Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade: How Did They Die? Who Killed Them?

14-year-old Aarushi Talwar’s parents and the housemaid were the first individuals to discover her lifeless body on the morning of May 16, 2008. They swiftly pointed fingers at the domestic help residing with them, 45-year-old Hemraj Banjade, presuming him to be the perpetrator as he was nowhere to be found. The ensuing investigation has faced scrutiny for its professionalism, and the sensational double murders quickly became a media spectacle for the years to come. ‘Aarushi – Beyond Reasonable Doubt’ endeavors to address some of the numerous questions that have emerged from this case.

How Did Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade Die?

Aarushi Talwar, 14, resided with her parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, in Jalvayu Vihar, Noida. She attended Delhi Public School and enjoyed an upper-middle-class lifestyle, given that both of her parents had successful dental practices in the city. Hemraj Banjade, 45, originally from Dharapani village in Nepal, had come to India in the 1980s to find employment and support his family. He had been working as a domestic help at the Talwars’ residence, where he also lived, for seven months leading up to the incident.

On the evening of May 15, 2008, Rajesh Talwar’s driver visited the house to deliver the car keys, which he handed to Hemraj. During this time, he observed Aarushi, Nupur, and Rajesh near the dining table in the house. He was the last outsider to have seen both Aarushi and Hemraj alive. The Talwars reported that, after dinner, they gave their daughter a digital camera as an early birthday present. Aarushi took several pictures, with the last recorded image at 10:10 pm. According to the Talwars, Nupur went to Aarushi’s room around 11 pm to turn on the internet router and found her reading a book. Internet records confirm that it was being used till 12:08 am.

A friend of Aarushi attempted to call her around midnight, but the call did not connect. Additionally, a text message sent at 12:30 am was not delivered. On the morning of May 16, at approximately 6 am, the housemaid, Bharati, rang the bell at the Talwar residence, but there was no response. Nupur eventually came out when Bharati rang the bell for the second time and mentioned that the door was locked from the outside. Nupur speculated that Hemraj might have gone to buy milk and locked the door. Bharati suggested throwing the keys down from the balcony, and Nupur obliged.

When Bharati descended, Nupur tossed the keys, indicating that the door might be latched and not locked. Despite this, Bharati asked for the keys, and when she went up for the second time, she found the door open. Bharati, upon entering the house, witnessed Rajesh and Nupur in a state of distress. Nupur guided her to Aarushi’s room, where Bharati saw Aarushi’s lifeless body. Aarushi had suffered a blunt injury to her forehead, and there were incisions around her neck. The bed and walls of the room were stained with blood. Her body was covered with a white bedsheet and her school bag was kept on her face. There was a wet mark on her stomach and her pajamas were untied.

Bharati later reported that Nupur and Rajesh began accusing Hemraj of their daughter’s murder. Bharati informed the neighbors, and Rajesh contacted some friends who, in turn, alerted the police. However, by the time the police arrived, there were already several people in the house, leading to the contamination of the crime scene. After Aarushi’s post-mortem examination, her body was cremated around 4 pm on May 16. On the morning of May 17, Aarushi’s parents traveled to Haridwar, and a retired police inspector visited the Talwar residence.

Rajesh’s brother and other family members were present in the house at that time. The inspector mentioned that it was Rajesh’s brother who pointed out blood stains on the wall leading up to the terrace. When they opened the door, they discovered blood drag marks leading to a pool of blood where a decomposed body lay, identified as Hemraj. He, too, had a head injury at the back of his head and cuts on his neck, similar to Aarushi’s injuries.

Hemraj’s body was covered with a panel of a roof cooler, and both palm and shoe prints were found on the terrace. Unfortunately, the terrace was not properly secured by the police, leading to contamination of the scene by several people, including the media. Autopsy reports indicated that both Aarushi and Hemraj had been struck on the forehead before their necks were cut, leading to their deaths between 1 am and 2 am on May 16. The reports also concluded that there was no evidence of sexual assault on Aarushi but the crime scene had been tampered with after the murder.

Who Killed Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade?

The investigation into Aarushi Talwar’s murder became even more complicated when the body of the prime suspect, Hemraj Banjade, was also discovered in the house. Since there were no signs of forced entry and the possibility of a burglary gone wrong was ruled out, the Uttar Pradesh State Police, along with the Delhi Police, joined forces in their investigation. Soon, suspicion fell on Rajesh and Nupur Talwar as potential perpetrators, with several reasons supporting this theory.

Image Credit: Justice for Aarushi Talwar

The police contended that the proximity between Rajesh and Nupur’s room and Aarushi’s room was such that it would have been impossible not to hear any disturbance in the house. They also argued that the family exhibited undue haste in cleaning the crime scene and cremating Aarushi’s body. With no signs of forced entry, the police asserted that only Rajesh and Nupur could have committed the crime. Furthermore, the keys to Aarushi’s room, initially claimed by Nupur to have been left on the latch, were discovered in the living room the morning after the murder.

The initial investigation put forth two theories. The first suggested that Rajesh had discovered Aarushi and Hemraj in a compromising situation in her bedroom and had killed them in a fit of rage with his golf club. The second theory proposed that Hemraj had uncovered Rajesh’s extramarital affair, leading Rajesh to commit the murders, including Aarushi as she was a witness to the crime. Rajesh Talwar was arrested by the police on May 23. However, the Talwar family was later able to refute many of these claims.

The Talwar family clarified that the running air conditioners in both rooms could have muffled Aarushi’s voice and other noises. A police investigation team later conducted a sound test and found this explanation to be plausible. They stated that they proceeded with the cremation after receiving clearance from the police. Nupur explained that when she went to switch on the router, she used the keys to enter Aarushi’s room and inadvertently left the keys there. However, her statement changed multiple times during the investigation.

The CBI joined the investigation on May 31, 2008. During their examination of the house, they noted several liquor bottles in Hemraj’s room, suggesting the presence of more people in the house that night. In June 2008, the police detained Krishna Thadarai, an assistant at Rajesh’s dental clinic, and he agreed to undergo a polygraph test and a narco-analysis test. In a state of stupor, he mentioned that there were more people in the house and named two others—Rajkumar Sharma and Vijay Mandal, other domestic helpers working in the Talwars’ neighborhood.

Image Credit: Outlook India

All three of them were in police custody and underwent narco-analysis tests. Each provided different versions of the events, but the CBI managed to piece together a general outline of the incident. According to their accounts, the three, along with Hemraj, had been drinking in the latter’s room on the night of the murder. One of them attempted to assault Aarushi in her room and accidentally killed her. They then took Hemraj to the terrace and killed him when he threatened to reveal the truth. Krishna mentioned a weapon, a kukri (a kind of knife), that was supposedly used in both killings.

However, the police couldn’t find sufficient evidence to link them to the murders, and the statements made during the narco-analysis were inadmissible in court. The three of them were released in September 2008. Due to the slow progress in the case, the CBI team involved in the investigation was replaced in September 2009. In December 2009, the new team published a report stating that the primary suspect in the murder was Rajesh Talwar, as there was no evidence indicating the presence of any stranger in the house on the night of the incident.

However, the report also mentioned that due to insufficient evidence, the case should be closed. The case was not dismissed but was converted into a chargesheet against Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. They were charged with double murder, and both of them were in police custody by April 2012. In November 2013, the court delivered its verdict, finding Rajesh and Nupur Talwar guilty of the crimes, and they were sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, their defense team filed an appeal in the Allahabad High Court, and in October 2017, the decision was overturned because there was not sufficient evidence incriminating Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. As of now, no one has been convicted of the murder of Aarushi and Hemraj. The CBI challenged the High Court’s verdict in the Supreme Court in 2018, and their motion has been accepted. However, as of the latest available information, no further progress has been made in the case.

Read More; Rajesh and Nupur Talwar: Where are Aarushi’s Parents Now?