Another 12 possible sexual assaults
For the best part of 30 years the majority of media reports have linked the perpetrator known as Mr Cruel with 4 attacks on children aged between 10 and 13. As mentioned in previous posts, these attacks, known as the ‘canonical’ Mr Cruel attacks, were the sexual assault of an 11 or 12 year old girl in Lower Plenty on 22 August 1987; the abduction of Sharon Wills on 27 December 1988; the abduction of Nicola Lynas on 3 July 1990; and the abduction of Karmein Chan on 13 April 1991 (and her subsequent murder).
However, at different times since 1985, the police or the media have also linked this same perpetrator to another 12 sexual assaults at least. At present, it is unknown if any of these attacks have been definitively ruled out by investigators as being the work of Mr Cruel.
Some of these attacks are as follows:
- The abduction and sexual assault of a 14 year old girl in Hampton in February 1985.
- The abduction and sexual assault of a 14 year old boy in Hampton in July 1985.
- The sexual assault of a 30 year old woman in her Warrandyte home on 4 December 1985.
- The sexaul assault of a 30 or 35 year old woman in her Donvale home on 6 December 1985.
- The sexual assault of a 34 year old woman in her Bulleen home on 7 December 1985.
- The sexual assault of a woman in Greensborough in March 1987.
- The sexual assault of woman in Greensborough in August 1987.
- The sexual assault of a 48 year old woman in Moonee Ponds on 10-11 November 1987.
- The sexual assault of an unknown victim in Hawthorn between 1985-1987.
- The sexual assault of an unknown victim in Brighton between 1985-1987.
- The sexual assault of an unknown victim in Caulfield between 1985-1987.
- The sexual assault of an unknown victim in Dingley between 1985-1987.
“The Hampton rapist”
Let us analyse what has been said about these attacks in the media and who has linked them to Mr Cruel over the years. The sexual assault of a 14 year old girl in Hampton, in February 1985, was first linked to the perpetrator known as Mr Cruel by writers John Silvester and Andrew Rule in their 2008 book Rats Crooks who Got Away with it : Tales of True Crime and Mystery from the Underbelly Archive. The co-writers wrote only briefly about this attack stating: “Police had been looking for a man they called the ‘Hampton rapist’ who, they suspected, abducted a fourteen-year-old from her home in February 1985. They believe the same man was responsible for attacks in Caulfield, Hawthorn, Brighton, Dingley and Donvale. He was an opportunist who would break into houses looking for money, but who would sexually assault victims if he had the chance. The ‘Hampton Rapist’ was believed to be the same man responsible for later attacks, including Karmein Chan’s. Much later, after thousands of hours of fruitless investigations, police were to conclude there were probably two offenders – possibly one a copycat. While some of the Hampton assaults had striking similarities to the later one, police finally established that the first-known attack by Mr Cruel was in Lower Plenty, in August 1987.”
One confusing point about this information is that Silvester and Rule’s book suggests that police later ruled out the earlier attacks “after thousands of hours of fruitless investigations”. Yet, this contradicts Keith Moor’s later information that some detectives did indeed consider at least two of the 1985 attacks in Hampton as being the work of Mr Cruel. Furthermore, this is the only source on the public record that has ever attributed attacks in Hawthorn, Caulfield, Brighton and Dingley as being possibly the work of Mr Cruel, and nothing more is known about any of them. The Donvale attack referred to must be the same one mentioned in the contemporary newspaper articles as that of the rape of the 30 or 35 year old woman in December of 1985.
“Scared and scarred schoolgirl”
The sexual assault of a 14 year old girl in Hampton in February 1985 was also linked to the perpetrator known as Mr Cruel by journalist Keith Moor in his article for The Herald Sun Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children, dated 12 April 2016. In the article Moor stated: “One of the incidents police believe may have been one of the first Mr Cruel attacks involved a 14-year-old girl who was abducted from her Hampton home in 1985. She was tied, gagged and blindfolded before being driven to a vacant building site and assaulted. The scared and scarred schoolgirl was dumped at the nearby Moorabbin Bowl on Nepean Highway at 2.10am, nearly five hours after being kidnapped”
“The 1985 survivor, in her statement…believes the assailant ejaculated in her and swabs were taken.”
I cannot find any reference to this crime in any major Melbourne newspaper, nor any local newspaper from the time period. Another reference I have found to this crime was in Adam Shand’s documentary Australian True Crime Stories, season 3 episode 7, which appeared on the Nine Network in 2019.
“As I mentioned earlier Mr Cruel could be connected to up to 12 assaults. I’ve spoken at length to Mr Cruel’s first documented victim from 1985. Understandably she doesn’t want to talk on camera. But, she did relay what he said to her during the assault. “My liberty, my freedom is more important than your life. This is very telling when viewed through the lens of the Karmein Chan murder. In the mid 1980s, DNA testing was in its infancy and poor forensic work in the early cases, dramatically impacted later investigations.”.
The scene then cuts to an interview with Keith Moor, who states: “Quite a lot of the original witness statements from 1985, ‘86, ‘87, that David Sprague desperately wanted were never able to be found. In one case, I think it was his first victim, had been tied up. The rope was retrieved, but the rope had been put into a plastic bag. Whilst he got very good at covering his tracks, common sense suggests, you don’t start off that good. If he was ever going to make mistakes, it would have been in those early days. That rope could have had his DNA on it. And the Spectrum Taskforce were mortified when they couldn’t find the rope.” The documentary then cuts to a visual of a plastic bag marked with the title “police evidence” and a hand belonging to an unknown person picking it up and taking it out of the scene. It is not clear what the producers of this film were implying by showing this visualisation, but it certainly seems to hint at some sort of conspiracy.
The scene then cuts back to Adam Shand interviewing former detective Chris O’Connor and Shand states: “The 1985 survivor, in her statement…believes the assailant ejaculated in her and swabs were taken. Do you think, if they are around, they could still be tested?” Chris O’Connor replies: “they could certainly be matched, if they’re still in existence”. What is unclear about this exchange is whether the swabs taken from the 1985 year old Hampton victims are still in existence or not. The placing of this scene in which the question is put to O’Connor by Shand just after the scene in which Keith Moor has described the police losing evidence is odd indeed, but it is not clear what the intention was here since it is never verified that the semen swabs taken from the 1985 Hampton victim were also lost. The viewer then, is left to decide for themselves as to whether a) the semen swabs are still in existence; and b) there was some sort of conspiracy that led to police evidence being lost in this case. Furthermore, what that conspiracy might be in the latter case is never dealt with.
Neither Keith Moor’s article, nor Shand’s documentary state what month in 1985 the attack on the 14 year old girl occurred, but we can deduce that it occurred in February 1985 because Moor’s article states that the next attack attributed to Mr Cruel, that of a 14 year old boy, occurred “on July (sic) 1985, five months after the attack on the 14 year old Hampton schoolgirl” and this matches up with the date given by Silvester and Rule in their own discussion of the same attack.
“He was held captive and assaulted in unknown premises for just over three hours”.
Keith Moor in his article for the Herald Sun titled Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking child abductions, dated 8 April 2016, goes into detail about an attack on a 14 year old boy that also allegedly occurred in Hampton in 1985, this time against a 14 year old boy.
“Another unsolved attack in Hampton, Bill’s stamping ground at the time, bore many of the hallmarks of a Mr Cruel attack — except it was on a 14-year-old boy. Experts say with such offenders it is often more about control and power over victims, rather than the sex of the victim. The schoolboy was abducted from his Hampton home about 8.25pm on July 1985, five months after the abduction of the 14-year-old Hampton schoolgirl. He was held captive and assaulted in unknown premises for just over three hours before being released in Caulfield South about 11.45pm.”
Again, I could find no reference to this attack in the newspaper articles of the day, either in local newspapers or the The Age, The Sun News Pictorial, or The Herald.
“A 30 year old woman from Warrandyte was raped by a man who confronted her in her bedroom”
The next non-canonical attack which has been attributed to Mr Cruel and for which we have a date was the 4 December 1985 rape of a 30 year old woman in Warrandyte. The first article to appear in the press about this attack was a 9 December 1985 article in the Sun titled New silver gun terror in rapes by Michael Reid. The article reported about a group of 3 rapes that had all occurred within the space of 4 days in the Eastern suburbs of Warrandyte, Donvale and Bulleen. The comment about the “new silver gun rapist” was a reference to a previous rapist, Peter Vaitos, a man who had terrorised the eastern suburbs in the late 1970s and had been sentenced to a long prison term in 1981. He had used a silver handgun in his attacks on women, and it appeared that this new attacker was doing the same thing. On the Warrandyte attack, the article stated “On Wednesday night a 30 year old woman from Warrandyte was raped by a man who confronted her in her bedroom. The man wore a balaclava and was possibly armed with a sawn off shotgun. He was aged 30-40, about 180cm tall, broad-shouldered and medium build.
“The man, armed with a gun, appeared from a walk-in wardrobe while the woman was getting ready for bed“
The next day on 10 December 1985, the Doncaster and Templestowe News published an article with no author listed titled Police seek man after rape. The article was only about the Warrandyte rape and did not mention the other two that occurred the same week. It included extra details about this attack stating: “A spokesman for Doncaster CIB, said the man, armed with a gun, appeared from a walk-in wardrobe while the woman was getting ready for bed about 11:10pm on Wednesday. Detectives are searching for a man 30-40 years old and about 177.5 to 180cm tall in connection with the incident. He is believed to be of medium build with broad shoulders and a pale complexion. Police said he was wearing fawn overalls, a dark balaclava and gloves. A car, which police said was used as a getaway vehicle, was sighted in the area. Police are carrying out a doorknock to try to find more clues.”
“Police said he is well-spoken and might drive a white car, possibly a Mercedes-Benz.”
One week later on the 17 December 1985, also in the Doncaster and Templestowe News, another article was published giving more information about the rapist. The article told of a Neighbourhood Watch meeting which had taken place in Templestowe Heights. At the meeting Sergeant David Trueman had told the group that “women who came home to an empty house should be especially careful”. He went on to say “he appears to have observed his victims’ movements, as in each attack he has known there will not be a man in the house”. The description of the offender stated: “The man is believed to be in his late 20s to early 30s, with a muscular chest and clean-shaven”. A description of his getaway vehicle was also given: “Police said he is well-spoken and might drive a white car, possibly a Mercedes-Benz.”
As mentioned in the Melbourne Marvels blog post about the Lower Plenty attack, the Warrandyte attack was still being linked to the Lower Plenty attack in newspaper articles that appeared in 1987 and 1988. After this though, it is not mentioned again in the press. Clearly however, the MO is extremely similar. It is unknown whether the Warrandyte rape was ever completely ruled out as being the work of Mr Cruel, or whether any arrest was ever made.
“A 30 year old woman was raped at her Donvale home”
The second of the attacks that occurred in December of 1985 was the 6 December rape of a 30 or 35 year old woman in Donvale. This attack was still being linked to Mr Cruel by Keith Moor and Geoff Wilkinson as late as 2019, so it is an attack that police who studied it felt had many of the hallmarks of a Mr Cruel attack. It is first mentioned in the aforementioned The Sun article by Michael Reid on 9 December 1985. On the Donvale attack, Reid wrote: “On Friday night a 30 year old woman was raped at her Donvale home. The attacker was in his late 20s or early 30s, slim, clean-shaven with a muscular chest and polite, well-educated voice. He was armed with a rusty silver revolver.”
As mentioned in the previous blog post about the Lower Plenty attack, the Donvale rape was strongly linked with the Lower Plenty attack. In that blog post, I detailed how Detective Sergeant Val Simpson had told me when I interviewed him that he believed it was the same perpetrator in both attacks. He had said how the rope used in both attacks was identical, and was not made in Australia. He had conducted a fruitless search by visiting rope factories in an attempt to identify the source of the rope.
“He waited in a house for a 30 year old woman and her 17 year old sister”
The victim was in the Donvale rape was described as 35 years old in the 19 November 1987 Jim Tennison article for The Sun titled Police hunt for ‘Mr Cruel’, but this was possibly a mistake as, as mentioned in the Lower Plenty blog post, a more detailed description of the Donvale rape appeared in the 12 May 1988 Innes Willox article for The Age titled, Police seek a new ‘Mr Stinky’ rapist. Willox described the attack as thus: “Police are certain the first rape was in Donvale on 6 December 1985, when he waited in a house for a 30 year old woman and her 17 year old sister. When the women arrived home at 10:30pm, the older woman was confronted by a man in the lounge at the back of the house. He had broken in through the back door. Armed with a long-barrelled pistol, the man took the woman to a bedroom where he had heard the younger woman talking. Using pantyhose he tied the girl up and locked her in a bedroom wardrobe, securing the door handles. The man then took the older woman to another bedroom, tied her up and raped her. Police said that during the attack, he called to her sister in the wardrobe to check on her. The rapist spent about 90 minutes in the house after the attack. He stole a small amount of money and ripped the telephone from the wall.”
The Donvale attack was being written about as possibly linked to the other Mr Cruel attacks as recently as 2019 when Keith Moor and Geoff Wilkinson republished Mugshots 1. Moor and Wilkinson mention an attack on a 30 year old woman in 1985 in this book (although no suburb is mentioned, this is probably a reference to the Donvale attack). As mentioned previously, I believe the same attack was that that was referred to in John Silvester and Andrew Rule’s book Rats, Crooks who Got Away with it : Tales of True Crime Mystery from the Underbelly Archive. Therefore, we know it is still considered to be likely the work of Mr Cruel.
“A Bulleen woman, 34, was asleep with her six year old daughter when she was awoken by a man about 11:30pm”
The last attack that occurred in the spate of rapes in December 1985 was the one on a 34 year old woman in Bulleen on 7 December 1985. In his article Michael Reid described it thus: “On Saturday a Bulleen woman, 34, was asleep with her six year old daughter when she was awoken by a man about 11:30pm. Police said he was armed with a silver pistol or sawn-off shotgun. The man was described as in his late 20s or early 30s, slim with mousey hair and wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt.”
I have not found any other sources that describe this attack. It was still being considered as possibly linked to the Lower Plenty attack when the latter occurred in August 1987, meaning it went unsolved until at least this date. Like the Warrandyte attack it disappears from being mentioned in the same breath as other Mr Cruel attacks after 1987, but I do not know if it was ever solved.
“The woman told them she fought with the man as he tried to pull off both his and her clothes”
Next we come to the Greensborough attacks that occurred in March and 8 August 1987. These offences were first written about by Sally McDonnell for the Diamond Valley News on 25 August 1987 in an article titled Would-be rapist may strike again: police. The 8 August attack was described thus: “Police said the masked man forced his way into the Joyce Av. home at 5am on Saturday August 8. The woman was asleep alone in the house. Police said the woman told them she fought with the man as he tried to pull off both his and her clothes. She told police the man repeatedly assaulted her during the 15 minute ordeal. The woman said the man forced her to commit an indecent act on him.”
“Wore a stocking mask and was of muscular build”
The same article described the first Greensborough attack in March thus: “Det Sen Constable Wayne Amor, of Greensborough CIB, said a similar incident occurred at Poulter Av. also in Greensborough last March at 1am, when a man forced his way into the house occupied by a woman and two young children.” Amor was then quoted as stating: “There are certain factors which are similar and certain factors which aren’t so. Whether it’s the same person at this stage we don’t know”. The article went on to state: “Det Sen Const Amor said the two houses were one street away from each other. He said on both occasions the man who forced his way into the house, wore a stocking mask and was of muscular build.” Amor was quoted as saying: What disturbs us is that it appears that in both instances the offender had prior knowledge of the house and its occupants and may well have been watching the house prior to the offence…The offender is described as being 175cm-177cm (5’9”-5’10”) and of muscular build.”
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Greensborough attacks were mentioned as being possibly linked to the Lower Plenty attack in the Sally McDonnell article about the latter crime when it was reported on in the Diamond Valley News on 1 September 1987, describing those attacks thus: “Det Sgt Simpson said police were keeping an open mind as to whether he was the same person responsible for two recent attempted rapes in the Joyce Av, Greensborough, area. On both of those occasions a man forced entry into houses at about 4am early on Saturday mornings and attempted to rape the female occupant of each house.” However, afterwards, the Greensborough attacks are not mentioned again in the press in the same breath as the other Mr Cruel attacks. What cannot be denied however, is the striking similarity of the description of this offender and the man who committed the December 1985 attacks. It is unknown if the Greensborough attacks were ever completely ruled out of the Mr Cruel case, or whether any arrests were ever made.
“Threatened her with a knife, bound and gagged her, and then raped her”
I covered the Moonee Ponds attack quite extensively in the blog post about the Lower Plenty attack because they were strongly linked at the time and occurred within 3 months of one another.
It was first reported about under the title ‘Police hunt for Mr ‘Cruel”, by Jim Tennison, in The Sun on 19 November 1987.
Tennison said that the offender in this attack broke into the home of a 48 year old woman and “threatened her with a knife, bound and gagged her, and then raped her”. The man then stole her bank card and went to a bank in Moonee Ponds, where he withdrew $300 from her bank account. He had then returned to the woman’s house and “sexually assaulted her again, before leaving in the early hours of last Wednesday morning”.
“Park St or Clarinda Rd”
On 25 November 1987 an article by Nadine Hartnett said that the attack occurred at “10pm” before describing the attack in the same way as was in Jim Tennison’s article. However, more information was given on the location and the description of the attacker. He was described as “a slim man wearing pale blue jeans” and “could have been seen near Park St or Clarinda Rd between 9:30 and 10 pm on November 10, or at the Commonwealth Bank in Puckle St, near Pratt St, between 1 and 1:30am the next morning”.
“He admonished the woman and raped her again”
The next article to cover the Moonee Ponds attack in detail was by Innes Willox for The Age in an article titled Police seek a new ‘Mr Stinky’ rapist on 12 May 1988. He stated that the attack occurred on “10 November 1987. The man broke into the house at 9:20 pm (notice this is different from the time of 10 pm given in Nadine Hartnett’s article in the Essendon Gazette) and used a knife to threaten the 48 year old woman who lived alone. She was sleeping when she was attacked. The rapist did not turn on the lights. He tied her up with a nylon cord which is not available in Australia, and then raped her. He emptied her handbag and took her automatic teller machine card. Police are certain he planned the attack because he walked almost a kilometre to a bank with an automatic withdrawal machine. He withdrew $300 from the woman’s account and walked back to the house. He was away about 45 minutes. During that time the woman freed herself of her gag and called for help. When the man returned, he admonished the woman and raped her again, before ripping out the telephone and leaving. The woman’s ordeal lasted more than four hours”.
In a long article for The Age titled Brutal abductor breeds fear with cruelty, published 3 weeks after Karmein Chan’s abduction, Antony Catalano claimed that a police taskforce, set up after the Moonee Ponds attack, dismissed it as not the work of Mr Cruel. This is strange indeed as, as recently as 2019, Xanthe Mallett in the chapter of her book Cold Case Investigations that dealt with Mr Cruel, was asserting that the Moonee Ponds attack was the work of Mr Cruel.
Catalano also offered a speculative origin story for the term “Mr Cruel”, claiming that it was coined when police initially thought the identity of the attacker of the 48 year old former nun and the Lower Plenty victim were one and the same. They had, he claimed, called the perpetrator in the Lower Plenty case “Mr Cool”, so when Chief Police Commsioner for Crime, Mr Vaughan Werner, described that perpetrator in the Moonee Ponds case as “cruel” the name “Mr Cruel” appeared as the headline the next day in the Sun article by Jim Tennision about the rape. However, I can find no source that backs up this story as being fact. While the perpetrator in the Lower Plenty attack case had been described as “cool and calculating”, nowhere have I found evidence that he was referred to as “Mr Cool”. Furthermore, the fact that Catalano refers to the linking of the Moonee Ponds rape with the Lower Plenty rape as a “mix-up”, when some experts have more recently asserted that the two crimes were linked, makes this information even more confusing. As mentioned previously John Silvester and Andrew Rule also argued this origin story for the name ‘Mr Cruel’ in their 2008 book. However, I suspect they have simply repeated Catalano’s speculation, as I have not found one source which backs the claim that he was originally referred to as “Mr Cool” in the published record.
“No, Mr Cruel wasn’t an exclusive paedophile”
The most recent publication to link the Moonee Ponds attack with Mr Cruel was Xanthe Mallett in her 2019 book Cold Case Investigations.
Mallett then went on to describe her belief that the offender “specifically targeted children in their pre-pubescent 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.” She then goes on to state that she knew criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro had worked on the Mr Cruel case and so she asked him his opinion on whether Mr Cruel was a paedophile. “No, Mr Cruel wasn’t an exclusive paedophile”, he replied. Mallett then goes on to explain in Watson-Munro’s words how he had been retained by Victoria Police to profile Mr Cruel’s offending which exposed him 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 a local bank and steal her savings.” This is clearly referring to the Moonee Ponds attack on the night of 10-11 November 1987. Except, Tim Watson-Munro has referred to the woman as “elderly” when the woman in question was reported at the time as being only 48 years old. And there is another inconsistency. According to Mallett, Watson-Munro told her that the offender stole the woman’s car and drove it to the bank. However, Innes Willox’s article from 12 May 1988 clearly stated that the offender walked to the bank before stealing the woman’s savings. Mallett also said that Watson-Munro told her the woman was a nun. Antony Catalano’s 4 May 1991 article which mentioned the Moonee Ponds attack stated that the woman in question was a “former nun”. Catalano also claimed that police had ruled out the attack as being the work of Mr Cruel.
One can only speculate that Mr Watson-Munro has simply remembered this case incorrectly in referring to the victim as “an elderly nun”. She was certainly not reported as being “elderly” as it was reported at the time of the crime that she was 48 years old, and this was stated in numerous contemporary sources. It is possible of course that the police publicly stated that the woman was only 48 years old so as to protect her true identity from being revealed publicly as the police were known to do this in the 1980s. Whether the woman was a nun or a former nun however, I do not feel like I can speculate on.
Four mysterious attacks
Lastly, we come to the four mysterious attacks on girls and women that, according to John Silvester and Andrew Rule’s 2008 book Rats, occurred between 1985 and 1987 in the suburbs of Hawthorn, Caulfield, Brighton and Dingley. Unfortunately, I can find absolutely no reports of these attacks in any of the contemporary newspaper sources. All we know is that some police believed that they were possibly the work of Mr Cruel. Perhaps more will be revealed about these attacks at some point in the future.
Please leave a comment below if you would like to contribute to the discussion. Alternatively you contact me on email@example.com if you have any information about the case.
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- Reid, Michael, New silver gun terror in rapes, The Sun News Pictorial, 9 December 1985.
- Police seek man after rape, The Doncaster and Templestowe News, 10 December 1985.
- Police warn about rapist, The Doncaster and Templestowe News, 17 December 1985.
- McDonnell, Sally, Task force to hunt rapist, Diamond Valley News, 1 September 1987.
- Tennison, Jim Police hunt for Mr ‘Cruel’, The Sun News Pictorial, 19 November 1987.
- Hartnett, Nadine, Taskforce to hunt rapist, Essendon Gazette, 25 November 1987.
- Willox, Innes, Police seek a new ‘Mr Stinky’ rapist, The Age, 12 May 1988.
- Catalano, Antony, Brutal abductor breeds fear with cruelty, The Age, 4 May 1991.
- Silvester, John & Rule, Andrew, Rats, Crooks who Got Away with it : Tales of True Crime and Mystery from the Underbelly Archive, 2008.
- Moor, Keith Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children, The Herald Sun, 12 April 2012.
- Moor, Keith Victoira Police and FBI Dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks, The Herald Sun, 8 April .2016 (paywalled).
- Mallett, Xanthe, Cold Case Investigations, 2019.
- Moor, Keith & Wilkinson, Geoff, Mugshots 1 , 2019.
- The Nine Network, Australian True Crime Stories Mr Cruel, 2019.