Transcript: 194. The Noida Double Murder of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade | India

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On the 16th of May 2008, 35-year-old Bharati Mandal arrived at Flat number L 32 in Jal Vayu Vihar, Noida, India where she worked as a housemaid for the Talwar family. The front security gate was locked, and the live-in servant, Hemraj did not open as he usually did. She rang the doorbell, and her employer, Dr Nupur Talwar came to the door, confused as to where Hemraj was. 


Within moments, the scene had escalated into chaos, when, as Bharati entered the house, Nupur and her husband, Rajesh discovered the body of their 13-year-old daughter, Aarushi, tucked under a blanket on her bed, with her throat slit. 


With their manservant, 45-year-old Hemraj, nowhere to be found, the initial assumption was that he had murdered Aarushi. But soon, his body was discovered, having suffered the same fate as his employer’s daughter.


The only other two people inside the apartment, were Nupur and Rajesh, but were they capable of killing their own daughter? This story divided India, and even though the case has gone through the courts people still wonder: who killed Aarushi and Hemraj?


>>Intro Music

Dr Rajesh Talwar and Dr Nupur Talwar, both practicing dentists, lived in Noida, India. Their only daughter, Aarushi was born on the 24th of May 1994 and attended Delhi Public School. She had a close relationship with her parents and didn’t want for anything. 


Rajesh and Nupur co- owned two dental practices – one in Noida and another in Delhi – with another couple, Anita and Praful Durrani. They all worked at the Noida practice together, Rajesh Talwar and Anita Durrani typically clocked in in the mornings and Praful Durrani and Nupur Talwar took the afternoon shifts. Nupur also worked at the Fortis Hospital where her husband, Rajesh was the head of the dental department. In addition, he lectured at the ITS dental college and was well-respected in his field.


The Talwar family lived in an apartment in Jalvayu Vihar, Sector 25, Noida. They lived well within their means and theirs was a modest home. Neighbours in their apartment building were retired air force and naval officers, and although comfortably middleclass, it was by no means luxurious. 


Like most Indian families of some means, the Talwars had a live-in domestic servant. In 2008, Yam Prasad ‘Hemraj’ Banjade, a migrant from Nepal, had been working for the family for a couple of months. Whatever money he made, he sent home to his family in Nepal. The Talwars also had a maid, Bharati Mandal. Hemraj did the cooking and general housekeeping, while Bharati took care of cleaning, and also took instruction from Hemraj. She started working for the Talwars at the beginning of May and was still finding her feet.


On Thursday, the 15th of May 2008, Rajesh Talwar lectured at the ITS Dental College all day, till 3:30, and then took a shift at the hospital. After working the morning shift at her dental practice, Nupur Talwar picked their daughter Aarushi up from school at 2:30. They went home and had lunch with Rajesh’s brother’s wife, Vandana. Hemraj had cooked Palak Paneer – a popular Indian dish. However, this was the first time Aarushi had ever tried it. Together with Hemraj they all joked about Aarushi preferring pizza, and Hemraj said it was nice she finally tried something decent. After lunch Vandana exited with Nupur and Aarushi as Nupur was heading back to work, planning to drop Aarushi at her tutor for the afternoon.


Nupur worked at the Fortis Hospital from 4:30 to 7pm and picked Aarushi up from her class on the way home, arriving at 7:30. Rajesh’s driver dropped him off at home at 9:30, then drove to Nupur’s parent’s home in the same housing complex where he parked the car. This was the usual arrangement, seeing as there was no secure parking at the Talwar’s apartment building. The driver returned to give Rajesh the keys and handed his boss’ bag to Hemraj. Looking into the apartment, he saw that Rajesh, Nupur and Aarushi were having dinner together. This was the last time anyone other than the Talwars saw Aarushi and Hemraj alive.


The rest of the evening routine is mostly based on testimony by Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. With Aarushi’s birthday coming up, they had ordered her birthday present, and it arrived via courier that day. Nupur persuaded Rajesh that they could give it to her, as an early birthday celebration. After dinner, they all went to Aarushi’s room so she could open her gift. It was a SONY DSC-W130 digital video camera. Aarushi was over the moon and took some photos and videos, the last one logged at 10 past 10.


After the impromptu celebration, they all settled down and got ready for bed. At 11pm, Rajesh reportedly asked Nupur to turn on the internet router, which was located in Aarushi’s room. Aarushi was still awake, reading in bed. Nupur told her to wrap it up and said goodnight. Rajesh took a phone call from the US on the landline, which was located in the main bedroom, and then checked some emails, looked at the stock markets and sent his last email at 11:41.


It was around midnight when Aarushi’s friend, Anmol, tried to call her cell phone, and then the landline, but no one answered. He sent a text message to Aarushi’s phone at 12:30, but it was never read.


The Talwar’s maid, Bharati, arrived for work the next morning at 6 o’clock. Hemraj would typically open for her, but he was not there. She rang the doorbell a second time and, still, no one came. Then Bharati tried to push the front gate open, but it was locked. Only after ringing the doorbell for a third time, did Nupur open the wooden front door. She was confused and also wondered where Hemraj could be. Nupur spoke to Bharati through the grill gates and said she could not open it, because it was locked from the outside. She asked Bharati to wait outside until Hemraj returned from wherever he had gone. Bharati suggested Nupur threw the keys from the balcony, and she could catch it down below.


Nupur tried calling Hemraj’s cell phone, but the call was cut off. She tried again, and it went straight to voicemail. By this time Bharati was waiting outside when Nupur appeared on the balcony. She told the maid to check the gate wasn’t latched, but Bharati insisted she threw the keys anyway, so she wouldn’t have to go all the way downstairs again. Nupur relented and Bharati made her way back. 


By this time Rajesh was also awake. On entering the living room, he saw a near-empty bottle of whisky on the dining room table. This was confusing, as neither he nor Nupur had anything to drink the night before. He pointed it out to his wife and she also had no idea why the bottle would be there. Suddenly concerned, they went to check on Aarushi. Her room had a self-locking door, which locked when you closed it. It could be opened from the inside, but to enter from the outside, one would need a key. Rajesh and Nupur kept the key next to their bed, but this morning, they claimed that the door was unlocked and open, and the key was missing. And that is when they made the grisly discovery… 


Aarushi was lying on her back, neatly tucked under a blanket. She had a wound on her forehead and her throat had been slit. Bharati, who had finally managed to enter, came inside and would later tell police that both parents were distraught when they discovered their daughter’s body. With Hemraj nowhere to be found, they quickly jumped to the conclusion that he was responsible for Aarushi’s murder.


Rajesh Talwar called family, friends and neighbours, and when Bharati asked if she should continue with her daily chores, he said no, and gave her the day off. A downstairs neighbour informed a neighbourhood security guard about the situation, and the guard then called police. By the time police arrived at the scene, a crowd had gathered inside the Talwar home: neighbours, friends, extended family members – about 15 people altogether. It was a nightmare to clear the scene to prevent contamination, and by all accounts, the first officers did not even try to preserve the scene. 


Their main focus at this point was locating Hemraj. The assumption was that he had fled the scene after killing Aarushi. Police looked for him everywhere but did not manage to find him.


Meanwhile, the forensic team cut out the blood-stained part of Aarushi’s mattress, and took her pillow, blanket and clothing for further examination. Neighbours who had received permission from police to clean the Talwar apartment, including Aarushi’s room, instructed cleaners to dump the remainder of Aarushi’s matrass on the Talwar’s roof terrace. It was still locked, so they asked a neighbour if they could leave it on the adjacent terrace, to which he agreed. 


Heading up, they noticed the blood smear on the railing of the stairwell, leading to the Talwar’s roof terrace. However, the door to the terrace was locked with a padlock, and the only person with a key, was Rajesh Talwar, and he did not know where the key was. The officers in charge did not press the issue, as they speculated that it was perhaps a rust stain, not blood. They did not think the stain was related to the crime and dismissed it.


The day after Aarushi’s body was discovered, the Talwar home was still bursting at the seams with people paying their respects. Among the guests was a retired police officer, and Rajesh’s brother, Dinesh, raised his concerns about the blood smear on the stairwell railing. Not wanting to hassle Rajesh for the key, the men decided to take matters into their own hands. They broke the padlock, so they could access the terrace and look for any clues that could be relevant to the investigation. As soon as they opened the door, they noticed bloody drag-marks on the floor. They followed it with trepidation and found the partially decomposed body of Hemraj Banjade. He was in such a bad state, that he could not immediately be identified. 


Rajesh and Nupur were already on their way to Haridwar to immerse their daughter’s ashes in the Ganges River but were called back to identify the body. Nupur stayed in the car with Aarushi’s ashes, while Rajesh went up to the terrace. He also struggled to identify Hemraj, but eventually a friend of the victim confirmed that the corpse was, indeed, the body of Hemraj Banjade.


Like Aarushi, Hemraj had suffered a blow to the head, before having his throat slit. He was clearly NOT Aarushi’s killer, and the investigation went into a tailspin.


In Hindu tradition, a body should remain at home, until cremation, which typically occurs within the first 24 hours after a person’s death. A post-mortem examination, completed within this timeframe, revealed that the cause of Aarushi’s death was blunt force trauma – caused by the blow she had received to her forehead, above the left eyebrow. This injury caused a blood clot, which ended her life. The killer then cut her throat, with surgical precision, from side-to-side, measuring 14cm by 6cm. 


There were no signs of sexual assault and no semen on her body, however, four years after her murder, Dr Sunil Dohre who conducted the examination claimed that Aarushi’s vagina was ‘extraordinarily dilated’, and even though her hymen had been ruptured, Dohre insisted that her body contained no signs of sexual assault. According to Dr Dohre the enlarged opening could only have been the result of someone manipulating the area after rigor mortis had set in. Was she cleaned in an attempt to conceal a sexually motivated crime? The fact that Dr Dohre changed his report six times in three years raised many questions as to his credibility.


The autopsy of Hemraj Banjade was performed on the night of the 17th of May, the same day his body was found. Like Aarushi, he had suffered a fatal blow to his head, and also had his throat slit. It was determined that both victims were killed between midnight and 1am on the night of 15 to 16 May. Exactly what took place in the Talwar home between 9:30pm and 6am, no one knew for certain.


They could only speculate as to what caused the head injuries on both victims. Forensic scientists concluded that a ‘heavy, sharp-edged weapon’ was used in the attack, but no such a weapon could be located. The same blade was used in both murders, and the injuries were almost identical, cutting the windpipe and carotid artery with precision. At first it was concluded that a surgical knife was used, but years later they came to another conclusion – as we’ll reveal later on.


In Aarushi’s bedroom, the walls were stained with blood. A team of forensic technicians was called in, but they did not find anything else of note: no foreign fingerprints, no footprints, nothing. The book her mother saw her reading late the previous night, The 3 Mistakes of My Life, had no bloodstains on it. Then they made a curious discovery… Under Aarushi’s pelvic area was a wet spot, yet Aarushi’s pyjama pants were dry. It was not urine, or any other bodily fluid and investigators wondered if someone had cleaned her genitals and then pulled up her pants once they were done.


The police were baffled. In the chaos that ruled during the crucial first hours and                                days of the investigation, vital evidence was not noted or collected. In a bid to regroup, investigators returned to the Talwar home, and examined the entire scene. Firstly, they took note of all points of entry. Walking through the first security gate, one entered into a short passageway, with a side door leading to the servant’s quarters, and another security grill gate up ahead. Behind the second security gate was the wooden front door of the residence. 


The apartment was relatively small, with a floor area of 1300 square feet. Apart from the servant’s room at the front, there were only two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, and a small living-and-dining area. Hemraj’s room also had a second door, which opened directly into the living room.


Investigators claimed there were no signs of forced entry, which made them believe it was an inside-job. So, let’s revisit the front security gates and doors for a minute… The housemaid, Bharati told police that when she came back upstairs – after Nupur had thrown the keys from the balcony – the outermost gate was not locked after all, and with a shove, she managed to open it. The middle gate was latched, but not locked, and she was able to open it. This means, she didn’t need the keys after all. But with the discovery of Aarushi’s body and the mayhem that ensued, she didn’t give it a second thought at the time.


When police first arrived at the scene on the morning of May 16th with many people mulling around, they found a bottle of Ballantine’s whiskey on the dining room table. On closer inspection they also noticed blood on the bottle. Testing revealed that there were female and male DNA – the blood of Aarushi and Hemraj. On the bottle were three fingerprints, which was at first reported to belong to the victims, but this was false. The prints were ‘chance’ prints and it was not clear enough to definitively link it to anyone.


The working theory was that Hemraj got drunk, and then knocked on Aarushi’s door, using some or other rouse to persuade her to open. Then the inebriated servant forced his way into her room, attempted to sexually assault her, and when she put up a fight, he killed her with a kukri – a machete-type knife from his homeland of Nepal. But how then, did he end up dead too? He could not have killed himself, seeing as the terrace door was locked with a padlock on the other side from where Hemraj’s body was found. 


This investigation was marred with inconsistencies such as this, which blurred the lines between theories and truth, conspiracies and fact. From the get-go, the murders caused a media frenzy. Within hours of the discovery of Aarushi’s body, crowds had gathered in the street outside. In the days that followed, photographers tried to make their way into the apartment complex, even trying to climb onto the terrace where Hemraj’s body was found. 


Scandals emerged about the Talwars, claiming that Rajesh and Nupur were swingers and that theirs was an open marriage. Another report alleged that Rajesh was having an affair with Anita Durrani, his fellow dentist, and that Hemraj was blackmailing him, and Aarushi had confronted him about it on the night she was murdered. Another claimed that Rajesh walked in on his daughter and servant in a compromising position and lashed out in anger, killing both.


The Talwar family’s friends and acquaintances stated all of the rumours of infidelity and swinging were untrue and that the police were on a mission to frame the parents to fit their theory of the case. 


But the press wasn’t satisfied. Four people were in the apartment that night, and two were dead. Aarushi’s parents had a lot to answer for – in the eyes of the unforgiving media. To make sense of it all they set out to discredit the family. A report emerged that, before Hemraj’s body was found, Rajesh Talwar had attempted to bribe an officer with 25,000 rupees to go and look for the servant in Nepal, where his family still lived.


Police also considered the possibility that Rajesh and Nupur were guilty, and desperate to pin their daughter’s murder on Hemraj. Firstly, investigators found it unbelievable that they slept through their daughter’s attack. In the small apartment, her bedroom was right next door – how was this possible? Also, the key to Aarushi’s bedroom door was usually next to their bed, yet on the morning after the murder, it was missing. The fact that Aarushi’s room appeared clean, and that she was tucked in after being brutally murdered indicated that she was posed by someone who cared for her. And were they the ones who cleaned her pelvic area as forensic experts suggested? Perhaps in an attempt to spare her dignity?


The CBI uncovered a record of multiple phone calls made at the exact time the autopsy was being performed on Aarushi, between Rajesh’s brother Dinesh, the chairman of the ICARE Eye Hospital and the Deputy Superintendent of Uttar Pradesh police. In a deposition, former Superintendent KK Gautam stated that Dinesh Talwar had requested that any reference of sexual assault be removed from the official report.


Both Rajesh and Nupur Talwar agreed to polygraph and brain mapping tests and showed no signs of deception. But this did not make a difference, and Rajesh Talwar was arrested on the 23rd of May and charged with the double murder. 


In an interview with India’s NDTV, Nupur Talwar spoke openly and said that she believed her husband was innocent. He was asleep in bed next to her the entire night, if he had attacked their daughter and servant, she would have known. Besides there being no physical signs that he had done it, she also knew that he adored his daughter and would never harm her. Nupur also denied the accusations of their supposed hedonistic lifestyle and said:


“We were such a happy family… I used to always think: ‘I must have really done something nice in my last life to have such a wonderful family’.”


Despite rumours surrounding the Talwars at this point, the strongest suspect was a former employee, Vishnu Sharma (aka Vishnu Thaka). He had worked for the Talwar family as a domestic servant, and a general assistant at their dental practice for 10 years. He was in the habit of taking extended vacations and would send relatives to work in his place while he was away. When Hemraj came to fill in for Vishnu, the Talwar family quickly grew fond of him and decided to offer him Vishnu’s job. The theory was that Vishnu harboured resentment towards Hemraj and while visiting him, drank too much, and ended up killing him. Aarushi was then killed because she had witnessed the murder. Vishnu was arrested, but his alibi checked out, proving that he was in Nepal on the day of the murders. He was not the killer.


With the initial investigation reaching a dead-end, the Central Bureau of Investigation (or CBI) stepped in. CBI investigators were furious when they looked at the botched investigation and decided to start their inquiry from scratch. During the initial investigation, the crime scene was never cordoned off, and neighbours, relatives and even members of the media were freely walking around the Talwar home, while Aarushi’s body was still in her room. The CBI eventually concluded that 90% of evidence collected at the scene was contaminated and could not be used.


They also uncovered the fact that witnesses had made false statements, and investigators never rectified it on official records. One of these witnesses, who had a lot to say about the Talwar family, was Rajesh’s dental assistant, a 25-year-old man by the name of Krishna Thandarai. He knew Hemraj well and only lived a few apartments away from the Talwars. In searching his room, police found a blood-stained kukri, and a pillowcase with blood on it. He was arrested on the 13th of June. 


Although Krishna denied any knowledge of the murders, the CBI used a technique called Narco-Analysis to extract information from him. This technique, commonly referred to as ‘truth serum’ entails drugging a suspect in order to unlock memories and obtaining the truth. The interviewee is placed in a semi-conscious state and questioned. This method is categorised with methods like polygraphing and brain mapping and is not used in countries like the US. In India, Narco-Analysis can be legally utilised as an investigative tool, but any information gained during such an interview is not admissible in court. 


When Krishna submitted to this line of questioning, his version of events was nothing short of a chilling account of murder. He implicated a second servant in the murder, and a third for being an accomplice. The two men worked for the Talwar’s neighbours.


During his Narco-Analysis session, Krishna also insisted that Aarushi was an innocent victim and had done nothing to provoke anyone. He also said that there was no romantic relationship between Hemraj and Aarushi, as some news outlets had speculated.


In the wake of Krishna’s story, police arrested two men, Vijay Mandal (known as Shambu) who lived in a garage downstairs from the Talwars, and Rajkumar Sharma who worked for the Talwars’ close friends and business partners, the Durrani’s. Shambu and Rajkumar were also instructed to undergo Narco-Analysis. And this is where things became even stranger… All three men had different versions of what took place on the night of the murders. 


Firstly, Krishna had different versions of the story, but it basically came down to this... He said that, together with Rajkumar and Shambu, he was in Hemraj’s room late on the night of May 14th 2008. They were drinking beer and watching television together. They were talking about Aarushi and it was clear that Rajkumar was quite infatuated with her. Hemraj was appalled and said that he saw Aarushi as his daughter and pleaded with them to change the topic. They persuaded Hemraj to take some whiskey from his boss’s liquor cabinet, with the promise to replace it before Dr Talwar noticed it was gone.


Hemraj reluctantly went into the living room to fetch the booze, while the other two used the opportunity to sneak to Aarushi’s room, behind his back. Why the door was open, is not clear, but they had no trouble entering her room. There they found Aarushi in bed, still awake. Hemraj freaked out when he realised where they were and tried to get them away from her. Aarushi screamed, and in a panic, Krishna hit her over the head to silence her. She went limp and slumped back onto her bed. Fearing that she would be able to identify them, they then slit her throat with a kukri.


Hemraj was distraught and wanted to wake her parents, but the other servants overpowered him too, bundled him up to the roof terrace, where they killed him, with a blow to the head and then cutting his throat. According to Krishna the door to the terrace was unlocked. In another version Krishna claimed that Shambu hit Aarushi over the head and Rajkumar slit her throat. 


According to Rajkumar’s Narco-Analysis report, the three men were in Hemraj’s room that night and Krishna was blowing off steam about an incident at work, during which Rajesh Talwar lost his temper and humiliated him. Krishna was so mad about it and wanted to take revenge. Aarushi overheard the conversation and threatened to tell her father that Krishna was plotting something. Krishna then attacked her with a kukri, killing her. The men, including Hemraj, wanted to run away, but when Hemraj decided it was better to confess to the Talwars, the other men took him to the terrace to calm him down, and the confrontation ended in murder.


Shambu’s test stipulated that Hemraj called him to the Talwar residence at midnight. When he arrived, he saw Krishna holding a kukri. He learnt that Aarushi had been raped, and Hemraj was furious. That is when Krishna and Rajkumar took Hemraj to the roof terrace, where he did not budge: he insisted that they came clean and told the Talwars. When they could not calm him down, they killed him with the kukri


However, despite the testimonies offering a probable explanation of what happened, the servants were acquitted. Firstly, Shambu’s boss claimed that he was in the garage (which was where he lived) at the time of the murders. He was also not really friends with the other servants and it would have been unlikely if he assisted people he barely knew in the commission of a brutal crime. 


Then there was Rajkumar, who picked up his employer, family friend of the Talwars, Praful Durrani from the train station, only to return home at 11:30pm. They had a late dinner and everybody in the household went to bed at 12:30. To reach the Talwars’ apartment, would take Rajkumar 20 minutes riding on his bike, which means he would have been there just before 1am. However, the security guard at the gate of the complex where the Durrani’s lived stated that he never saw Rajkumar leave that night. Also, remember, it was determined that the murders took place between midnight and 1am.


Krishna’s family members, as well as his landlord also confirmed that he was home at the time of the murders.


The servants claimed that they had been tortured while in police custody and that their interrogators asked leading questions. Although some elements varied regarding what happened on the night of the murders, the only point that was consistently the same, was that Aarushi was killed with a kukri. And it was also in Krishna’s room that a blood-stained kukri was found. However, tests later revealed that the blood on the kukri was not human. 


Confessions made using Narco-Analysis are also inadmissible in court, so none of the servants were charged. However, there was enough doubt to justify Rajesh Talwar’s release from prison, after spending 50 days behind bars. 


In 2015 a full 58-minute video of Krishna’s narco test was leaked online. The video that was handed over to the was only 45 minutes in duration. The longer version contained a statement by Krishna, saying that he never killed anybody and that police Inspector General Arun Kumar had instructed him to confess. Kumar claimed he was unaware of this statement and refuted the allegation.


At this point, all the narco analysis proved was that it was not a reliable method of getting to the truth, well, not in this case at least. Krishna’s two tests had some variations, one in which he said he had killed Aarushi with a kukri, another time blaming Rajkumar for the murder. Rajkumar pinned the murder on Krishna, and the Talwars’ version of events was the same as the statement they gave police: they slept through the event. 


Hemraj’s family in Nepal came forward and said that Hemraj had told them Rajesh Talwar was very strict. They claimed it would have been out of character for Hemraj to have other servants over, as Rajesh would not allow it. Also, Hemraj never touched alcohol, so why would he invite people over for drinks at that time of night? There were no traces of alcohol in Hemraj’s body, yet there were empty alcohol containers in his room, suggesting that he did have visitors after all. Perhaps they just showed up and Hemraj had no choice but to allow them in. Or did Krishna show up uninvited, intoxicated, ready to have his revenge – and this is when Hemraj called Shambu to help him diffuse the situation. And then somehow Aarushi was attacked?


Hemraj’s DNA was found on a pillowcase found in Krishna’s room. However, it was later found that the lab technician had labelled the pillowcase incorrectly. It came from Hemraj’s room, not Krishna’s. And of course, Hemraj’s DNA would be on his own pillowcase, so this evidence was no good.


With compromised evidence, conflicting witness statements and sloppy police work, the case was not going anywhere. In 2009, a second CBI team was appointed to look into the case, making it the third official investigation. 


This group of experienced investigators believed that Rajesh and Nupur Talwar had a lot to answer for. Firstly, their room was right next door to Aarushi’s, yet they claimed they heard nothing on the night of the murders. They said their rickety air-conditioning was very noisy and drowned out all other sounds. When investigators did a sound test, they confirmed that, with the A/C on, they would NOT have been able to hear anything, even a loud scuffle.


Investigators were also intrigued by the manual internet router, that was located in Aarushi’s room. On the night of the 14th to the 15th of May, it was turned on and off at various times. For someone to have operated it, they must have been inside of Aarushi’s room. Because the Internet router was used at 12:08, the CBI concluded that Rajesh was online till that time. 


With enough circumstantial evidence against them, Aarushi’s parents were arrested in 2013 – Rajesh and Nupur were both charged with the murder of their only child.


They appeared in front of the Ghaziabad General Sessions Court (when), where the new theory was presented… According to the Prosecutor Aarushi’s parents found their daughter and servant in a compromising sexual position. Rajesh was furious and using a golf club, hit the pair while they were in bed. According to this theory, Hemraj and Aarushi were in the missionary position, which is why Hemraj’s injury was to the back of his head, and Aarushi’s to her forehead. It was an ‘honour killing’.


In the caste system in India, marrying outside of one’s caste is culturally forbidden, as are romantic and sexual relations with members of the same subcaste; both are transgressions punishable with honour killings. However, the defence pointed out that the Talwars were liberal, educated people with an inter-caste marriage themselves and killing for honour was not something they would ever agree with, let alone commit.


The CBI claimed that the V-shaped wound on Aarushi’s forehead was the result of being struck by Rajesh’s golf club, considering ‘dimensions and striking distance’. The defence had their own expert witness, forensic expert Dr R.K. Sharma who stated that the injury on Aarushi’s head was a hairline fracture and could NOT have been caused by a golf club.


The CBI’s report also reverted to the possibility of a ‘surgical knife’ being used to inflict the throat wounds, stating that dentists were trained in basic surgery. However, the defence pointed out that a dentistry blade would only cut about one centimetre deep and would not have been able to cut through the carotid artery.


Still, the judge leaned in favour of the Prosecution’s case and Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in November 2013. But was justice served? The public questioned the Indian Judicial System and was not satisfied that the parents were the killers.


The Talwars filed an appeal in the Allahabad High Court, and at a retrial, they were found to be innocent, and were acquitted of all charges in 2017, because QUOTE the Prosecution failed to prove its case against the accused appellants beyond all reasonable doubts.


The CBI appealled this decision, encouraged by a formal request filed by Hemraj’s wife.


In India, one is innocent till proven guilty, which in this case was problematic. Three investigations came up with two theories: either the parents did it, or the servants. Investigators built their cases to fit whichever theory they were working on. For instance:

When the parents were suspected, police claimed a ‘surgical knife’ was used. When the servants were blamed, police changed their earlier conclusion, stating a kukri was used. In each case they found experts to agree with them. But who is right and who is wrong?


The only evidence against the servants, were the statements made during the narco testing – tests that yielded different accounts and were not reliable. And then there are Aarushi’s parents – despite years of speculation and nit-picking about the internet router – no motive for murder has ever been established. 


Sadly, because the initial investigation was riddled with mistakes, vital evidence was lost forever. A girl, days out from her 14th birthday was slain in her own bed. A servant was killed for no apparent reason. And in a case with so many lies and inconsistencies, it’s hard to figure out what actually happened. We can only hope that whoever committed this heinous crime will be brought to justice and that people will remember Aarushi for her shy smile and bubbly personality, rather than the scandalous insinuations that marred her death. And for Hemraj’s family in Nepal, that they can finally have justice for their dutiful, loving husband, father and brother who was taken from them far too soon. 


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