Parents were 'normal but tense', says first cop on the scene

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 05:33 hrs

Constable Pawan Kumar of NOIDA's sector 20 police station had completed his night rounds in his area and just deposited his rifle when a gateman from the Jalvayuvihar housing complex arrived to say there had been a murder. This was early on the morning of 16 May 2008.

Kumar got to the scene of the crime--the flat of the accused couple, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar--by 6.30 am and stayed less than half an hour. He told the special court hearing the trial that Dr Talwar let him in and then showed him to Aarushi's room. She lay there covered in a white sheet, he said, but her head was exposed. Her throat had been slit.

Kumar got on the phone to his superior when he saw the body, and other policemen arrived soon after. Kumar observed two other things during his brief stay in the Talwars' flat: that an "aged couple" arrived when he was there. (Aarushi's maternal grandparents live in the same compex, and came as soon as they heard the news.) He also said that the people in the house were "normal but tense".

The recording of that phrase, "normal but tense", appears to be the only reason Kumar was called in as a witness. In the CBI's criminal psycholgy book, at least as far as this trial is concerned, if you are "normal" after your daughter has been murdered, you are clearly not grieving; however, you will be "tense" because you are guilty. Hence the compact "normal but tense".

The phrase wasn't something that Kumar communicated in any manner to anyone at the time of the murder. During his cross-examination on Wednesday, Kumar admitted he hadn't mentioned it to his superior when he called him from the scene; neither did he record this observation in the general diary.

The phrase first came up when the CBI's investigators summoned the constable to their office more than a year after the double murders. It was there, before the case's current investigating officers, that the policeman purportedly used the words in a statement.

The statement was never shown to him, said Kumar. In any case, it was in English, a language he said he studied till "class six or class eight".

Throughout the trial, It has been a pattern with the prosecution to try and establish Aarushi's parents' guilt by getting witnesses to say they were not grieving. Several prosecution witnesses have told the court that the Talwars were not weeping. Some have said they were. In effect, the prosecution is asking the trial court to decide a code of behaviour for grieving victims, or, conversely, or write the rules on what to look for on the faces of perpetrators.

The subjectivity of the observer doesn't seem to be a concern with investigators in this case. In fact, it has been stretched much further than mere remarks on facial expression or behaviour, into dangerously unscientific territory. About six months ago, the doctor who conducted Aarushi's post-mortem told this court that none of his reports included what he said during his testimony because some of his findings were "subjective". (Findings, by definition, cannot be subjective.) Those "findings" had the embedded suggestion that Aarushi's private parts were cleaned after she was murdered. Who would do this but her parents?

And who would be "normal" after their only daughter's throat had been slit? Only parents who were also "tense", as described in the version of a fresh police recruit, who was the first cop on the scene.

The rotund Pawan Kumar answered with Wednesday's key phrase when the CBI counsel asked him about the behaviour of the people in the flat. The defence objected, pleading that this was a leading question, but was quickly overruled.

Kumar, like other witnesses from the lower constabulary, recalled very little apart from the operative "normal but tense" when being cross-examined. He didn't know who he was out on his rounds with on the night of the murder, or even the name of his superintendent of police. In fact, he remebered so little that the judge gave him some food for thought: eat less, said the judge, you might remember more.

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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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