How did Aarushi's vaginal swab samples get contaminated?

Last Updated: Wed, Jun 12, 2013 19:25 hrs

The special CBI court trying the dentist couple Rajesh and Nupur Talwar was to have heard arguments on an application seeking documents and permission for the inspection of evidence by defence witnesses, but that was put off till Thursday. Instead, the Talwars filed a list of 13 witnesses, they would like to call in defence.

That's exactly a third of the number the CBI used to make its case against the Talwars, but the list is very interesting.

One name in it, stands out: Dr Richa Saxena. Saxena was the government doctor who had examined the slides of Aarushi's vaginal swabs in May 2008. The chain of custody of the slides was compromised, and this led to one forensic lab coming to the conclusion that the swab samples it had received could not have been from the biological daughter of the Talwars. Ergo, they must have been swapped, or severely contaminated.

In statements made to investigators, Saxena had steadfastly maintained that whatever happened to the slides, didn't happen on her watch. She was listed as a prosecution witness, but the CBI chose not to call her: she may have exposed contaminant links in the chain of custody. So now, the Talwars have pleaded with the court to issue summons to her.

But wait, that isn't all. Richa Saxena is also the wife of Dr Naresh Raj. Raj conducted the post mortem on Hemraj, the Talwar's murdered servant, and as a prosecution witness a few months ago, stunned the court by saying erections can be sustained after death. And that he knew this not from reading a scientific journal, but from the experiences in his own marriage.

Now, his wife may be summoned to testify--for the other side.

An even more interesting witness is being called upon by the Talwars: Arun Kumar, joint director CBI at the time of the murders, and the man who led the investigation at a time when all suspects, including Rajesh Talwar and the servants were in custody. It was Kumar who conducted a sound test in the Talwars' flat to verify the couple's claim that they slept undisturbed in the adjoining room as their daughter was murdered. Kumar subsequently went on national television to exonerate the Talwars. But the scandal over the slides that Richa Saxena had first handled reportedly resulted in his being taken off the case.

The team that took over from Kumar, is the one prosecuting the Talwars now. Through the trial the new team has tried to discredit almost everything Kumar's investigation had found. Should he come in to testify -- and if he stands by earlier statements that the Talwars are innocent -- then he will be opposing the powerful CBI establishment. Kumar isn't with the CBI any longer, he serves as additional DG law and order in his parent cadre in Lucknow -- but he is still a policeman.

Other witnesses listed include well-known names from the field of forensics. Dr R.K. Sharma former head of forensics at AIIMS, whose services were employed in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, is being called upon to provide expert opinion on the murder weapon. Dr S.L. Vaya, who conducted brain-mapping tests on the Talwars at the Forensic Science Lab, Gandhinagar is also being sought by the Talwars.

But these witnesses, and the documents the defence seeks, will come into the trial only after the prosecution's objections are dealt with -- and if it pleases the court. A decision should come this week.

Read more:

Could one of the servants have killed Aarushi Talwar?

Aarushi Trial: Talwars in the dock

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

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