By the time he burst in on a family in Lower Plenty in August 1987 and handcuffed them at gunpoint, Mr Cruel was clearly an experienced and confident criminal.
Offenders like Mr Cruel start out with peeping tom activities, stalking, stealing underwear from clotheslines and hot prowls, before eventually escalating to home invasions like this.
Police generally agree Mr Cruel is responsible for as many as 12 attacks on women and girls around Melbourne commencing in the early 1980s. These may include two abductions in 1985 and 3 burglary rapes in Dec 1985. Police have not revealed details of any other crimes, however we know from various sources that they may have been centred on the south-eastern suburbs around Brighton, Hawthorn, Caulfield and Dingley.
Retired homicide detective Ron Iddles said that when looking for earlier crimes that may be attributable to Mr Cruel, they looked for attacks ‘every 6 months or so’, yet there are two 18-month gaps in Mr Cruel’s known offences between Dec 1985 and Aug 1987, and Jan 1989 – Jul 1990.
Golden State Killer Joseph James Deangelo is an instructive example here. Before his murders in Southern California, he was responsible for earlier crime sprees originally thought to be the work of at least two separate offenders. He is also responsible for the murder of two passersby who disturbed him while he was out prowling. Similarly, it is possible that Mr Cruel’s prior convictions may in fact be for seemingly unrelated offences such as trespassing, burglary, stalking or theft.
Below are several crimes from contemporary newspaper reports that appear to be unsolved and bear some of the hallmarks of Mr Cruel. One of the problems with relying on contemporary newspaper accounts is that there is no way of knowing if these crimes have subsequently been solved.
Please comment below if you know of any updates in any of these cases or have ideas about other crimes that may be the work of Mr Cruel.
12 Jan 1976, Beaumauris
8yo Eloise Worledge abducted from her bed around 2am and never seen again.
Along with the Mr Cruel abductions, this is one of very few unsolved abductions in Victorian history where the victim was taken from their bedroom in the middle of the night, while family members slept nearby. While this predates Mr Cruel’s known abductions by over a decade, one point of similarity is the proximity to Mr Cruel’s bayside attacks and the timing around school holidays. The only clues were a cut flyscreen, a piece of bark left on her bedroom floor, a car heard speeding down her street at 2am and reports of a prowler in the area.
6 Jan 1978, Caulfield South
16yo girl dragged from bed late on Friday night, tied up and assaulted for more than an hour by man with flick knife.
While little is known about this crime, including whether parents were present, a few similarities with Mr Cruel’s MO are apparent: tying up victim and terrorizing her over a prolonged period, threatening her with a knife and attacking her late at night in her home. The location in Caulfield and the timing around school holidays also stand out.
*UPDATE: we have learned that a 16 year old youth was charged with this attack.
Source: Girl abducted, 3 raped in wave of sex crimes; 9 Jan 1978, The Age
April 1982, Caulfield
Offender threatened a 21-year-old woman with a screwdriver in Caulfield on April 1, 1982 before dragging her into a car about 7pm. She was driven to an unknown location before she was raped.
The same offender is believed responsible for a second attack in Mulgrave in May 1993. The notable point of difference apart from the screwdriver is that the offender was not wearing a balaclava.
12 Jan 1986, Mitcham
Man with knife indecently assaulted woman and girl walking home at 11.40pm
While there are obvious differences with Mr Cruel’s MO, this incident stands out as it occurred just one month after Mr Cruel’s suspected burglary rape in neighbouring Donvale and during the school holidays – coincidentally on the 10th anniversary of Eloise Worledge’s abduction. The same offender threatened another woman with a knife a month later Creek Rd Mitcham at 11pm. Unlike Mr Cruel, this man was not wearing a mask, though his physical description was consistent with Mr Cruel.
Source: Police hunt knife man; Nunawading Gazette, Jan 1986
17 Feb 1986, Caulfield
Woman abducted from home at 12.30am, blindfolded and forced to lie on floor of Mustard or red-coloured Toyota sedan by bearded man wearing glasses. Driven to Chelsea Heights before escaping 15 hours later.
Of all the crimes on this list this may be most likely to be one of the crimes believed by police to be one of Mr Cruel’s bayside attacks. While the offender is not wearing a balaclava, like Mr Cruel he blindfolded his victim and forced her to lie on the floor of his car, and took her to an unknown location for an extended period. Could the fact that she escaped have scared him off offending again until the Lower Plenty attack in August 1987?
Source: Caulfield woman abducted, say police; 17 Feb 1986, The Age
July 1989, Hoppers Crossing
Failed abduction of 9yo girl
Man entered girl’s bedroom after midnight and attempted to abduct her but eventually placed her back in bed
Source: Abduction attempt; The Age, 17 Jul 1989
13 Sept 1990, Glen Waverley
Masked man with knife wearing boiler suit attempted to tie up 22yo woman after she disturbed him ransacking her house. She kicked him and he fled.
The description of a masked man in a boiler suit tying up a woman two months after Nicola Lynas’ abduction could well suggest a foiled attack by Mr Cruel, except for one detail – the attacker was described as dark-skinned.
Source: Woman fights intruder; The Age, 14 Sept 1990
22 May 1991, Mildura
Man assaulted 7yo girl and attempted to abduct 11yo girl
Masked man entered house at 3am, dragged sleeping 7yo girl from her bedroom to the family car and assaulted her, before attempting to abduct her 11yo sister whose screams roused her parents. Raymond Peterson, 27, of Mildura was charged with this attack.
Source: Masked man attacks girl; 22 May 1991, Bendigo Advertiser; Fear in the home spreads as another child attacked, 22 May 1991, Sydney Morning Herald
6 Mar 1992, Newcastle, NSW
Girl abducted, tied, blindfolded abducted and raped by man in balaclava
If Mr Cruel left Victoria after Karmein Chan’s murder, could he have resurfaced in another state and switched M.O to more opportunistic attacks? The 1992 abduction of Rhianna Barreau in S.A is often floated as a potential interstate Mr Cruel abduction. However, this little-known NSW abduction has more apparent similarities with Mr Cruel – i.e. balaclava, victim tied and blindfolded and being driven around.
Source: Hunt for rapist after girl kidnapped; 8 Mar 1992, The Age
7 Oct 1992, Adelaide, SA
12 yo Rhianna Barreau abducted in the middle of the day while home alone during school holidays. Never seen again
While little is known about what happened to Rhianna Barreau, as one of the few high-profile unsolved abductions of a child from their home in Australia it is sometimes suggested as the possible work of Mr Cruel, mainly because a) it occurred around school holidays and b) a car with Victorian number plates was seen in the vicinity.
Four children home alone in Nunawading when a man claiming to be a repairman talked his way into their home. He then sexually assaulted the oldest child, a 13-year-old girl.
This attack is attributed to the uncaught Fake Tradie Rapist, who attacked Asian women in their homes, not Mr Cruel. However it bears some striking similarities to Mr Cruel’s crimes in terms of victimology, geography and M.O.
12 Dec 2000, Wantirna
15yo Boronia Heights College student Cherie Westell presumed abducted on way home from dentist
While there is nothing specific to suggest that Mr Cruel committed this abduction, it is worth noting that Cherie Westell attended the same school and disappeared under similar circumstances as Bung Siriboon listed below.
2 June 2011, Boronia
13yo Boronia Heights College student Bung Siriboon presumed abducted on way to school in Harcourt Rd. Never seen again.
Mr Cruel’s name is often mentioned in connection with this crime due to the similarities in victimology, though Mr Cruel is not known to have abducted victims from the street. However, could he have emerged from retirement for one final atrocity and changed M.O due to age or infirmity?