Ghaziabad: A special CBI court in Ghaziabad on Monday found a dentist couple guilty of slitting the throats of their teenage daughter and a servant after a murder trial that has gripped the country for five years.

Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were convicted of killing Aarushi, 14, and Nepalese employee Hemraj Banjade, allegedly by cutting their throats with “clinical precision" using a dental scalpel at their home in Noida in 2008.

Investigators alleged Aarushi was killed in a fit of rage when her parents found her with the 45-year-old domestic servant in an “objectionable" situation, while the couple insisted they were victims of years of police incompetence and a media witchhunt.

“They have been found guilty of murder and destruction of evidence," prosecutor R.K. Saini told a horde of reporters outside the small, rundown court in Ghaziabad.

The Talwars burst into tears upon hearing the judge’s verdict but remained defiant as they were taken into police custody, pledging to “continue to fight for justice".

“We are deeply disappointed, hurt and anguished for being convicted for a crime that we have not committed," the couple also said in their written statement to reporters.

The couple face life in prison and possibly the death penalty when they are sentenced on Tuesday.

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

The case also comes as India increasingly focuses on crimes against women including sexual offences and so-called honour killings in the wake of the gang-rape of a student in Delhi last year that sparked national outrage.

Family and friends of the couple launched an emotional attack after the verdict against police, the legal system and the media whom they accused of “turning against us from day one".

“We are a professional working family and what do we have on our side? We only have truth on our side, the facts and evidence as we knew them," said Vandana Talwar, Rajesh’s sister-in-law.

“But we are pitched against an organisation that believes and deals with fabrications, manipulations, with suppressing and hiding all the facts that show the parents are innocent," she told reporters.

The prosecution has conceded there is no forensic or material evidence against the couple, and has based its case on the “last-seen theory"—which holds that the victims were last seen with the accused.

Aarushi was found on her bed with her throat slit one morning in May 2008. Police initially blamed the missing domestic servant Hemraj—only to discover his decomposing body on the roof a day later.

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

Officers then arrested Rajesh Talwar’s Nepalese dental assistant along with two other local servants—Hemraj’s friends—but they were all later released because of a lack of hard evidence.

The botched probe—investigators failed to seal the crime scene, allowing neighbours and relatives to swarm over it, or to find the second body for more than 24 hours—prompted police to close the case in 2010, citing no substantial evidence.

The Talwars then insisted they wanted the killers found and petitioned the court to reopen the case—but found themselves charged with murder, as media speculation about the successful couple intensified.

Lurid newspaper reports, often based on quotes from unnamed police officers, appeared about their lives, demonising them as decadent and unrepentant, even part of a wife-swapping club.

The case so gripped the country that one man with no connection to the case attacked Rajesh Talwar with a meat cleaver during a court appearance in 2011, leaving his cheek and hand deeply scarred.

The defence team, led by one of the country’s best-known criminal lawyers who is representing the Talwars for free, said they would appeal the verdict.

“It clearly is a knock for us, a devastating blow for all of us," said lawyer Rebecca John.

“We will challenge the verdict. We will be appealing in the Allahabad high court. I have complete faith in the innocence of my clients." AFP

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