Thus far in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial, the prosecution has claimed that there was no blood trail leading down from the accused, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar’s Noida home.
The restriction of the blood trail to the Talwars’ second floor flat and its terrace suggested that no one left the building after committing the murders — at least via the stairs going down. If this was the case, went the argument, then the accused must be guilty: there were four people in the flat; two were murdered; there was no sign of anyone leaving, so the involvement of intruders was ruled out. This eliminated everyone except the dentist couple, who are now on trial for the murders of their daughter Aarushi and manservant Hemraj.
Punish Rai Tandon, a software consultant who lived a floor below Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, deposed in the special court in Ghaziabad hearing the trial on Friday. Tandon told the court there were blood stains on the steps leading down from his flat.
During his cross-examination, Tandon was shown a number of photographs from the crime scene taken by investigators on June 1, 2008. A team of CBI investigators and forensic experts had visited the building that day to collect evidence. They marked various places from where samples were collected with numbers.
One of these was an area on the stairs with the number ‘10’, from where traces of blood were collected. Photographs with the markings visible were taken at each place as the team proceeded. The sample marked ‘10’ appears on the seizure memo from that day as item no. 10, but the memo doesn’t specify which part of the stairs it was taken from.
On Friday, Tandon identified the photograph with the ‘10’ marked on the stairs. It was from his floor: one floor below the Talwars. The software consultant's testimony therefore says that a blood trail led not just up to the terrace, but also down toward the exit of the building.
This is a critical fact in the case: if no one appears to have left the flat, then the Talwars are guilty by elimination. If there is evidence to the contrary — blood on a floor below, for instance — the scenario changes dramatically. What Punish Tandon, a witness for the prosecution interviewed by the CBI several times (including twice at a “safe house”), told the court challenged a basic premise of the CBI's case. If a blood trail led down from the Talwars’ flat, how could the possibility of intruders be ruled out?
There is a second thing to consider. The CBI knew exactly where the photographs that Tandon was shown were taken. Why has the agency insisted that there was nothing to suggest anyone left the building?
A few weeks ago, prosecution witness Dr B.K. Mohapatra, the CFSL forensic scientist who helped collect the samples during the June 1 seizure, was also shown these photographs and asked whether he knew which part of the building they were from. He said that he did not know.
In general, Dr Mohapatra remembered very little -- his testimony is a series of "dhyaan nahi hai
"s. He was also the man who testified that Hemraj’s blood-stained pillow cover was found in Aarushi’s room — a claim the prosecution had to admit as false before the court when Dr Mohapatra was asked to read out the tag attached to the item. The pillow cover (and pillow) was recovered from the servant’s room, not Aarushi’s.
The prosecution witness who observed that there was no blood trail leading down from the Talwars’ flat was the UP government officer Sanjay Chauhan. Chauhan is the avid morning-walker who told the court he drove 28 km each way to take his morning walk in the Talwars’ neighbourhood. He has nothing to do with the case in an official capacity. His contributions to it have been his deposition that the parents showed “no grief” and that there were no blood stains in the stairs going down from the flat.
Punish Tandon’s testimony settles the issue of the location of the blood stains. The photographs he was shown of the landing and stairs in front of his home contain not just the number of his house, but the usual items that make an entrance welcoming: potted money plants; a wall hanging and so on. On the stairs in the same picture, however, is evidence of a murder one floor above.
Tandon’s testimony suggests the blood trail from the murders leads out of the Talwars' flat, not just into it. Since one of its witnesses has said this, the prosecution will probably explain how this came to be in the coming days.More on Aarushi trial:
Aarushi Trial: CBI's Teacher's Day
Aarushi trial: Did the CBI dictate witness' statement?
Maid's testimony adds to the mystery
What happened in the flat?
CBI 1.0 versus CBI 2.0
CBI’s (pillow) cover blown
Suspicious servants, blood stains and a reckless typo
The forgetful forensics man
Screaming advocates and a media-friendly lawyer!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org