Police said there were no signs of forced entry, and that the drawing room table had been laid with snacks as if Bhatnagar was entertaining guests. A post-mortem report prepared at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences concluded that Bhatnagar died from strangulation, and police estimated that she was killed at around 3:30 p.m.
Bhatnagar was a member of the special investigations team at the Indian Express. Early news reports speculated that her killers may have been attempting to recover certain incriminating documents. Two rooms in the Bhatnagar's residence at the Nav Kunj Apartments in Patparganj were apparently ransacked. Although police stated that robbery did not appear to be a motive in this crime, they were not convinced that Bhatnagar's murder was related to her professional work.
CPJ raised Bhatnagar's case in letters sent to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on January 27 and March 22 urging him to ensure a thorough investigation into the attack