MALACCA - He was kai pah (godfather) to 13-year-old M. Gunaseelan (pic) and often gave the boy free meals.
On Saturday, the man treated him to a game at a cybercafe and then brought him to an empty office at a shophouse in an abandoned commercial centre at Taman Merdeka Jaya, about 2km from the boy's home.
On Monday evening, the owner of the shophouse brought two prospective tenants to view the office and they were shocked to see the lifeless body of the teenager, clad in jeans and T-shirt, tied to a chair and gagged.
The victim's mother lodged a police report at around 8pm the same day.
At around 11pm, the police spotted the suspect at a hotel in Taman Angkasanuri in Durian Tunngal and arrested him. The police also seized three handphones from the 49-year-old man.
During interrogation, he confessed that he had kidnapped the boy and demanded a RM20,000 (S$7,695) ransom for his release, hoping the money would help to treat his young Vietnamese wife, who is allegedly suffering from a rare skin disease.
"Our initial investigation revealed that the suspect abducted the victim as he was facing severe financial constraint," said Malacca police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Chuah Ghee Lye.
He said the suspect, who was jobless, had been remanded for seven days.
Meanwhile, odd-job labourer D. Murugan, 52, said he could not understand why the man had targeted his son and demanded such a big sum from a poor man like him as he only earned RM1,500 a month.
He said Gunaseelan had befriended the suspect at the cybercafe sometime last year and called him kai pah.
"He told us kai pah had often bought him meals. I was shocked when the police revealed the identity of the suspect," said the father, with tears welling up in his eyes.
Murugan said his wife received 15 SMSes and two calls from the abductor, the first at 8pm on April 19.
He added that the first SMS read: "Anak lu sama saya, kita mahu wang, awak mahu anak, faham, kita mesti kerjasama." ("Your son is with me. I want money, you want your son. Understand, we must co-operate).
The last SMS at around 5pm on Monday read: "Lagi satu kali x sms. Awak boleh sembayang utk anak, Selamat Jalan." ("One more time you don't SMS back, you can pray for your son. Goodbye").
The boy's mother, A. Letchumy, 44, was too distraught to speak to the media.
She cried out the name of her son, the youngest of three children, as his casket arrived at their home at about 4pm yesterday.