’t cared to record in his post-mortem report. (Dohare offered an absurd explanation for this omission to the trial court: this was a “subjective finding”, hence its wasn’t reported. Fact is that medical “findings” cannot, by definition, be subjective; they must be empirical and verifiable.)

Dohare had never conducted a post-mortem on a female before Aarushi, and scientific verification came from Ajay and Dinesh, two sweepers who had assisted him. Their statements were recorded on the same day as Dohare, confirming the dilation of the vagina. The purpose of the statements was to support the suggestion that Aarushi’s private parts were cleaned/tampered with after her death. The second piece was the introduction of a golf club as one of the murder weapons. Crime scene pictures of Hemraj’s room have a golf set in the background. But the set wasn’t complete. Sometime before May 2009, Nupur Talwar and a family friend, Ajay Chaddha, went to the deserted NOIDA flat to clean it and rid it of pests. They found a golf club in the loft, a fact that the Talwars communicated to the CBI some time before investigators sat down with Dohare in September and asked him: ‘could the blunt weapon have been a golf club’? Dohare said yes.

And since the Talwars were doctors, could the incisions to the necks of the victims have come from a surgical instrument? Dohare said yes once again. Now the CBI approached a second doctor—Dr Naresh Raj, a man the agency is currently unable to trace. Dr Raj conducted Hemraj’s post-mortem and repeated the answer about the surgical instrument when the question was put to him. Dr Raj hasn’t turned up as a prosecution witness even after summons: the CBI has told the court that he cannot be found.

Cut to October 2009, when Dohare, the sweepers and Raj’s statements are sent to Gujarat along with loads of other material. Dahiya then goes to work having been given his fictional starting point: that Hemraj’s blood was found on Aarushi’s pillow. The Gandhinagar scientist takes care to fit each of Dohare’s statements snugly into his masterpiece, peppering the narrative with pop psychology wherever possible. His conclusion is as follows: “Attending circumstances and evidence on record mandates that those keenly interested in the virtuosity (sic) and honour of Ms Aarushi and the Talwar family, could be behind this incident that appears to have its roots in the improper/immoral conduct of either or both of the deceased…”

Three days after Dahiya wrote the report, Dr Talwar got a call asking for the golf clubs. He told investigators they could come and pick them up any time; they came the next day. One murder weapon, some “subjective findings”, and a scientific theory were in place. The CBI’s closure report, the basis of the case, was as good as written.

In places, the authors of the closure report could be accused of plagiarizing from Dahiya’s work. A charge that may well stick because the error in the premise is repeated.

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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 avirook@gmail.com

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