It’s been three decades since the serial kidnapper, rapist and presumed child killer known as Mr Cruel terrorised Melbourne.
Mr Cruel is believed to be responsible for as many as 12 attacks on women and children in Melbourne since the mid 1980s, including the rape of an 11 year old girl in Lower Plenty in 1987, the abduction of Sharon Wills in Ringwood in 1988, the abduction of Nicola Lynas in Canterbury in 1990 and the abduction and murder of Karmein Chan in 1991.
To this day Melbourne’s most notorious child predator still hasn’t paid for the lives he’s destroyed.
Mr Cruel Profile
However, while we do not yet know Mr Cruel’s name, there is plenty we do know about him based on the physical evidence he left at the crime-scenes and the eyewitness accounts of his victims.
Here’s what we know:
- Mr Cruel had forensic knowledge
Mr Cruel went to great lengths to avoid leaving behind any forensic evidence that detectives could use to catch him. It has therefore been suggested that perhaps he had some level of forensic knowledge.
- Bathed two victims and wiped sinks and benchtops to remove fingerprints
- Transported victim to release site in garbage bags
- Made victims brush teeth and clean nails
- Left no DNA at crime scenes or on victims
- Told Nicola Lynas “you will be taken to a hospital and they will test you you will be examined by a police surgeon. They’ll be looking for evidence to link me to you and they won’t find anything.”1
2. Mr Cruel had access to property under flight path
It is believed the perpetrator had access to a property which was located under one of the two main flight paths into Tullamarine Airport.
- Both Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas heard planes landing while in captivity. Nicola Lynas told detectives she could hear the planes banking after they passed over her.
- An investigation into flights operating that day determined the likely location of the property as under either the Tullamarine east-west or north-south flight paths.2
- Spectrum Taskforce Head David Sprague said that based on how loud the planes were, they might have been just 400m above the house.
- Police searched 30,000 houses in 15 suburbs including Coolaroo, East Keilor, Niddrie and Westmeadows without luck
3. Mr Cruel followed media about his crimes
- Watched Lynas family press conference with Nicola and spoke to her about it, saying “Think you’re worth $25,000?”
- Went out to buy the Sun and seemed to enjoy the stories about his crimes and the parallels being drawn to other abductions
4. Mr Cruel probably videotaped his victims
- Sharon saw a wooden tripod at the foot of the bed she was held in
5. Mr Cruel used red herrings
- Pretended to talk to an accomplice during Lynas abduction
- Pretended to be seeking $25,000 ransom during Lynas abduction
- Pretended to make a phone call during Lower Plenty home invasion
- Pretended to be looking for money during Lower Plenty, Wills and Lynas attack
- Spraypainted Chan’s car with words ‘Pay back Asian drug dealer. More anon. More to come.’
6. Mr Cruel listened to radio
- Left radio on 3TT throughout Wills attack
- Played KZFM in his car during Lynas attack, and had radio on in his bedroom
- Brought in radio and tuned it to 3KZ in Lower Plenty attack to mask sounds of attack
7. Mr Cruel’s lifestyle gave him freedom of movement at certain times
- Slept in until 10am during the Lynas attack on a Wednesday morning in July 1990
- Was unshaven during Lower Plenty attack in August 1987
- Abductions of Sharon Wills, Nicola Lynas and Karmein Chan occurred in or leading up to school holidays
- Was able to conduct extensive stalking and surveillance in the lead up to his attacks
8. Mr Cruel’s language
- Used terms “bozo” “worry wart” “yous” and “missy” to his victims.
- Lower Plenty victim and Lynas described his voice as ‘deep’ ‘gruff’ ‘uneducated’
- Wills family described him as ‘no accent, well spoken, fluent English’ suggesting that he was Australian
- “You’re not going to be a hero are you?” to John Wills, “Think you’re worth $25,000?” to Nicola Lynas; “Do you feel brave?” to Lower Plenty victims
- Reportedly told one unconfirmed victim “my liberty, my freedom is more important than your life.”
9. Mr Cruel could tie knots
- Knots used by sailors, truck drivers, farmers and fishermen.
10. Mr Cruel almost certainly had prior criminal or tactical experience
- Controlled multiple adult victims in Wills and Lower Plenty attacks
- Cut phone lines
- Entered via various means: removing window pane with knife, forcing roll-out window, pushing key through lock
- Had weapons and handcuffs
- Carried a kit containing housebreaking implements and restraints3
- Evidence of planning suggests offender spent time conducting reconnaissance and surveillance on his victims.4
11. Mr Cruel possessed a gun
- Lower Plenty family described his gun as a small black pistol-style handgun.
- Wills family described a dark-coloured handgun with a square grip, a squarish barrel with a silver bit at the end, possibly a pistol.
- The Lynas sisters described the gun as a gun with a silver barrel and a brown wooden handle.
- Karmein Chan was shot with a .22 calibre weapon
12. Mr Cruel’s physical appearance
- Mr Cruel went to extraordinary lengths to ensure he was not seen by his victims and descriptions varied
- Lower Plenty description: aged mid 20s. Australian. 178cm to 183cm tall, slim to medium build with brown, greyish/white hair with white spots in it. Greyish/white bushy eyebrows. Unshaven, with a couple of days growth. Oval face, soft hands, possibly right handed. Wearing blue denim jeans, good condition, close fitting, a brown tweed sports jacket, a blue nylon waterproofed zip up jacket, blue runners with white flashes down the side, white soles in good condition and white cotton socks. Navy blue balaclava with an open face and some type of material covering the eye area. Dishwashing or surgical gloves light in colour, possibly yellow.5
- Wills attack description: Australian. 173cm to 180cms tall, thin to medium build. Had either a moustache or whiskers, possibly an early beard growth. Aged mid 20s to 30s. Right-handed. Hairy chest. Wearing a dark coloured boiler suit, gloves and a dark coloured ski mask or balaclava which had eye and mouth holes and white stitching around the eye and mouth holes, possibly with red stitching as well.6
- Lynas attack description: just under 170cm (though Nicola’s sister estimated his height at 182cm), well built, slightly big stomach, like a beer belly. No body odour; hands felt hairy with rough skin and shortish fingernails; arms were quite solid and stocky with fine hair; that he had fine hair on his chest and no hair on his back.7
13. Mr Cruel took trophies from his victims
Mr Cruel stole several distinctive items from victims including:
- Ecuadorean Shirt Company parka with fake black fur collar
- a gold diamond engagement ring with the number 4132 stamped inside
- classic gold record set by London Philharmonic Orchestra
- Rosemary Lynas’ driver’s licence, Medicare card and credit card
- Ken Done beach bag
- A PLC summer uniform, tracksuit pants and school jumper
- A Melbourne football club beanie
14. Mr Cruel’s car
During the Dec 1988 and July 1990 abductions of Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas, Mr Cruel transported his victims in a car:
- It was a four-door vehicle with carpeted floor, bucket seats, a low glove box and a floor gear shift
- The vehicle smelt clean but sounded old and he had trouble starting it
- The floor carpet, front door, arm rest and press down lock were all cream coloured
- He told both girls the car was stolen, which may suggest the car was not in fact stolen
- On the night Nicola Lynas was released, a White Commodore Vacationer sedan with three blue stripes along the side was seen acting suspiciously nearby
- Two separate witnesses have reported seeing a ‘ute’ or ‘truck’ near where Karmein Chan’s remains were discovered – NB these sightings have not been verified by police
FBI Profile of Mr Cruel
On 24 April 1991, the FBI provided the following profile of Mr Cruel to Victoria police based on their ‘research and investigative experience in similar cases’:
- he may reside or work in proximity to his first and last known attacks i.e. Lower Plenty, Templestowe.
- he is likely to be employed or involved with a school due to the use of school uniforms and timing in school holidays (though NB the Lower Plenty attack and abduction of Nicola Lynas did not occur during Victorian school holidays)
- he will appear genuinely dedicated to students and this may have been recognised with awards which seem to make him above suspicion
- he will have kept home-made pornography including of his victims
- he is a functional individual with steady employment, is generally regarded as a good neighbour, polite, quiet, somewhat introverted, and may be involved in community projects
- if he has a partner they will have been away during the time of his attacks and will know of his sexual dysfunctions, use of pornography and schoolgirl uniforms etc.
- those around him may have noticed changes in behaviour during and after attacks, including uncharacteristic use of alcohol, interest in religion, missing work or appearing distant and preoccupied
- According to a detective who worked closely with the victim. Shocking Australian True Crime Stories, Paul Anderson
- ‘Infiltration: The True Story Of The Man Who Cracked The Mafia’, p 129, Colin McLaren
- Spectrum Task Force Special Circular 12 August 1991
- ‘Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks’ Herald Sun Keith Moor, April 8, 2016