Mr Cruel’s victims never saw his face. He always wore a distinctive black balaclava
The masked child killer dubbed Mr Cruel who terrified an Australian city three decades ago had previously committed sex crimes against adults – including raping an elderly nun.
New details of Mr Cruel’s criminal past are revealed in a book which examines some of the country’s most notorious murders and unsolved crimes.
Mr Cruel, whose identity is still unknown, assaulted at least four young girls in Melbourne in the late 1980s and early 1990s, abducting three and killing one.
Karmein Chan, a 13-year-old private schoolgirl snatched from her home after her sisters were forced into a wardrobe, was shot three times in the head.
The mystery clean freak’s brazen attacks were so meticulously planned and committed in such a calculated fashion he was initially known as ‘Mr Cool’.
He broke into suburban Melbourne homes at night armed with a knife and handgun, tied up parents and siblings then abducted girls as young as 11 who he held for up to 50 hours.
He forced the girls he assaulted to wash and carefully brush their teeth and fed some of them meals even while they were being abused.
None of his surviving victims ever saw Mr Cruel’s face which was hidden by a chilling black balaclava with white stitching around the eyes and mouth.
No useful forensic evidence was recovered from any of his crime scenes. There were no fingerprints to compare or any trace of DNA.
The child killer dubbed Mr Cruel who terrified Australia three decades ago previously committed sex crimes against adults, including raping an elderly nun. Mr Cruel abducted at least three girls in Melbourne and is believed to have murdered Karmein Chan (pictured)
Karmein Chan’s mother visited the site where her daughter Karmein’s body was found a year after she was abducted from her home. Mrs Chan and her husband had made tearful public appeals for Karmein’s safe return. Police believe the girl may have seen her abductor’s face
Forensic anthropologist and criminologist Dr Xanthe Millett has offered a fresh perspective on Mr Cruel’s offending in her latest book, Cold Case Investigations.
The book also examines cases including that of backpacker killer Ivan Milat, the disappearances of the three Beaumont children in 1966 and the presumed abduction of toddler William Tyrrell in 2014.
Mallett, who is also a television presenter and social commentator, uses her own expertise and the assistance of other experts to revisit and analyse these infamous crimes.
She concludes Mr Cruel was an ‘intelligent, meticulous and callous’ offender likely to have been actively involved in his community and considered by his neighbours as a ‘nice guy’.
Mallett reveals in an exclusive extract of Cold Case Investigations provided to Daily Mail Australia that Mr Cruel had a more complicated pattern of offending than previously supposed.
Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro, who worked on the Mr Cruel case, told Mallett he did not believe the offender had a specific attraction to prepubescent children.
Watson-Munro said investigators had asked him to profile Mr Cruel’s offending, which included previous sexual assaults of adult women not known to the public.
In one of those attacks Mr Cruel had raped an elderly nun then driven her car to a bank where he used her ATM card to steal her savings.
‘There were a number of other crimes involving the detention and rape of adult women,’ Watson-Munro told Mallett.
This sketch of Mr Cruel’s bedroom was made with the help of one of his child victims. Mr Cruel kept the first child he abducted for 18 hours and the second for 50. The last child he snatched, Karmein Chan, was found dead a year after her disappearance. She had been shot in the head
Sharon Wills (left) was the second girl abducted by Mr Cruel. Nicola Lynas (right) was the third. Sharon, 10, was released after 18 hours while Nicola, 13 was held captive for 50 hours
He suggested Mr Cruel had become desensitised to the ‘extreme sadism and brutality’ he inflicted upon those adult victims and turned to children to satisfy his perverted desires.
Mr Cruel came to the attention of police on August 22, 1987 when he broke into a family home at Lower Plenty, in Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs.
Once inside he tied up the parents in their bedroom, covered their eyes with surgical tape and forced them into a wardrobe.
He then blindfolded and gagged their six-year-old son, tied him to his bed and went after his 11-year-old sister.
After making the girl brush her teeth he assaulted her. He cut the phone lines and told the girl she could free her parents after she counted slowly to 100.
All up he spent about two hours in the house, even making himself a meal.
Mr Cruel next struck on December 27, 1988 when he broke into the home of John and Julie Wills and their four daughters at Ringwood.
This map from Cold Case Investigations shows the sites where Mr Cruel attacked and abducted children, where he released them and where Karmein Chan’s body was dumped
Having threatened the Wills parents with a gun and tying them up with copper wire he bound their ten-year-old daughter Sharon, covered her mouth and eyes with tape and abducted her.
The next night, 18 hours after she had been snatched, Sharon was dropped from a car at nearby Bayswater High School wearing a man’s shirt and green garbage bags.
THE TERRIBLE REIGN OF RAPIST ‘MR CRUEL’
The rapist known in the media as ‘Mr Cruel’ attacked girls as young as 11 in Melbourne in the 1980s and 1990s.
August 22, 1987, Lower Plenty: Mr Cruel broke into a house in the night, locked the parents in a wardrobe and attacked their 11-year-old daughter.
December 27, 1988, Ringwood: Broke into a house, tied up the parents and abducted their 10-year-old daughter, releasing her at a school 18 hours later.
July 3, 1990, Canterbury: Broke into a house, abducted a 13-year-old girl and drove her to another house where he kept her for 50 hours before release.
April 13, 1991 Templestowe: Broke into a house and abducted Karmein Chan, 13. Her body was found a year later.
Mr Cruel has never been identified.
Sharon told police her attacker had made her shower and brush and floss her teeth. He had kept her blindfolded throughout the ordeal and given her food while she was being assaulted.
‘We can only dread what the man would have done if the girl had pulled of the blindfold and seen his face,’ Detective Chief Inspector Des Johnson said at the time.
‘It is that close to being a homicide.’
The next attack came 18 months later on July 3, 1990 at Canterbury. Brian and Rosemary Lynas were out for dinner with friends but their daughters Nicola, 13 and Fiona, 15, were home.
Mr Cruel broke into the Lynas house armed with a gun and a knife and threatened the sisters before bundling Nicola into a stolen rental car. He made her bring her Presbyterian Ladies College uniform.
Fifty hours after her abduction Mr Cruel dropped Nicola, blindfolded and wrapped in a blanket, at a power substation in Kew.
Nicola reported she had been made to brush her teeth and wash herself thoroughly. She had been given food and water regularly while held captive.
Her abductor had watched a press conference in which Mr Lynas pleaded for the return of his daughter and had spoken to Nicola about it.
By now police had this description of the offender: Caucasian, aged between 30 and 50, from 173 to 180 centimetres tall, of medium build with a small pot belly.
He had fair or sandy hair, spoke with an Australian accent and used old-fashioned phrases including ‘bozo’, ‘missy’ and ‘worrywart’.
Police repeatedly appealed for information into the abductions of Sharon Wills, 10, Nicola Lynas, 13 and the murder of Karmein Chan, 13. No one has been arrested for any of the crimes
Nine months after Nicola’s abduction Mr Cruel appeared again on April 13, 1991 at Templestowe.
John and Phyllis Chan were at work in their Chinese restaurant leaving daughters Karmein, 13, Karlie, nine, and Karen, seven, at home.
Armed with a knife Mr Cruel forced Karlie and Karen into a wardrobe and disappeared into the night with Karmein. This time there would be no family reunion.
A year later, on April 9, 1992 a dog walker found Karmein’s decomposing remains near a landfill site at Thomastown. She had been shot three times in the head.
Detectives believe Karmein may have seen Mr Cruel’s face or recognised him in some other way, leading to him killing her.
Karmein’s murder, 28 years ago, was the last attack attributed to Mr Cruel.
Over the next couple of years Taskforce Spectrum would examine 30,000 houses and eliminate 27,000 persons of interest from their inquiries.
Police investigated a theory Mr Cruel was the same man as the so-called Golden State Killer who raped and murdered young women in California before 1986. That link was ruled out and Joseph James DeAngelo (pictured) was charged in the United States with 13 murders last year
A poster featuring the faces of Sharon, Nicola and Karmein and the details of their abductions was distributed to 1.4million homes. The FBI also provided a profile.
From 2010 to 2013 police brought together under Taskforce Apollo re-examined the crimes attributed to Mr Cruel but still the identity of the offender eluded them.
Not all investigators were convinced Karmein’s murder was committed by Mr Cruel.
Even the name given to the offender by a Melbourne newspaper has caused police problems – they say he is unlikely to seem cruel to those around him.
Police investigated a theory Mr Cruel was the same man as America’s so-called Golden State Killer who raped and murdered young women in California during the decade to 1986.
Detectives ruled out the potential link and former policeman Joseph James DeAngelo was named as the Golden State Killer when he was charged with 13 of the murders last year.
It is possible Mr Cruel stopped abducting children after Karmein’s murder. He may also be dead, in prison or have moved onto a new killing field.
Cold Case Investigations by criminologist and forensic anthropologist Xanthe Mallett is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and available now. Recommended retail price: $32.99
The following is an edited extract of Cold Case Investigations by Xanthe Mallett, published by Pan Macmillan Australia and available now:
Many sex offenders build on minor ‘nuisance’ crimes, such as stealing underwear from washing lines, peeping in windows, taking covert photos, working up to more violent offences. In Mr Cruel’s case it is likely that there would have been incidents of harassment or stalking in his past, as well as indecent assaults and sex attacks, perhaps on adults as well as children. But that does not mean he had ever been investigated or charged with anything; he’s smart, so he may well have evaded attention.
By the second attack Mr Cruel was acting out his fantasies with even more confidence, this time being self-assured enough to take the child and keep her for a protracted period before releasing her. He wanted more time alone with the child (18 hours) than staying in the house would have afforded him, as the risk of being caught would increase the longer he remained there. He again kept his face covered the whole time and so wasn’t concerned about being identified. The third assault was another escalation. It happened earlier in the evening, and this time Mr Cruel took even longer with his victim (5O hours) before releasing her.
A poster featuring the faces of Sharon Wills, Nicola Lynas and Karmein Chan and the details of their abductions was delivered to 1.4million homes. The FBI also provided a profile of Mr Cruel
Although there is no specific forensic or other evidence to connect Mr Cruel with Karmein Chan’s abduction and murder, I would include it amongst Mr Cruel’s crimes, as this feels to me like the final act in this particular sequence. We can’t ignore how tidily this offence fits within the geographic spread of the other crimes. Mr Cruel knew and felt comfortable in this area. The first and fourth attacks are so close together that it is likely the offender lived close to where these incidents happened.
However, I don’t think this was an acceleration in MO (from sex crime to murder); it seems more likely that Karmein’s death was unplanned. The offender was confident to return the girls to their families when they couldn’t identify him. Maybe he kept Karmein too long or something went wrong when he planned to release her and she accidentally saw his face, which could have led the offender to break from his pattern and kill from necessity.
We know that Mr Cruel was watching the media reports and enjoyed reading articles about his crimes in newspapers, as he talked to some of his other victims about the media attention. He would have seen the heartbreak he caused the Chans when they made distraught appeals for information on the news. Did Mr Cruel feel something like empathy for the Chans? I don’t think so: remember, he left her body at a rubbish tip. That is not a respectful place to leave a young girl’s body. My sense is that he killed Karmein when a situation arose tha
t meant he had no choice, and afterwards he was too afraid of being caught to offend again.
Forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro (pictured) told author Xanthe Mallett he did not believe Mr Cruel had a specific attraction to prepubescent children. ‘There were a number of other crimes involving the detention and rape of adult women,’ he said of Mr Cruel’s past
Mr Cruel was apparently obsessed with personal cleanliness. He insisted his victims wash themselves and carefully brush and floss their teeth. One of them helped police produce this sketch of the bathroom where they were held captive but they never got to see Mr Cruel’s face
This offender had a specific interest in children, particularly those between the ages of 10-13 years. He selected children at a specific developmental stage; people grow and develop at slightly different rates, so one 13-year-old girl can look very young, more like a 10- or 11-year-old, whereas another can look 16. This offender specifically targeted children in their prepubescent stage (before they go through puberty and develop secondary sexual characteristics).
I was interested to know whether Mr Cruel was a paedophile in the true sense of the word. This term is often incorrectly used interchangeably with ‘child sex offender’, but it has a specific meaning. A paedophilia is a psychiatric condition whereby an adult is specifically attracted to prepubescent children.
I knew criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro had worked on this case, so I asked him what he thought.
Tim said, ‘No, Mr Cruel wasn’t an exclusive paedophile. Prior to him gaining national prominence for his infamous crimes, he was active in Melbourne. I had been retained by the Victorian Police to profile his offending, which exposed me to the full range of his actions. These included the rape and confinement of an elderly nun in a Melbourne northern suburb, with him brazenly taking her car and her ATM card in order to drive to the local bank and steal her savings. There were a number of other crimes involving the detention and rape of adult women’.
Karmein Chan’s parents John and Phyllis Chan (pictured) appeared on national television appealing for their daughter to be returned. They had been working at their Chinese restaurant when the 13-year-old girl was abducted while babysitting her younger sisters Karlie and Karen
So, even though Mr Cruel’s later victims were all female children, this could have skewed our profile, as I was unaware of his earlier criminal history until talking to Tim.
I asked Tim why he thought Mr Cruel’s victim selection had changed.
‘It may well be the case that with the effluxion of time, as is often the case, he became desensitised to the extreme sadism and brutality he inflicted on these women, with the situation then escalating to him abducting and sexually abusing children. From that time onwards he selected households with a young girl which fitted his specific criteria. They were always his main target.
‘Mr Cruel’s offending demonstrates that he was both predatory and opportunistic. The nature of his offences, however, mitigate against him being impulsive. His precision planning, the lack of evidence obtained at crime scenes and the fact that he is yet to be identified speaks to a high level of organisation, prior, during and subsequent to his offending behaviour. As with most sexual offenders it is probable that he accessed child sexual abuse material.’
The body of Karmein Chan (left) was found a year after she was abducted from her parents’ home. She had been shot three times in the head. One of the girls who was released from Mr Cruel’s clutches helped police draw this sketch (right) of the inside of her abductor’s car
Perhaps most important and enlightening from the police’s perspective is the fact that this offender was so careful at not leaving behind any forensic evidence – even over 30 years later we are no closer to identifying him. This is extraordinary, as in 1987, when the first known attack took place, DNA analysis was in its infancy. There is no way this child predator could have predicted the scientific advances that would later help identify offenders in so many cold cases. Perhaps Mr Cruel was intelligent enough to know that any trace he left could one day lead back to him, or perhaps (even more worryingly) he was aware of core forensic principles. Was he a trained investigator with knowledge of Dr Edmond Locard’s famous ‘exchange principle’ that ‘every contact leaves a trace’?
Author Xanthe Mallet is a criminologist and forensic anthropologist who has appeared on several true crime television programs
Or was it luck, and had the evidence been correctly protected, collected and stored, we might have been able to identify this dangerous offender?
Was he careless or fearless? Or are we looking at two offenders – one committing the original abductions and assaults, and one abducting and murdering Karmein Chan?
The more I delved into this case, the more questions I had. What I could say was that Mr Cruel was an intelligent, meticulous and callous offender. He was also patient and disciplined. And someone who would have blended in. If he lived in the small area identified in [the illustration above], he would have been considered a good neighbour. Probably a nice guy. He was meticulous and would have been known for being detail oriented. Perhaps quiet, even introverted, he is likely to have been involved in community-based projects, may have helped out at local sports clubs or at church. He may even have worked at a local school. Whatever his job or hobbies, he would have had access to children in one part of his life.
There is nothing deranged about his behaviour, his attacks are not the result of mental illness – instead, they are reasoned and ordered.
This man did not have horns and a tail.
Which is why the nickname ‘Mr Cruel’ is a bit misleading, as in his everyday life he would come across as anything but cruel.
Cold Case Investigations by Xanthe Mallett is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and available now. Recommended retail price: $32.99
A $1million reward is available for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for the abduction and murder of Karmein Chan. Anyone with information about Mr Cruel’s crimes can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Detectives from Taskforce Spectrum, which investigated the Mr Cruel kidnappings, examined 30,000 Melbourne houses and eliminated 27,000 persons of interest from their inquiries
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