Parents accused of murdering their daughter, police officials who couldn’t spot a dead body, a judge who didn’t mince his words: the investigation of the Aarushi-Hemraj murders had a cast of characters who made headlines for days.
The Allahabad high court on Thursday cleared Rajesh and Nupur Talwar in the murder of their daughter Aarushi and the domestic help Hemraj. The dentist couple had appealed their conviction by a CBI court in 2013.
Here’s a look at the main characters that played a key role:
Aarushi Talwar was killed at her house on the night of May 15-16, 2008 in Noida. The police found her with her throat slit and injuries on her head. The Class 9 student of Delhi Public School Noida loved dancing. She was outgoing, had a lot of friends and was excited about her 15th birthday which was on May 24.
She was a ‘blue blazer’ holder at school, an honour given only to those who scored 85% and above for three consecutive years; the lead dancer of ‘Awesome Foursome’ and an ambitious teen who wanted to become a doctor one day.
Just like any teen, she was very active on social networking website — her Orkut status last read “loving life”. The family had planned a big party with her friends at a newly opened outlet in Noida’s Sector 18 market. To surprise Aarushi, her father Rajesh had bought a digital camera she wanted.
Hemraj Banjade (45), a citizen of Nepal, was initially suspected to be behind Aarushi’s murder on May 16, 2008 till he was found dead on the terrace of the Talwar’s Noida flat a day later .
Rajesh Talwar had found Aarushi and Hemraj in an “objectionable position” and killed them using his golf stick and a sharp-edged weapon, the CBI has alleged.
Hemraj’s widow Khum Kala, teenage son Prajal and octogenarian mother Krishna Kala lived in Nepal. The domestic help was the sole bread winner of the family and used to send around two-three thousand rupees every month after he started working with the Talwars.
Rajesh and Nupur Talwar
Aarushi’s parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were convicted by a CBI court of killing their daughter. It was believed that Nupur, Rajesh and Hemraj were the only people inside the house during the murder.
Aarushi’s father Rajesh Talwar headed the Fortis Hospital’s dental department. A graduate from Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), Rajesh Talwar did his postgraduation from King George’s Medical College in Lucknow. He owned clinics in Hauz Khas and at Parswanath Mall in Noida Sector 27 that he was running in partnership with his friend Dr Anita Durani.
Nupur was working as a dentist at Fortis Hospital. She has co-authored a book – “Your Guide to Teeth Care” along with her husband. Notably the back cover of the book contained their daughter Aarushi’s photograph. She also practised at a clinic in Khan Market, which is one of the high-profile dental clinics of the capital. Her patients included a former prime minister.
Investigators said the Talwars killed Aarushi in a fit of rage after finding her with Hemraj in an “objectionable position”, suggesting the double murder was a so-called honour killing.
The dentist couple’s failure to explain the murders stacked up as crucial circumstantial evidence, leading to their conviction. As there were no eyewitnesses, special CBI judge Shyam Lal heavily relied on a chain of circumstantial evidence in pronouncing the dentist couple guilty in 2013.
Krishna Thadarai, Raj Kumar, Vijay Mandal
Krishna Thadarai was a compounder at Rajesh Talwar’s clinic. Raj Kumar was the domestic help of the Talwars’ family friends Durranis; and Vijay Mandal, the help of Talwars’ neighbour.
The three were first arrested when CBI was called in to probe. Then joint director Arun Kumar reportedly claimed they were the killers and there was “scientific evidence” against them. The agency had conducted a lie-detection test, psychoanalysis and narco analysis on the three.
However, their involvement was ruled out after CBI’s closure report.
Dr Anita Durani
Dr Anital Durani drew attention because the rift between Aarushi and her father was being linked to his alleged affair with Durani. Talwar’s call records indicated Talwar and Durani talked often. The police said it was nothing suspicious but definitely worth probing.
Durani and Rajesh Talwar had opened two clinics in partnership — one in Hauz Khas and the other in Sector-27, Noida. Neighbours said that she was a frequent visitor to the residence of the Talwars. A day before the murder, the two had spoke at length.
Uttar Pradesh Police
The police was left red-faced after claiming that Hemraj, who was reported missing at the time, was the prime suspect for killing Aarushi. Hemraj’s body was found a day later, on May 17, at the terrace of the Noida building where the Talwars lived.
Noida Police claimed days after the murder to have cracked the case but officers failed to explain some very basic details of the investigation and what led them to conclude that Dr Rajesh Talwar was the killer. The motive of the crime and the lack of finding a the murder weapon were among the questions the police couldn’t answer. There were accusations of not collecting crucial evidence and failing to seal the crime scene.
The police’s version that Aarushi was killed by Rajesh Talwar after he found her with Hemraj in an “objectionable” position was denounced as “character assassination” of the teen.
The case was transferred to the CBI after the then IG Police Gurdarshan Singh got Aarushi’s name wrong and referred to her as Shruti during a press conference.
AGL Kaul was in-charge of the second CBI team put together to investigate the double murder. He had a reputation as an ace investigator and was involved in other high-profile cases such as the Nithari killings, Badaun murders, assassination of late Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, and death of RTI activist Shehla Masood, according to this report.
Avirook Sen’s book Aarushi, released in 2015, cast limelight on the glaring loopholes in the murder investigation. Sen told HT in an interview that Kaul had a track record of “unscrupulousness” and he was “given a brief to close the case because that’s his value to the CBI”.
Kaul joined the CBI in 1983 as sub-inspector. He died of a cardiac arrest in 2014.
Judge Shyam Lal
Special CBI judge Shyam Lal rejected the prosecution’s requests for the death penalty during a hearing but sentenced the Talwars to life for the murders.
Lal’s ruling was based on 26 circumstantial evidence and the language used in his verdict was unusually coloured with accusations. While describing the Talwars, Lal said the couple were “freaks in the history of mankind, where the father and mother became the killer of their own progeny”.
In a 208-page order on November 25, 2013, Lal remarked: “It is against the order of human nature that on seeing their dearest daughter lying in a pool of blood, the accused being the natural father and mother will not hug her. In the process of hugging, their clothes will be deeply stained with blood but not found so.”