India awaits verdict in sensational double-murder

India awaits verdict in sensational double-murder

NEW DELHI - One of India's most sensational criminal trials - which has raised issues of police incompetence, sex with servants and media ethics - comes to a close Monday when a dentist couple will learn if they are to be convicted of killing their daughter.

Rajesh and Nupur Talwar from the affluent New Delhi suburb of Noida are accused of murdering their only child, 14-year-old Aarushi, and their 45-year-old domestic worker Hemraj by slitting their throats "with clinical precision".

The murder case from 2008 has created a nation of armchair detectives debating every twist in the investigation and trial, turned the Talwars into household names, and polarised public opinion.

Federal police say Aarushi was killed in a fit of rage when her parents found her with the servant in a "objectionable" situation while the couple insist they are victims of a botched police probe and vigilante justice.

"I never believed such a thing could happen to us. I believed in the Indian justice system," Rajesh told AFP in a recent interview outside the decrepit courtroom where the witness stand is held together by rope.

The prosecution concedes there is no forensic or material evidence against the pair, basing its case on the "last-seen theory" - which holds that the victims were last seen with the accused.

"All the circumstantial evidence" is against the Talwars and they "misled the investigators and destroyed evidence", prosecutor R.K. Saini told the court in his summing-up earlier this month.

Botched investigation

The saga began on a baking 45-degree (113 Fahrenheit) May morning five years ago when Aarushi was found dead on her bed at home, covered with a white blanket.

Police initially called it an "open and shut case", blaming the missing Nepalese servant for the murder - only to discover his badly decomposed body on the roof a day later.

His throat was also cut and he had suffered a head wound.

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