Aarushi trial: A call traced to Punjab brings an old suspect into question

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 07, 2012 18:06 hrs

In its 2010 closure report on the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case, the CBI had made a startling revelation that begged many questions: it had claimed that the mobile phone that Hemraj had been given by the Talwars was active in Punjab well after the murders. This raised a number of questions: how did the phone get there? Who was using it? The investigators did not provide any answer to these questions.

On Wednesday, the prosecution was asked a third question: How did the CBI know that the phone was indeed in Punjab? The witness for the prosecution had the answer: His cross-examination suggests the CBI could not have known the whereabouts of the mobile phone.

M.N. Vijayan, nodal officer for Tata Teleservices was the man who had provided the call details for the phone that the Talwars’ servant Hemraj would use. On being questioned by defence counsel Tanveer Ahmed Mir, Vijayan told the trial court that he had provided the CBI details only for the one critical call made to the Tata number on the morning of the murders, 16 May 2008. He also said that the phone was never placed under surveillance.

That call, made by Nupur Talwar to Hemraj’s phone just after 6 am was answered and disconnected — but obviously not by Hemraj, whose body lay on the terrace of the Talwars’ flat.

The defence says Nupur Talwar made the call because she could not find Hemraj in the house; she hadn’t yet seen Aarushi’s body. The prosecution argues that the call was made to put the cops off the Talwars’ scent: they had the phone and deliberately called it to create an alibi, as if the killer was elsewhere, using the servant’s phone.

In fact, the phone was never found: the closure report merely says it was active somewhere in Punjab. There could have been only one way of getting this information, and that is finding out from the service provider. The records provided by Tata Teleservices show no activity on the phone beyond that early morning call on 16 May. So how did the CBI know the phone was in Punjab at a later date?

That one call is intriguing in another way. Hemraj’s phone was being used by someone within range of the cell tower at Nithari village — the flats in Jalvayuvihar, where the Talwars lived are covered by this tower. But so did the other suspects — the Talwars’ clinic attendant, Krishna, once a prime suspect, lived in the same.

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Currently a visiting fellow at INSEAD, France, 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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