For the first time in the Aarushi murder trial, the focus turned on the servants who were once suspected of killing the teenager and the Talwar couple’s domestic help, Hemraj.
Key among the suspects cleared in the CBI’s closure report on the case was Krishna Thadarai. The others were Rajkumar and Vijay Mandal. Krishna was employed at Dr Rajesh Talwar’s clinic, and lived in the servant’s quarters of friends of the Talwars a few houses away from the dentist couple’s NOIDA flat. Krishna and Hemraj knew each other well.
As the accused, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar stood in the rickety dock of the Ghaziabad trial court. The judge heard the cross-examination of forensic scientist Dr B.K. Mohapatra. Dr Mohapatra was asked about a seizure he had participated in from Krishna’s home on 14 June, 2008, a little less than a month after the murders. Krishna had been arrested the day before; and Rajesh Talwar had been in custody for three weeks.
Among the items seized from Krishna’s home were seven pairs of trousers belonging to him; a khukri and sheath; and the most important piece of all: a pillow cover with “suspicious” spots on it, according to the seizure memo, that needed to be examined by a laboratory. Dr Mohapatra was a signatory to the seizure memo.
Dr Mohapatra’s tests on these items did not yield anything conclusive. There was blood on the khukri, but it did not appear to be of human origin. The trousers were clean. The suspicious pillow cover, however, did reveal traces of blood. As to who it might have come from, the forensic scientist could not tell, because no DNA sequence could be generated.
Dr Mohapatra was asked why none of Krishna’s upper garments were collected during the seizures. He replied that these weren’t required: it “wasn’t necessary that a person who commits a murder must have blood on his shirt.”
But the question left hanging was this: what about the blood on the pillow cover? Now, the scene shifts to Hyderabad, home of India’s premier forensic laboratory, CDFD, where the samples were sent for further tests.
The CDFD made a telling revelation. It reported that Hemraj’s blood was found on the pillow cover recovered from Krishna’s room.
How did Hemraj’s blood get to Krishna’s room?
This is a fact that appears to have gone unnoticed by the CBI until the Talwars filed for revision at the Allahabad High Court. In an order rejecting this plea on 18 March, 2011, the high court accepted a curious explanation from the CBI: the CDFD report apparently contained a typographical error.
That a matter of life and death can rest on the movement of an errant finger on a keypad is worrying enough, but there is something even more interesting about the error and its subsequent correction.
The Allahabad High Court accepted the CBI’s submission that this was a typing error six days before the Hyderabad laboratory admitted as much. The letter from CDFD Hyderabad that might have turned this case on its head is signed off saying: “The inconvenience caused in this regard regretted.”
This was on 24 March, 2011. The report that stood till that time was dated November 6, 2008. For over two years, Hemraj’s blood connected Krishna to the murders, and the investigators said nothing. They suffered the “inconvenience”.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org