Ghaziabad: Nearly three years after she was found with her throat slit in her bedroom, Aarushi Talwar's parents have been accused of murdering the 13-year-old. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar - both dentists - have also been accused of criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.
The trial is scheduled to begin on February 28, but the Talwars will appeal against the court order that today rejected the CBI's request to end its investigation into the murders of the Talwars' daughter, and their domestic help, Hemraj. Both were found dead within hours of each other in May 2008.
What the CBI has underscored repeatedly is that the Talwars' home was not broken into. Two of the four people in the apartment that night were killed. "There was no third person" in the apartment, the CBI said in court as recently as yesterday. The CBI has never listed Nupur as a suspect. But the court today said that there's enough in the CBI's documents to suggest she colluded with her husband to kill their only child.
INVESTIGATION : A TRAGEDY OF ERRORS
The case was handled first by the Noida Police and then transferred to the CBI after a series of embarrassing lapses that began with the fact that it took an entire day after Aarushi was found dead for the police to walk upto the roof of her home where Hemraj's body was discovered. On that terrace, the police allowed the media free access - reporters and others walked all over a crime scene.
A lower point was hit a few days later, when a UP policeman declared, without a shred of evidence, at a press conference that Rajesh Talwar had killed his child. The motives he suggested ranged from Rajesh Talwar's need to keep Aarushi and Hemraj from sharing details of an alleged extra-marital affair to the dentist acting in rage after he found his child in a compromising position with Hemraj.
Dr Talwar was arrested but after two months, he was granted bail when the CBI acknowledged that it had no evidence against him. In July 2008, the CBI director, Vijay Shankar declared, "I say this with confidence that CBI has opened up this blind case and we know who were the killers."
Three men were arrested by the CBI: Krishna, who worked in Rajesh Talwar's clinic; Rajkumar, who worked for the Durranis, close family friends of the Talwars; and Vijay Mandal, who worked for a family that lived in the same apartment block as the Talwars. The CBI operated on the theory that the men knew Hemraj and that's why he let them into the Talwars' home, that they were all drinking heavily that night, and that the three outsiders killed Hemraj when he tried to stop them from molesting Aarushi in her bedroom.
But by September 2008, there was nothing to corroborate this version of events. The three men had been put through narco-analysis and had revealed nothing that implicated themselves or each other, or provided new clues for a befuddled CBI.
The agency then refocused on the Talwars as the killers, on the grounds that they were withholding critical information, and may have known why their daughter had been killed. "We have undergone at least 5 lie-detector, brain-mapping, and psychological tests," said Nupur. "I do hope that after this, instead of targeting us, they will move on to people who've done it."
In September 2009, new and damaging lapses in the case surfaced. Aarushi's vaginal swab disappeared, experts said it had evidently been swapped. Whether Aarushi had been sexually assaulted before she was killed - and if so, by who - would add to the black hole that the inquiry was dissolving into.
In December 2010, the CBI filed a closure report asking for permission to end its investigation because it did not have enough evidence to charge anyone with her murder. But it listed Rajesh Talwar as its main suspect. (Read: CBI's closure report)
The court has now said that closure report will serve as the chargesheet against the Talwars and that the largely circumstantial evidence listed against the them in the document will be considered during the trial.
THE EVIDENCE THAT THE COURT WILL CONSIDER
The court wants to know more about an internet router in Aarushi's bedroom. Records from the night that she was killed show that it was switched on at 11.53 pm and switched off at 3 am. The CBI believes she was killed during these hours. The Talwars have said before that the router malfunctioned regularly, and that it cannot be held as reliable evidence.
Throughout its investigation, the CBI has quoted a doctor who handled Aarushi's post-mortem report - he says that Rajesh Talwar's brother, Dinesh, called him and requested him to conceal information about whether the 13-year-old had been sexually assaulted. Dinesh Talwar has said that his cell phone records do not show any call to the doctor in question.
The court has taken into account the CBI's statement that the scene of the crime (Aarushi's bedroom) was "heavily dressed up." Aarushi's family says that when the police arrived, Aarushi's face was covered with a sheet - and this could have been done by the killer.
The court takes the CBI's point that Aarushi's body had been cleaned after she was killed. The agency suggests this was destruction of evidence. The Talwars point out that Aarushi's post-mortem report established a whitish discharge - this proves, they say, that they did not tamper with her body.
Aarushi used to be locked into her bedroom every night by her mother. The Talwars say this was for safety reasons, since their male domestic help slept inside their home. On the night that she was killed, Aarushi's bedroom keys were found in the hall. The CBI says only Nupur could have left them there. The Talwars say that Nupur inadvertently left the keys in the door that night, and that the killer removed them and left them behind in the hall after Aarushi had been killed. (Case Timeline)