Where the truth always walks out

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 20:24 hrs

Malice always walks into court during a criminal trial; and truth almost always walks out. The Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial being at a special court in Ghaziabad illustrates this each day the court sits, and Thursday was no different.

During his cross-examination, the then NOIDA superintendent of police, Mahesh Mishra--the seniormost policeman at the scene of the double murders in May 2008--said that Dr Rajesh Talwar told him he had locked his daughter Aarushi's room from the outside at about 11.30 pm on the night of the murders and kept the key with him.

Mishra added that Dr Talwar also told him that it was possible an intruder took the key from his room and let himself into Aarushi's room.

This scenario is outlandish: someone is let into the flat by the Talwar's murdered servant Hemraj; the murderer then slips into the Talwars' bedroom, where the dentist couple are asleep, slips out with the key with which he enters Aarushi's room, murders her, kills the servant, drags his body up to the terrace and comes back for a couple of swigs of Ballantine's whiskey.

This part of the story begins with the purported locking of Aarushi's door, which, said Mishra, Rajesh Talwar told him he did personally. The defence has argued that Mishra invented the story. At the heated hearing on Thursday, defence counsel Tanveer Ahmed Mir asked Mishra whether he had put this important fact down on paper anywhere in the first days of the investigastion. Mishra's best answer was that he had told his "superiors" about it.

The first time it is put on record is in Mishra's statement to the CBI nearly two months after the murders.

But if Mishra "invented" the scenario of Dr Talwar locking his daughter in from outside (incidentally, this was a hotel room-type lock, Aarushi could let herself out from the inside; no one could enter from without), then why did the Talwars place approximately the same scenario on record in a protest petition in a higher court?

So was Mishra lying when he said Rajesh Talwar told him he had locked Aarushi's room? He insisted he was not. But the defence's position, for this court, is that he was--it didn't seem to matter that the accused couple have said the opposite to another court. A murder trial is seldom about the whole truth and nothing but the truth, no matter how many times that oath is taken.

Mishra's statement to court had more than its share of inconsistencies, however. After suggesting that the Talwars prevented the opening of the terrace door, beyond which Hemraj's body lay, on the day Aarushi's murder was discovered, he admitted that while they didn't produce a key to the terrace, they never prevented the police from breaking the lock. That it wasn't broken, came down to the police not being able to find a "mechanic", on the first day. Mishra said he had ordered the dog squad on day one, but couldn't explain why his orders were never carried out even after the second body was disvcovered: he was too busy with arrangements for the impending visit of the Prime Minister.

Returning to the issue of how someone might have entered Aarushi's room, Mishra admitted that it was possible to do so through the toilet that had a door leading out to the hallway. The toilet attached to Aarushi's room was accessible to guests without them having to go through her room. So entry was clearly possible without a key if the toilet wasn't locked from the inside.

Why is all this important? It is important because the ridiculously poor police work at the very beginning of the case has led to a situation where practically no hard evidence was collected from a crime scene that was full of bloody fingerprints and footprints: one of the murder weapons--the knife that slit the throats of the victims--has never been found; the other has morphed from khukri with slight blood stains to a golf club with "less dirt" on it.

In the absence of material, circumstances become important. Hence the debate over the key. And hence the relentless emphasis on the "behaviour" of the accused.

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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 avirook@gmail.com

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