Nadesan, who had worked at Virakesari for 20 years, was on his way to work when he was ambushed near a Hindu temple. The assailants escaped, and no group claimed responsibility.
Nadesan was an award-winning journalist who used the pen name Nellai G. Nadesan. He also reported for the International Broadcast Group, a Tamil-language radio station that broadcasts from London.
Violence erupted in Sri Lanka's eastern region in the weeks before the murder after the main Tamil rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), launched a military offensive against a breakaway faction headed by a soldier known as Colonel Karuna. Local journalists said that Nadesan was sympathetic to the LTTE. The LTTE accused the Sri Lankan army and members of the breakaway faction of Nadesan's murder, according to the pro-LTTE Internet news site Tamil.net.
Nadesan had been harassed and threatened before his death because he had criticized the government and security forces, according to CPJ research. On June 17, 2001, a Sri Lankan army officer summoned Nadesan for an interrogation and threatened the journalist with arrest unless he ceased reporting about the army.