Aarushi- Hemraj trial: more holes in prosecution's case
So far the prosecution has proved little against the Talwars who are accused of murdering their daughter and domestic help and then destroying evidence.
The Aarushi-Hemraj murder trial that is being heard by a special CBI court in Ghaziabad has only emphasized the agonizing mystery that persists over what actually happened on the night in May 2008 that left a teenager and a domestic help murdered in their flat in Noida.
The teenager’s parents – Rajesh and Nupur Talwar – have been charged with the double murder and of destroying evidence. Their long-drawn legal battle to dismiss the trial and re-investigate the case ended in June after the Supreme Court rejected Nupur Talwar’s plea.
Four months into the trial, many of CBI’s key witnesses have testified, continuing the pattern of contradictions that has defined the investigating agency’s findings in the case.
Driver Umesh Sharma, the maid Bharti Mandal, Rajesh’s former colleagues Rohit Kochhar and Rajiv Varshney, the doctor who performed Aarushi’s post-mortem Sunil Dohare, a former UP cop KK Gautam and forensic expert BK Mohapatra have testified.
All of them, crucial links to the story in the prosecution’s case built entirely on circumstantial evidence.
Sharma, , the last known witness to have seen Aarushi and Hemraj alive at the Talwar residence with Rajesh and Nupur, and now continues to be Talwars’ driver, was declared hostile by the CBI after he could not identify the alleged murder weapon – golf club number 5.
A couple months before the murders were committed, Sharma had left two golf clubs in Hemraj’s room. According to the CBI, the fatal head injuries caused by a blunt object could have been inflicted by club number 5. And their contention was that it was one of the two clubs that was placed in Hemraj’s room.
But with Sharma a hostile witness, there is no evidence the alleged murder weapon was indeed in Hemraj’s room on the night of the murders.
An equally crucial witness, the maid Bharti Mandal, the first to see the couple on the morning that Aarushi’s body was found, took the wind out of the prosecution’s sails when she told the court she was tutored by the CBI on what to say. In effect, her statement insinuating that the Talwars only pretended to be locked in when she arrived for work at around 6 am on 16 May stood discredited. The house was indeed locked from outside when she arrived. This leaves a big question mark on prosecution’s case that has ruled out the role of outsiders.
The prosecution is heavily relying on witness statements that point to what seem like attempts by the dentist to couple obstruct or mislead the investigation. Among key prosecution witnesses who have been called to testify on the conduct of the couple soon after the Aarushi’s body was discovered are two of Rajesh’s former colleagues – Kochhar and Varshney, a neighbor, and most damningly a former police officer KK Gautam.
Varshney and Kochhar were the first to notice blood stains on the stairs leading up to the terrace and the terrace door. They told the court that Rajesh, when told that there were blood stains on the stairs walked towards the terrace, but then turned around and returned to the flat. And that when he was asked for terrace keys, nothing came of it.
The most damaging testimony on the conduct of the Talwars’, however, has been that of retired cop KK Gautam who told the court that he was asked by a common friend Sushil Chaudhary, at the behest of Rajesh’s brother Dinesh, to use his influence to not mention‘rape’ in the post-mortem report. He told the court that he refused to concede to the request.
The highlights of the testimony of Dohare, the doctor conducted the post-mortem on Aarushi, included his statement to the court that the murder weapon could have been a golf club, and his observations on the state in which he found the private parts of the deceased teenager.
While the post-mortem report by Dohare recorded ‘no abnormal activity’, he told the court that it appeared to him that Aarushi’s private parts had been ‘manipulated’ and that the vaginal cavity was dilated. Asked by the defence why he had not recorded his finding in the post-mortem report, Dohare said these were his ‘subjective findings’ and therefore not recorded.
Given that Dohare, during the course of the investigation has repeatedly improved on his statements with every subsequent sitting with the CBI, how seriously the court will take his evidence remains to be seen.
In what remains to be a gaping hole in the prosecution’s case is material evidence to prove motive. As forensic expert BK Mahapatra’s testimony ultimately showed, no male DNA was found in Aarushi’s room.
The CBI’s Central Forensic Science Laboratory expert Mahapatra evidence to the court also brought up another controversial piece of evidence – the blood of Hemraj on the pillow cover of Krishna Thadarai, Rajesh’s compounder.
Mahapatra was part of the team that collected evidence from Krishna’s home in June 2008. The items seized included a pillow cover that was sent to the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD).
The explosive finding in the CDFD report, that confirmed the discovery of the blood one of the murdered victims on the Krishna’s pillow, has been dismissed by the prosecution as a typographical error. Based on what isn't clear yet.
Last week, the prosecution sought to submit ten additional documents to the court as evidence, a move that was objected to by the defence. Reason: It includes the all important letter from the CDFD admitting to the typographical error in its report. On Saturday, the court allowed the documents.
Next hearing in the case is scheduled for 5 October.
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Bhatia, also a senior advocate, has urged the court to seek a detailed report from the state government regarding FIRs registered, arrests made and steps taken against the perpetrators