The Windows NTFS file system can reliably update file access times. It looks like Dan's measurements were done on some non-standard configuration. Unfortunately, the machine is no longer available. Windows crashed and destroyed its file system, as usual.
When deleting a file, the LINUX ext2fs file system does not break the association between file name and inode number. It does mark the inode as unused and it does break the association between inode and indirect data blocks. Having the name-inode binding preserved should dramatically simplify the effort to recover from "rm -rf" disaster.