Aarushi trial: The mystery of the bloodstained, locked terrace door

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 11, 2012 19:49 hrs

A dentist colleague of Dr Rajesh Talwar told the Ghaziabad special court hearing the Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial that he had first discovered the blood stains on the lock and door of the Talwars’ terrace.

On Monday, Dr Rajiv Varshney, head of prosthodontics at the institute where Rajesh Talwar also taught, testified that he had taken the stairs up to the terrace by mistake — missing the Talwars’ flat below — when he chanced upon the stains. He had arrived at the accused couple’s Noida home shortly after hearing about Aarushi’s murder between 8-8.30 am on the morning of 16 May, 2008.

On seeing the stains, Varshney came down to the flat and told another dentist, Dr Rohit Kochar, about them. The two men then went up to inspect the locked terrace door together, whereupon they also found faint spots of blood on the stairs leading up to the terrace. A policeman joined them shortly, and was shown the locked, blood-stained, door: behind which, a day later, the Talwars’ manservant Hemraj’s putrefying corpse would be found.

Varshney’s testimony is important for the prosecution for several reasons. He is one of two witnesses (Dr Kochar is the other) whose statement was recorded under section 164 of the CrPC. Witnesses make these statements to a magistrate, rather than an investigator; they must also verify and sign them. Which means they must tell the trial court approximately what they told the magistrate.

Changes, therefore, are less common than under section 161. During this trial, the statements made to investigators under 161 — not bearing the witness’ signature — have as good as been called fabricated by the witnesses themselves. Add to this the refrain of several key prosecution witnesses, 'dhyan nahin hai', in reply to almost every significant question put to them with regard to what they might have said earlier.

Varshney’s testimony has a bearing on the circumstantial evidence in the case. The CBI has repeatedly alleged that Dr Rajesh Talwar tried to avoid opening the terrace door on the day Aarushi’s murder. This was to give the impression that the missing servant had fled after murdering his daughter, when in fact he was lying dead behind a locked door.

The court heard Varshney say that he went down to the flat along with Dr Kochar and the policeman after the three of them had seen the stains on the lock, door and stairs. Several people had gathered around the entrance of the flat, and Dr Talwar also came out. Varshney said Dr Talwar took a few steps towards the terrace but soon turned back and went into the flat. Aarushi’s body, which had been sent for post-mortem, arrived after this.

In the statement before magistrate, recorded earlier under section 164, Varshney had more details. When the doctors showed the policeman the stains, the cop said it was possible that the killer may have tried to escape via the terrace, or hide a weapon there. He told the doctors that fingerprint experts had been informed. This policeman, whose name Varshney does not know, also asked “someone” to bring the keys, but that no one brought them.

Although Varshney did not tell either the magistrate or the court that the Talwars were asked for the keys, the allegation is that this is implied — and that the couple did not provide them. Where were the keys? The defence has said the couple did not know.

What Varshney did tell the court (and before that, the magistrate) clearly, is that the police were shown the stains on the door. A cop even theorized as to how the stains may have got there. If the keys could not be found, why couldn’t the lock have been broken? The CBI says the Talwars had pointed the police in the wrong direction: away, presumably, from blood stains in a murder case.

Varshney’s cross examination could not take place on Monday because yet another member of the Ghaziabad legal fraternity had passed away. The court stopped working after the first half: ‘condolence ho gaya’.

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 avirook@gmail.com