The arrests of suspects in the brutal murder of renowned director Dariush Mehrjui, and his wife Vahideh Mohammadifar, has sparked fresh questions into the facts of the violent incident. A film reenacting the crime scene itself has also amplified uncertainties over the precise sequence of events leading to the double murder.
Statements made by the Mehrjui family's lawyer have also intensified the confusion.
Manoush Manouchehri, legal representative of Mona Mehrjui, the murdered Dariush Mehrjui's daughter, stressed that the family has not been involved in the investigation and does not have knowledge about the case details.
The lawyer has therefore requested that, until the investigation concludes, proceedings are finalized, and a verdict is reached through trial, there should be no news coverage of the case and the identities of the suspects should not be revealed. No indictments have been issued so far and the criminal investigation is ongoing.
Authorities have claimed to have apprehended the prime suspects however—yet this seems to have only excited more questions in the minds of the public.
What Happened and When?
The timeline of the murder remains unclear—yet a precise chronology is essential for a flawless handling of criminal cases.
According to the official police statement, the initial call to the police emergency center (110) was made at 1020pm on the evening of October 14.
Iranian media reports suggest that the crime occurred between 830pm and 10pm that evening.
Additionally, police revealed that around 850pm, that night, Mehrjui sent a text message to his daughter, requesting her to return home for dinner.
Information on the forensic report detailing the cause and manner of the murder is based on statements by Hossein Fazeli Harikandi, Chief Justice of Alborz province. Harikandi has said that the forensic report indicates the cause of death for Mehrjui and his wife were wounds from a knife or a sharp object.
Furthermore, it was noted that blows from "a stick or a hard object struck the head of Mehrjui, resulting in a fractured skull. This was not the cause of death."
The autopsy report is expected to provide comprehensive details, including the manner and depth of the injuries, the angle at which the victim's body was struck and other details.
However, due to the ongoing nature of the murder investigation, access to such a report seems improbable.
Additionally, there is no available map or floor plan of Mehrjui's residence that would enable a thorough reconstruction of events.
Information on the crime scene and how the crime may have occurred is drawn from videos and statements by the police and state media.
A Crime Scene Busier than a City Street
When studying the investigation of the crime scene and efforts to reconstruct events, as depicted in the exclusive footage from the police and the judiciary news agency, several aspects warrant a closer look.
These include the absence of firearms and specialized forensic attire at the crime scene, during the investigation, as well as the substantial number of individuals present.
"At present, there are 30-40 detectives actively investigating the crime scene," the police news agency correspondent reportedly said, from the victims’ kitchen at their home.
All entries and exits to the crime scene should also be meticulously documented to ensure its preservation and proper documentation.
Why Were the Doors Left Unlocked?
News of the murders broke alongside the revelation that Mohammadifar, Dariush Mehrjui’s wife, had previously mentioned receiving a threat on her Instagram.
The discovery raised a pertinent question. When faced with danger, people often, and unconsciously, resort to taking precautionary measures.
Therefore, the question that arises is: why were the doors of the building left unlocked?
If Mona Mehrjui, Dariush’s daughter, could provide insights into the events leading up to the crime in the preceding weeks, some of these uncertainties might be resolved.
Which Door Did They Use?
In the film documenting the crime scene investigation, Mohammed Qanbari, the head of Iran's detective police, underscores that the doors of the villa where the crime occurred were found to be open.
Upon close examination of the videos released, it appeared that there is one main entrance to the building, and the kitchen features a single door as well. The exact whereabouts of those arrested after entering the house were also uncertain.
The circumstances surrounding when and how Mehrjui and his wife became aware of the presence of intruders in their home remain unclear too.
Reconstruction the Scene
The video depicting the reconstruction of the crime scene, released by the Iran judiciary's news agency, Mizan, lasts 5 minutes and 31 seconds.
Seventy-four seconds are dedicated to the murder of Mehrjui, while 144 seconds revolve around the events leading to the killing of Mohammadifar.
The individual posing questions in the film sequentially queries the arrested individuals in a manner that is more suggestive than investigative.
When addressing the blows inflicted on Mehrjui's head with the sticks, the interrogator merely inquires about the number of strikes, neglecting to ask about the hand used, the specific area of impact on the head, and the ensuing injuries on the victims.
Moreover, no queries are made regarding the manner in which the knife was obtained or held. Notably, in the film, the actor portraying the victim positions his head forward, even though the objective of reconstructing the crime scene is to elucidate the potential consequences of each action taken.
At another juncture, the questioner inquires whether the arrested individuals had a verbal argument.
Throughout most of this film, the arrested individuals appear to be affirming the questioner's queries rather than elaborating on their actions.
Why Are There No Signs of Injuries?
According to accounts provided by the police, coupled with the televised search operation initiated with the assistance of police dogs in the villa and the adjoining vacant land, to locate traces of the perpetrator or perpetrators' blood at the crime scene, there was another significant development.
Javan newspaper, in an article dated October 18, stated, "The blood of the assailants was tracked in the Mehrjui case."
In a video of the crime scene investigation, Mohammad Qanbari, head of Iran's detective police, remarked, "We discovered marks on the victim's hands that we believe are linked to the perpetrator."
However, an examination of the photographs released by the Mizan news agency and the video documenting the crime scene reconstruction reveals that none of the four arrested individuals displayed any hand injuries that would result in bleeding and leave blood at the scene.
Given that the use of dogs in crimal investigations adheres to established standards and is typically employed in operations aimed at providing support or discovering victims' remains or personal belongings, a pertinent question arises: was the police's involvement merely a staged performance for public consumption?
Furthermore, if the police indeed possessed such a vital lead, why were the arrested individuals devoid of any injuries?
Ambiguity Surrounding Blunt Trauma
In the same video of the crime scene investigation, Hamid Hodavand, the police commander of Alborz province, states, "Mr. Mehrjui was struck on the head with a stick."
In the film, the arrested individuals are questioned about how many times they struck Mehrjui, with one of them saying “four.”
This raises a significant question: what was the nature of these four blows to the head of an 84-year-old man? Did they strike with force, as in a serious assault, or was it more as a form of intimidation?
Furthermore, it is crucial to ascertain which side of Mehrjui's head was targeted. One would expect that the force of such blows would push him backwards and immediately destabilize him.
Considering the impact of the four blows, should the location of the stab wounds not correspond to the point at which his balance was disrupted?
Regarding Mehrjui's location at the time of the incident, the arrested individuals were questioned about it.
However, it remains unclear when Mehrjui rose from the sofa and moved towards the assailants, or whether the assailants advanced towards him as well.
At this point, meanwhile, the precise position of Mehrjui's wife remains a mystery.
One of the questions that contribute to the confusion surrounding the crime revolves around the binding of Mohammadifar's hands.
According to the accounts of the arrested individuals, after entering the room, one of them held her head while another bound her hands and gagged her mouth.
This raises a crucial question: if the assailants intended to harm Mohammadifar, would they not have first used the same methods they used on Mehrjui, involving a stick and a knife?
The act of binding Mohammadifar’s hands becomes significant when the attacker or attackers seek to extract information from the victim, or in another scenario, if they harbor concerns about the victim's physical strength, potential escape, resistance, or willingness to fight back.
But these potential motives become obscured due to the significant number of alleged attackers involved in the crime.
Who Lit the Cigarette?
In the crime scene reconstruction film, the interrogator repeatedly poses inquiries to the arrested individuals regarding cigarettes and Mohammadifar's phone.
Three minutes and 11 seconds into the film, the detainees are asked, "When she dropped the cigarette, did she have her phone in her hand or not?"
This question introduces yet another layer of ambiguity.
The police asserted that, upon finding Mohammadifar's mobile phone in the possession of one of the arrested individuals, they discovered an unsent text message.
Shargh newspaper reported this information on October 22, indicating that Vahideh Mohammadifar typed a message with the content "Karim came to our house ttttttt" to her daughter when the assailants entered their home, but she did not have the opportunity to send it.
This message remained in her phone's memory, which was recovered after the phone was found on one of the defendants and subsequently unlocked by the police.
However, in light of this data, another puzzling question emerges: if Mohammadifar had the chance to reach out for help by calling 110 or another person, why did she solely send a text message to her daughter?
Adding to the complexity of the situation is the statement made by Mohammad Ghanbari, the head of the detective police, in the video of the crime scene investigation, where he states, "The lady ran into the room and closed the door and locked the door," while pointing to bloodstains on the bedroom wall.
This statement raises questions regarding the act of smoking and discarding the cigarette inside the room.
Contrarily, the accounts provided by Ghanbari suggest that Mohammadifar may have initially been in a public area of the house and sought shelter in the bedroom.
Consequently, the question arises: if Mohammadifar did not have her phone on her during the attackers' assault, where was the text message, which the police claim to have found on her phone, written and saved?