SINGAPORE – A Malaysian odd-job worker who killed a colleague in 1986 in a fight over $1,000 evaded arrest for 30 years, and even returned to Singapore a few times over the years, the High Court was told on Monday.

In 2006, with technological advances, Arumugam Veerasamy was linked to the crime through his fingerprints that were left on a beer bottle.

But it was not until 2016 that he was arrested when he entered Singapore via Woodlands Checkpoint.

His name had been misspelt on his Singapore work permit and consequently on the police gazette issued for his arrest, the court was told.

Arumugam, now a 61-year-old grandfather, was sentenced to 8½ years’ jail after he pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

He was 28 years old in 1986 when he was hired to do odd jobs by the victim, Mr Muthiah Kutha Lingam, 43, also a Malaysian.

The court heard that Mr Muthiah, a construction worker who also supplied labour for projects, paid Arumugam $10 at the end of each day instead of the agreed sum of $45.

On the afternoon of Aug 28 that year, Arumugam went to Mr Muthiah’s hut in Lorong Kabong – a road near Choa Chu Kang that has been replaced by a stretch of the Pan Island Expressway – to discuss his unpaid wages amounting to about $1,000.

After they had some beers, Arumugam lashed out at Mr Muthiah, who explained that he was still waiting to be paid by his boss.

The two men got into a scuffle and when Mr Muthiah was lying on his back, Arumugam picked up a hammer lying nearby and repeatedly struck the victim on the head and chest with the tool.

As Mr Muthiah lay groaning in pain, Arumugam threw the hammer on the ground and left the scene. He took a taxi to Woodlands Checkpoint and crossed the Causeway into Johor Baru.

Mr Muthiah’s body was discovered that evening by another worker.

Police found him lying on a mattress, with his head on two pillows soaked with blood. A blood-stained hammer weighing about 1kg was also recovered at the hut.

An autopsy found five fractures on his skull and chest.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelly Ho sought at least nine years’ jail, arguing that Arumugam’s “vicious attack” with a deadly weapon caused the victim to suffer a slow and painful death.

She argued that instead of helping the victim, Arumugam fled the country. He did not surrender himself to the police and even “brazenly” crossed the border from Malaysia a few times over the years.

But defence counsel Siraj Shaik Aziz argued that Arumugam did not deliberately evade arrest and was only returning home.

Arumugam had no idea that he was wanted for killing the victim, who was alive when he last saw him, he added.

The misspelling of his name on his work permit was not something that had occurred to his client as he was educated in Tamil, said the lawyer.

Mr Siraj Shaik sought eight years’ jail, arguing that his client had cooperated with the police after his arrest.