How the Mr Cruel moniker is actually a misnomer that was originally used to describe a different man – the curious mix-up of Mr Cruel and Mr Careful.
The following blogpost contains details about the sexual assault of women and girls. Please use discretion when reading.
In 2019 Criminologist Xanthe Mallett published the book Cold Case Investigations1 which featured a chapter on the “Mr Cruel” crimes. The work was the author’s professional evaluation of a variety of Australian cold case crimes where she analysed the behaviour of the offenders in question in an attempt to provide the reader with an insight into the type of person they might be. However, Mallett made a significant error in the chapter on “Mr Cruel” by asserting that the offender had also been responsible for the rape of “an elderly nun”. In fact, serial rapist Christopher Clarence Hall – known by the media as the Ascot Vale Rapist until he was caught in June 1993 – was responsible for this rape and was convicted of it in April 1994. Not only this, but the victim in question was only 48 years old, not “elderly” and was in fact a former nun when she was raped by Hall on the night of 10-11 November 1987. Unfortunately, Mallett’s error has only resulted in misinformation about the crimes of the, yet to be identified, unknown offender (who Melbourne Marvels hopes will be one day be arrested for his crimes) who police believe raped an 11-year-old girl in Lower Plenty in 1987, abducted and assaulted 10-year-old Sharon Wills in 1988, abducted and assaulted 13-year-old Nicola Lynas in 1990 and abducted and police believe most likely abducted murdered 13-year-old Karmein Chan in 1991.
At around the same time as Mallett’s mistake was published in her 2019 book, a concomitant Daily Mail article by Stephen Gibbs was also published making the same false statement under the title Masked child killer ‘Mr Cruel’ who terrified a city by abducting young girls from their homes three decades ago raped an elderly nun years earlier – and he could still be on the loose2. This article continues to provide people with false information about the case as it is one of the first articles that comes up when one searches for “Mr Cruel” in a Google search. Unfortunately, this is just one of many falsities that have been published about this unsolved case, all of which create a distorted picture of the truth of this offender’s actions and thus, serve to decrease the likelihood the case will ever be solved.
To be fair to Mallett, the majority of her chapter on our unknown offender is quite insightful as she draws on her expertise as a criminologist to analyse his behaviour, describing him as “the careful predator3“. She states that she was told the information that Mr Cruel had raped the “elderly nun”4 by psychologist Tim Watson-Munro who had worked on the case and provided a profile of the offender for police back when it was believed the same offender had been responsible for it. Mr Watson-Munro however, had clearly not learnt of Christopher Clarence Hall’s subsequent conviction for the attack in April 19945, 34.
Let us backtrack for a moment here though so we can understand the origin behind the term Mr Cruel. As reported in previous posts by Melbourne Marvels, the term Mr Cruel was first used in the headline of an article by Jim Tennison for the Sun News Pictorial on 19 November 1987 titled Police hunt for ‘Mr Cruel’6. This article was published after a police press conference to inform the public about a man police believed was a serial rapist operating in the suburbs of Melbourne. The police had held the press conference just one week after a rape of a 48-year-old woman that had occurred on the 11 November 1987 in Moonee Ponds. The article detailed how a police taskforce had been set up to find the offender who had committed this rape and two others – that of an 11-year-old girl on 22 August 1987 in Lower Plenty, and that of a 30 year-old woman in Donvale in December 1985. During the press conference the police were quoted as describing the offender as “super cool, and super cruel”. It is therefore understandable why Tennison’s article includes the term “Mr Cruel”, especially considering it was common practice for the media in the 1980s to give unknown serial rapists “Mr” monikers, such as the infamous Mr Baldy and Mr Stinky. But, there was just one problem. The man who raped the 48 year-old former nun, would later be ruled out by police as being the man who had committed the two other rapes7.
As mentioned earlier, Christopher Clarence Hall was convicted of the rape of the Moonee Ponds woman, as well as the rapes of numerous other women aged 22 to 82, in April 1994. He was initially sentenced to 34 years in prison in May of that year, the longest ever sentence for rape in Victoria, but in October of that year had his sentence reduced to 27 years8 on appeal.
Hall was convicted based on his confession and DNA evidence9 as he had left semen at many of his rapes. You can read about the police operation to catch him in Liz Porter’s excellent book Written on the Skin: An Australian forensic casebook.The majority of his rapes had occurred between January and May 1993, but police were also able to link him to the 1987 Moonee Ponds rape. His rapes occurred in the suburbs of Essendon, Flemington, Airport West, Carlton North, Ascot Vale and Fitzroy North10. During the first half of 1993 the northern and north-western suburbs of Melbourne were terrorised as this man repeated rape after rape without being caught, much like the East Area Rapist terrorised Sacramento in the mid 1970s. Just like in that case, the local news media in Melbourne were transfixed with the story of the Ascot Vale Rapist, and many women living in the area were living in fear that they would be his next victim as he continued to carry out his attacks with impunity11.
Another feature Hall had in common with Sacramento’s East Area Rapist was that he had previously been a prolific house burglar before graduating to rape. His first court appearance was as a 17-year-old all the way back in June 197012. He was sentenced to six years in prison in June 1979 for committing 31 burglaries and four car thefts between December 1977 and May 1978 that had occurred in the suburbs of Gisborne, Woodend, Airport West, Broadmeadows, Tullamarine, Preston, Sunbury and Bacchus Marsh. He was living in Arthur Street, Preston at this time13. He escaped from custody in Wangaratta after a basketball game between Beechworth prisoners and a local team14 before being recaptured in May of that year in Penong, on the Nullabor Plain in South Australia15 (perhaps he was attempting to flee to Western Australia), and extradited to Victoria. I’m not sure when he was ultimately released from prison, but what is clear is that by 1987 he had become a rapist, and would eventually become a serial rapist.
If Hall was the offender in the Moonee Ponds rape, is it also not then possible he was the offender in the canonical Mr Cruel attacks such as the 1987 Lower Plenty rape, and the 1988, 1990 and 1991 abductions? Hall could not have been our unknown offender as he was in prison again, this time in South Australia, between mid October 1989 and 12 August 199216 (for what crime I do not know) so could not have abducted Nicola Lynas or Karmein Chan. There are however, a number of common features between the 1987 Lower Plenty rape and his modus operandi. For example, in both the Lower Plenty rape and the Moonee Ponds rape the offender wore something that covered his face and broke into the victim’s homes when it was dark. Additionally, both offenders wore jeans, made their victims count to 100 when17 he left their homes, gagged and blindfolded their victims with elastoplast or surgical tape18, stole cash from their victims, wore athletic sneakers, and tied up their victims using a type of cord not sold in Australia19. In fact the police operation to capture the Ascot Vale Rapist, was named Operation Century after the offender’s penchant for telling his victims to count to 100 before seeking help. It is for these reasons that you can see why the 1987 police taskforce thought these attacks were linked.
However, for whatever reason, the police later decided the Lower Plenty attack was not Hall. Perhaps these are some of the reasons they concluded this: Hall’s 19 known victims were all adults, and were raped in their homes mostly in the north and north-western suburbs of Melbourne (in 1997 Hall was convicted of five more rapes of four more women in Thornbury, Glenroy and Glen Iris, the latter of which is in the eastern suburbs)20. Unlike in the Lower Plenty attack, Hall never attacked his victims when men were present and his victims were often extremely vulnerable women as many were elderly and his victims included a blind woman, a woman with schizophrenia and a woman who was eight months pregnant, and he twice raped one victim who was intellectually disabled, with an interval of five years (meaning she was likely first raped as early as 1988). These women were also alone in every instance bar one, when one victim was at home only with her young child. In this case, Hall threatened the woman that he would harm the child if she did not accede to his requests21. Hall also often left DNA evidence in the form of his semen whereas our unknown offender did not22. Lastly, Hall never used a gun in any of his attacks, but the offender in the Lower Plenty attack, and the abductions of Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas had a gun.
Therefore, while I cannot conclusively say that Hall did not commit the 1987 Lower Plenty rape, there may be other reasons the police know that I don’t as to why they ultimately ruled it out as being him. What is clear is police certainly suspected him of committing more rapes and worked hard to link him to unsolved rapes. He was eventually convicted in 1997 for committing four more rapes, some of which occurred between 1988-1989. An article in The Age from 1997 claimed this occurred after Hall contacted police from his prison cell and admitted raping four more women than he was originally sentenced for23, however, Liz Porter in her chapter on how police caught Hall from her book Written on the Skin: An Australian Forensic Casebook states this only occurred when Detective Jacqueline Curran pored through old files of unsolved rapes and managed to link his DNA to two of them24. Then, when confronted with this information, Hall inadvertently admitted to two more rapes when he became confused as to which crimes she and her fellow detective Steve Waddell were referring to.
As a result his sentence was increased to 32.5 years with a minimum of 27 years after it had been reduced to 29 with a minimum of 27 years on appeal in 1994. In 2006 Hall made a legal challenge in the Supreme Court for leave to appeal against his sentence. However, it is unclear if he took up the opportunity to appeal, nor whether, if he did (likely), he was successful. As a result of his legal challenge a new non-parole period of 24 years and 8 months was granted from April 1997, meaning he would not have been eligible for parole until 2021. If he hadn’t made his legal challenge he would have been eligible for parole in December 2011 and released by June 2015 (assuming that is, that he was still alive).
A high degree of violence, humiliation and cruelty on vulnerable women. When Hall was released on parole from his prison stint in South Australia on 12 August 1992, it took him little over a week before he raped his next victim and he would go on to be convicted of this rape and that of another 18 women in the nine months until he was caught in June 1993, with the majority occurring between January and May of 1993. Hall’s attacks always involved a high degree of violence, humiliation and cruelty. Cruelty being the operative word here. Reading The Queen V. Christopher Clarence Hall (1994) and understanding the degree of cruelty Hall displayed is an exercise of engaging with the darkest side of humanity, so I urge the reader to do so with caution25.
An analysis of the rape of the 48 year-old former nun makes it plain why police described the man they were looking for as “cruel”, even if they had mistakenly linked him with two crimes he probably hadn’t committed. The details of the Moonee Ponds rape, and those of Hall’s other rapes make for harrowing reading. Among the horribly cruel things Hall did to this victim were the following:
The victim told Hall she was a virgin as she was a former nun. Hall raped her anyway, causing her excruciating pain and ignored her screams that she was in pain.
Hall taunted the victim, by asking her why God had not prevented her from being raped.
After the first rape he hogtied the woman, leaving her prone on the bed.
He stole the victim’s ATM card, asked her for the PIN and threatened her with the words “If you give me the wrong one, I’ll come back and I’ll…”, not finishing the sentence to leave the woman to speculate as to what it might involve.
When he returned from withdrawing $300 from the ATM, he raped her several more times.
During the final rape of the woman, she lost control of her bowels and asked to go to the toilet. Hall subjected her to further indignity by insisting on watching her as she went. He watched her throughout this act, handing her toilet paper as she went.
After the rapes he asked the victim if she were still a nun.
He suggested the rapes were because God was punishing her for having resigned from being a nun26.
It is clear to see that Hall’s actions in this rape are the very definition of cruel. Of course, that is not to say that the offender who committed the unsolved crimes by our unknown offender wasn’t cruel himself. No doubt, he caused a great deal of suffering and trauma to his victims. However, in his own twisted mind he seemed to believe he was “nice” to his victims. Despite the horrible things he did, it was reported by the ABC television news on 6 July 1990 that he generally spoke softly to his victims. One victim described him as playing a kind of role where he was imagining being married to her27. He released Nicola Lynas on the day of her 14th birthday, which police thought may have indicated a measure of compassion28. He brought his victims food and drink29. He also told Nicola Lynas that she was prettier than the photograph of her that had been circulated in the media30. Of course, none of these actions would have been in any way reassuring to the frightened and traumatised victims, but there is a clear contrast between this type of behaviour and the misogynistic humiliation that Hall displayed in the rapes of the 19 women for which he was convicted. Indeed, Hall seemed to relish in the very act of humiliating his victims. Therefore, while cruelty was certainly involved in the Mr Cruel canonical crimes, it would be unlikely that those people who know him well would describe him in this way. Rather, as has been reported by this author and many others over the years, the defining trait that sums up our unknown offender, more than any other, is carefulness in avoiding being apprehended, despite the risky behaviour he was carrying out.
The real Mr Cruel was captured in May 1993. It seems then that police were almost certainly thinking of “cruel” when referring to Christopher Clarence Hall’s attack of the 48 year-old former nun in November 1987. As mentioned though, police later reassessed and decided Hall was not responsible for the August 1987 rape of an 11-year-old girl in Lower Plenty nor the 1985 rape of a 30 year-old woman in Donvale. Eventually, the police would reassess again and decided the unknown offender who abducted Karmein Chan in April 1991, Nicola Lynas in July 1990 and Sharon Wills in December 1988 was the same offender who committed the rape of the 11-year-old girl in Lower Plenty in 1987. After the millions of dollars spent on the Spectrum Taskforce between 1991 and 1994, they were confident the unknown offender was responsible for these four attacks (and possibly a series of other rapes and abductions in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne between 1985 and 1987). But, since the real Mr Cruel had been arrested in 1993 and sentenced in 1994 who is the unknown offender who has never been brought to justice for his crimes?
So, if the real Mr Cruel was captured in 1994, who is our unknown offender? As I mentioned above, the defining feature which characterised our unknown offender was “carefulness”. Xanthe Mallett referred to him as “the careful predator” in her 2019 book31. This was because of how meticulous he was in avoiding leaving any fingerprints or DNA evidence in any of the four canonical attacks. Val Simpson, the lead detective of the taskforce which investigated the Lower Plenty rape told me he had never seen a crime scene like it – in other words, one in which the offender was so good at cleaning up any evidence. He had made his victim clean her teeth carefully and bathe after assaulting her to ensure he left no evidence of himself on her. He did the same with his 1988 and 1990 abduction victims32. This was at a time when DNA fingerprinting technology was in its infancy, but it was something he was clearly knowledgeable about. He also rigorously ensured his victims never saw his face. Clearly whoever this man was, he went to great pains to ensure he would not be identified, and he knew how to avoid leaving clues for police detectives to make their job that much harder. In a word, he was careful. Mr Careful. The real Mr Cruel, Christopher Clarence Hall, was not as careful as Mr Careful and was caught by police in 1993 before spending decades in prison. Mr Careful on the other hand, has never been identified and is possibly still out there hiding amongst us.
In the past it has been reported by journalists Keith Moor and John Silvester that police were never happy with the moniker Mr Cruel for our unknown offender. This was because they felt it might have given the public a false image of who this man was. He was likely to have been a very ordinary man they said, and possibly, outwardly very neighbourly and community-minded33. Perhaps then it is time to shed this misnomer and refer to our unknown offender as Mr Careful.
Gibbs, S. (2019) “Masked child killer ‘Mr Cruel’ who terrified a city by abduction young girls from their homes three decades ago raped an elderly nun years earlier – and he could still be on the loose,” Daily Mail Australia, 2 September.
How the Nine Network’s Under Investigation program on Mr Cruel presented material that was copied from the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map and falsely claimed that it was the work of ESRI Australia’s mapping tool.
In early March 2022 the Nine Network aired a special on the Mr Cruel case for the Under Investigation Australia program. The program made the claim that by using new “GIS mapping technology” they were able to establish a previously unknown theory about the Mr Cruel case – that there was a strong correlation between electricity substations and most of the known crime scenes in the Mr Cruel case. This “new” theory they claimed was a significant lead that would be a breakthrough in the case. Only, this “breakthrough” was not a new lead in the case at all. It had been extensively written about by a number of people previously – most notably the researcher who goes by the pseudonym Clinton Bailey in his Mr Cruel manuscript as early as 2014 – a manuscript that the Nine Network had full access to before the creation of their UIA episode. Furthermore, a number of anonymous commenters on the Reddit forum r/MrCruel had brought the theory up in discussion as early as 2019.
However, perhaps the most blatant point of plagiarism was that the program had relied almost completely on the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map which had mapped all of the electricity terminal and substations outlined in the program in a Google Map MM had created in January 2020.
This blog post will show how the Nine Network knowingly ascribed the mapping of the electricity substation sites to mapmaking company ESRI, claiming that it was a new technology. However, it was not ESRI and their fancy GIS technology that mapped these sites out. Rather it was an “armchair detective” at Melbourne Marvels using nothing more than a laptop with access to online copies of the Melway street directory who discovered them.
What is the Electrical Connections theory?
Melbourne Marvels was not the originator of this theory – that is, that the unknown offender who committed the Mr Cruel crimes may have been involved in a work capacity with electricity or may have worked for the SECV. In fact, the first time the author of the Melbourne Marvels website was exposed to the theory was in early 2019 when reading a post by the Reddit user Cam41eron. In the post titled “electrical substation locations in Melbourne” the user pointed out a number of key points.
Both Karmein Chan and Nicola Lynas were dumped right next to electrical substations (Kew substation in the case of Nicola Lynas and Thomastown Terminal Station in the case of Karmein Chan whose body was found in a landfill site one year after her disappearance).
Three of the victims, Sharon Wills, Nicola Lynas and Karmein Chan, lived “within 6 minutes” of an electrical substation.
The author speculated as to whether an electricity substation could have been used as the site of the detention premises of the offender where the offender took his two abduction victims, Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas.
In reply to this post, user “dulcineadoll” left a comment which pointed out that the Wills family home was located right next to a large pylon carrying overhead transmission lines, which seemed to add evidence to the theory that perhaps the offender was a linesman who had worked in the area.
Fascinated by the Mr Cruel case, I began in 2019 to research it by visiting the State Library of Victoria and by trawling through old copies of newspapers on the case. However, this only served to highlight to the author a number of major contradictions in the case that didn’t add up. I then made it my mission to begin writing blog posts which found all of the original sources on the case in order to try to make some sense of all of the confusion.
As part of this process, in January 2020, I created a Google Map which was to map all of the sites in some way connected with the Mr Cruel case and uploaded it to the Melbourne Marvels blog. Among other things the map included the crime scenes where the attacks had occurred, highlighted the geographic location of where the crimes had occurred, highlighted the flight path corridors of Tullamarine Airport and started mapping the locations of electrical terminal stations, substations and transmission lines. In addition, the approximate locations of where the seven main suspects lived (according to a 2016 Herald Sun article by Keith Moor) were also included. Other sites of interest were also included, including the approximate location of a series of attacks that had occurred in the 1980s. Police were unsure as to whether it was the same offender who had committed these attacks. The map also included the approximate locations of the attacks committed by suspect Brian Elkner between 1972 and 1974 and the approximate location of this individual’s houses in both Hampton (from 1972-1974) and Thornbury (from 1985 onwards). The Map was, and still is, the most comprehensive map on the Mr Cruel case and has been updated with new information as it has come to hand. This Google Map was published on the Melbourne Marvels website on 26 January 2020 at the bottom of the post about the Lower Plenty Attack.
From 26 January 2020 Melbourne Marvels also started producing a series of blog posts and podcasts about the Mr Cruel case. This continues to the present day. One of the main goals with this work is to attempt to clarify some of the seeming contradictions associated with this case and to correct quite a lot of misinformation associated with it. To this end, Melbourne Marvels has had great success in a number of areas. An example of this is the fact that it was Melbourne Marvels that was able to correct the record in the case of the 1987 Moonee Ponds attack of a 48 year old woman. A 2019 book by author Xanthe Mallet titled had wrongly attributed this attack as being the work of Mr Cruel. By trawling through old copies of newspapers, Melbourne Marvels was able to confirm that, in fact, serial rapist Christopher Clarence Hall had been convicted of this attack in 1994, and that Mr Cruel had been ruled out of committing the crime.
Then, in February 2021 Melbourne Marvels was contacted by researcher Clinton Bailey, another “armchair detective” researcher on the case. Clinton Bailey is actually a pseudonym for a man who has written a manuscript about the Mr Cruel case. In the manuscript Bailey writes about a number of possible investigative avenues for police to pursue. Bailey provided Melbourne Marvels with a copy of this manuscript.
In one chapter of this document Clinton Bailey put forward the case “for the offender known as Mr Cruel being involved in the electrical trade, possibly as a linesman, based on geographical evidence”. The chapter was a highly detailed work on this theory, and included an explanation of how electricity is transferred from the high voltage transmission lines to the lower voltage suburban lines through terminal and substations. The chapter also included some crude maps detailing how different terminal and substations were connected through transmission lines. Included in the map were the following Terminal stations: Thomastown, Templestowe, Ringwood, Clifton Hill and Richmond. The substations that were included were Lower Plenty (SEC site), Kew, Deepdene and Bayswater.
I was fascinated with the document and this initiated much back and forth email and telephone discussion about the case with Clinton Bailey. In these discussions, it became apparent that Bailey did not have access to many copies of the Melway. I soon realised that I could greatly help with this research by trawling through old copies of the Melway street directory online and marking the locations of electrical infrastructure on the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map.
In addition to this work, Melbourne Marvels began publishing chapters from Clinton Bailey’s manuscript from March 2021, including the chapter titled “The offender and electrical connections” on 31 March 2021.
In April 2021. Mike King released a podcast about the Mr Cruel case for his podcast titled Mapping Evil. Included with the podcast was a website posting on the Esri Australia website which gave information about the case and included a “story map” of it as well. The information described in this post was largely a rehash of what journalist Keith Moor had written about the case in a series of newspaper articles for the Herald Sun in 2016. It also included a number of mistakes about the case that are often repeated by the media, such as saying that the offender wore the same black ski mask for each of the attacks (in fact, he always wore a different balaclava), and saying that all four attacks had occurred during school holidays (Clinton Bailey had established years previously that only two of the four attacks had occurred on school holidays). Furthermore, the mapsidentified the wrong location for where Karmein Chan’s house was, putting it 2km east of where the real location was.
The Esri Australia article on the case included an analysis of the geography of the 4 sites where the 4 victims had been attacked. It used the Story Maps software tool for this analysis. There were closeups of the four sites which mapped a number of sites because “examining potential initial contact sites in close proximity to each abduction – such as schools, local transport stops, shopping centres, parks and playgrounds – can help authorities identify where the victim and predator came into contact, and narrow the field of suspects by uncovering important links.” Except, this analysis did not include as part of its analysis any electricity related infrastructure, such as electricity substations, terminal stations or transmission lines. In fact, the analysis seemed to rely on data that had been gleaned from a modern map, so was 30 years out of date. It also failed to make note of other sites of interest such as the tennis court in Lower Plenty, or the Chan restaurants located in Eltham and Bulleen. I was thus unimpressed with the work.
In September 2021 Melbourne Marvels was contacted by email by a researcher named Danielle Collis who works for the Nine Network and was ultimately the producer of the March 2022 Under Investigation episode on Mr Cruel. This researcher complimented me on my research and requested the contact details of Clinton Bailey. I provided them with Bailey’s email address.
Also in September 2021, Clinton Bailey initiated email contact with Mike King to inform him of the high number of mistakes on the Esri Australia website posting “The case of Mr Cruel” and that were in his podcast on the Mr Cruel case, Mapping Evil. During this back and forth email exchange Clinton Bailey was also put into contact with the Nine Network researcher that had contacted Melbourne Marvels looking for Clinton Bailey’s contact details. Clinton Bailey has informed me that it was at this time that he recommended to Mike King the Melbourne Marvels website as the best source of truth on the Mr Cruel case on the internet. However, he also informed Mike King that it was of utmost importance to correct the record about the false information the Victoria Police provided to the FBI about all of the four canonical cases having occurred on school holidays. He therefore, introduced Mike King to the Nine Network researcher hoping that Mike King would appear on the upcoming special 9 had planned to do about the case in the hopes that Mike King would bring this fact to the table.
Mike King then went into negotiations with the Nine Network to appear on the Under Investigation program. Nothing more was heard by either Clinton Bailey or Melbourne Marvels from Mike King or the Nine Network about the program until March 2022 when the Nine Network aired its special on Mr Cruel. It was therefore with great shock that Melbourne Marvels discovered that the Nine Network claimed in the program that the electrical connections theory was a new lead in the case that had been discovered through ESRI Australia’s application of GIS mapping technology to locate a number of electrical substations next to many of the crime scenes. What’s more, the program had clearly plagiarised directly from the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map as it had mapped the Watsonia Electrical Substation, the Burwood Substation, and the Heatherton substation. All of these sites had only previously been mapped on the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel map.
Figure 1 (Under Investigation Map of Melbourne eastern suburbs)
The Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map (see figure 2) showing the Lower Plenty attack location (bottom right white gun with red background – not the actual location to protect the identity of the unnamed victim) and the Watsonia Electrical Substation (top left, lightning bolt with purple background). However, despite the Under Investigation Australia episode claiming the victim’s house was close to the Watsonia Electricity Substation, it was in fact very far away from it at over 5km as the crow flies. There is a much closer SECV site (bottom centre, lightning bolt in purple background) located to the south west of the attack location, but this was no longer in use even in 1987 and is still 1 km from the crime scene. The red line running between the Watsonia Electrical Substation and the other SECV site in Lower Plenty is a transmission line running on tall electricity pylons. This too is located approximately 1km from the crime scene, not particularly close. Therefore, despite the program claiming that the crime scene was located right next to a substation, there is absolutely no significance of the crime scene in relation to any electricity infrastructure.
Figure 3 (Lower Plenty region, with detail on the Lower Plenty attack)
Clicking on any particular icon on the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map brings up more information about that particular marker. For example, in figure 3 I have selected the white gun marker which indicates an attack and it has brought up the details of the Lower Plenty attack.
The Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map (see figure 4) showing the Ringwood abduction location (top centre, white gun with red background) and the Ringwood Terminal Station (bottom centre, lightning bolt with purple background), Antonio Park Primary School (top left). Also shown as a red line is the transmission line which runs on tall pylons right behind the house where the abduction took place. Once again all icons are clickable for more information, as can be seen in Figure 5 in which the Ringwood Terminal Station has been selected.
Figure 5: Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map showing the Ringwood region. The Ringwood Terminal Station has been selected.
Figure 6: Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map of Bayswater region.
The Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map (see figure 10) showing Kew substation where Nicola Lynas was dumped (green marker top left) and Eglinton Reserve where the offender may have fled through (red marker, centre right). Once again all icons are clickable for more information, as can be seen in Figure 11 in which Eglinton Reserve has been selected.
Figure 11: Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map of Kew region (with Eglinton Reserve selected).
Figure 12: Melbourne Marvels Map of the Templestowe region.
The Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map (see figure 12) showing the Chan household where Karmein was abducted (gun in red marker top left), the location of the offender’s getaway vehicle (car red marker, top right). To the east of the Chan household a red line running from between the north east and south west signifies a transmission line running along tall electricity pylons. This is located 455 metres as the crow flies from the Chan household at its closest point on The Grange. Once again all icons are clickable for more information, as can be seen in Figure 13 in which the marker indicating the location of the offender’s getaway vehicle is selected..
Figure 13: Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map of Templestowe region (with offender’s getaway vehicle selected).
It should be noted here that the Channel 9 Under Investigation Australia program made the false claim that the Chan household was located “near” to the Templestowe Terminal Station. This is not the case as can be seen Figure 14, a zoomed out image of the same region. Here the Templestowe Terminal Station is located in the top right in purple. It is over 3 kilometres from the 1991 Chan household. Given that substations or terminal stations feature in most Melbourne suburbs, this is not close at all.
Figure 14: Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel map of wide view of the Templestowe region showing Templestowe Terminal Station 3km distant with transmission line travelling along tall pylons towards Serpells Road.
The Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map (see figure 15) showing Presbyterian Ladies’ College where both Nicola Lynas and Karmein Chan went to school (schoolchildren in purple marker centre), the Burwood Substation (lightning bolt in purple marker centre) and the Box Hill Electricity Service Centre (lightning bolt in purple marker, bottom right). Once again Channel 9 made the association between a significant location and a substation. Except Melbourne Marvels had this mapped on this Google Map one year before they claimed to have uncovered the connection using GIS technology. Figure 16 shows the same map with the Burwood Substation selected.
Figure 16: Melbourne Marvels Map showing the Burwood Region with the Burwood Substation selected.
The Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map (see figure 17) showing the approximate locations in Hampton of two attacks that police speculated may have been earlier attacks by the offender known as Mr Cruel (top left, handgun symbol in purple background), one on a 14 year old girl in February 1985 and one on a 14 year old boy in July 1985; the approximate location of the home of suspect Brian Elkner between 1972 and 1974 (top left, house symbol in grey background); the site where the 14 year old girl victim was dumped in February 1985 (green marker); and the Heatherton Substation (right centre, grey background with lightning bolt symbol). Once again the Channel 9 Under Investigation program falsely claimed that a crime scene was located “near” a substation, but in this case the substation is more than 5km distant from where the victim was dumped. Once again, this is not close at all. Figure 18 shows the same area with the site where the 14 year old female victim was dumped selected.
Figure 18: Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map showing the Hampton region with the site the 14 year old female victim of an offender who may have been “Mr Cruel” selected.
Thus far we have seen how Melbourne Marvels had mapped all of the substations named in the Under Investigation Australia special on Mr Cruel 1 to 2 years prior to it airing in March 2022, despite the program making the false claim that these sites were discovered first by researcher Mike King employing GIS technology to find them. Rather, Melbourne Marvels discovered the sites by trawling through old copies of the Melway street directory dating from 1985 to 1991.
However, this is not where it stops. After the airing of the UIA special on Mr Cruel some newspapers picked up the story, falsely reporting that Mike King had discovered the electrical connection theory using GIS technology. An example of this was an article by Rhiannon Tuffield in The Australian on 17 March 2022 titled Forensic Technology links Mr Cruel to Melbourne electrical industry. The first paragraph in the article reads:”A major breakthrough has been made in one of Melbourne’s most notorious abduction mysteries more than 30 years after an unknown masked offender kidnapped young girls.” In fact, it was neither forensic technology employed that discovered the link, nor a major breakthrough. Rather, the link was first written about by researcher Clinton Bailey as early as 2014 by observing the crime scenes in question. The manuscript containing this theory was sent to both the researcher working for the Channel 9 program Under Investigation Australia and the American researcher Mike King in September 2021. The theory was expanded upon by Melbourne Marvels who began mapping the locations of the electrical infrastructure in January 2020, completing this mapping in March 2021. Furthermore, the program exaggerated the electrical connections link by making false claims, such as by stating that Watsonia Electrical Substation was “near” the Lower Plenty victims house when it was more than 5km away, stating that Karmein Chan’s house was next to the Templestowe Terminal Station when it was more than 3km away, stating that the Bayswater Zone Substation was close to the dumping spot of Sharon Wills when it was more than 1km away, and stating that the 14 year old Hampton victim was dumped near a substation when the location was more than 5km away from it.
Furthermore, I discovered in April 2021 that Victoria Police themselves were aware of the electrical connections evidence as early as the early 90s. I have spoken myself to a number of linesmen who informed me that detectives entered their work premises to interview linesmen at Watsonia Electrical Substation, the Electrical Zone Substation in Coolaroo and the Thomastown Terminal Station during Operation Spectrum. Therefore the claim that this is a “new” breakthrough is something that is probably being laughed at by police who worked on the case back in the day.
The Under Investigation program has displayed a shocking lack of journalistic integrity by knowingly copying the theory off other researchers, claiming it was the work of “forensic technology” and knowingly deceiving the public as to the veracity of the theory. It is extremely shocking to me that a mainstream news organisation would display such recklessness in attempting to make a profit off the map created by Melbourne Marvels and put in the public form for free. Furthermore, by knowingly putting false information about the case in the public, they are preventing justice from being served in this case.
Further evidence of copying. On 14 March 2022 Mike King published a video on his Youtube Channel titled “Mr Cruel’s Rabbit Hole” in which he talks about the Mr Cruel case once again. He links to clips from the discredited Under Investigation program, but he also shows a different map (see figure 19) of the Mr Cruel case from the one that was shown on Under Investigation. This one seems to be from a software tool he uses for his website Profiling Evil. As if it couldn’t be any clearer that he had blatantly copied the mapping of the substations from the Mr Cruel Map, this map included the mapping of substations not mentioned on the Under Investigation program – and they were all the remaining ones that had been mapped on the MM Mr Cruel Map between one and two years previously.
Figure 19: Profiling Evil map of Melbourne showing markers that have clearly been copied from the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel Map.
In Mike King’s Profiling Evil map, every single marker is also included in the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel map, including two electrical stations not included in the Under Investigation Australia program. The electrical substations or terminal stations are marked by an exclamation marked inside a triangle in an orange background. The map includes the Keilor Terminal Station and the Electrical Zone Substation in Coolaroo. This means that Mike King’s Profiling Evil map contains the exact same electrical stations that are marked on the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel map. The chances of this being a coincidence are astronomical as there are many other electrical terminal and substations in the Melbourne area that are not marked on either map.
What is more, every other marker on the Mike King Profiling Evil map is taken from the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel map. For example, he has marked (white humanoid figure) the approximate residential locations of three of the Sierra 7 suspects, this includes the current and former houses of Brian Elkner in Thornbury and Hampton respectively, and two other suspects residences in Balwyn and Glen Iris. He has also marked the location of the attack of a 48 year old former nun who was attacked in her home in Moonee Ponds in November 1987. This attack, while initially linked to the offender known as Mr Cruel, was actually the work of serial rapist Christopher Clarence Hall, who was convicted of the rape in 1994. Despite the fact Hall was convicted of the crime Xanthe Mallet mistakenly claimed it was the work of Mr Cruel, based on a conversation she had with criminal psychologist Tim Watson-Munro, in her 2019 book Cold Case Investigations. Melbourne Marvels discovered the mistake in June 2021.
Other Shocking Inaccuracies aired on the Under Investigation Australia special on Mr Cruel.
I have already spoken in detail about some inaccuracies that were aired on the UIA Mr Cruel episode, namely, that the program falsely claimed that a number of substations and terminal electrical stations were close to the crime scenes from the case. Now, I will detail a host of other shockingly inaccurate details aired on the program which have also done more damage than good if it is our hope to lead to a breakthrough in the case. I will now deal with these in detail.
Perhaps the most shocking mistake aired on the program was that the program was advertised by Channel 9’s marketing division as a program about “Australia’s worst serial killer”. Even now the 60 Minutes Youtube Channel still contains this shocking error as the video for the UIA episode on Mr Cruel is titled: “Hunting Mr Cruel: Where is Australia’s worst serial killer?”. This is shocking misinformation as anyone who knows the case knows full well the offender is only deemed to be responsible for one murder. Liz Hayes even states at the beginning of the program: “But there were four involving the assault, kidnap and murder of young girls that police beleive was undoubtedly the work of this depraved predator who has never been caught.” Again, this kind of misinformation in the public forum harms the chances of the case ever being solved.
Second, the host of the program, Liz Hayes, repeatedly states throughout the program “We can narrow down the location of Mr Cruel’s lair to the north eastern suburbs of Melbourne.” This while showing a map which clearly shows the flight paths in the north western suburbs of Melbourne, where the “lair” was believed by police to have been located..
Third, the program incorrectly states that the offender’s detention premises had a driveway on the left hand side of the residence. Anybody who knows the case well, knows that police have repeatedly stated in press releases that, in fact, the driveway of the detention premises was on the right hand side of the residence. Once again, this puts false information out in the public forum which damages the chances of the case being solved.
Fourth, the program repeated an oft-repeated mistake in the Mr Cruel mythos when it stated that the first abduction victim was released wearing nothing but garbage bags. In fact, it was established in an article by Keith Moor for the Herald Sun in 2016 titled Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child abductions that the offender took the bags off before releasing the girl at Bayswater High School and the victim was found wearing a man’s shirt. The Melbourne Marvels blog post on the abduction of Sharon Wills details how the mistake began when a police detective was misquoted by newspaper journalists in 1988 and the mistake was repeated ad infinitum afterwards.
Fifth, the program showed archival footage of a restaurant named Ming Chu in Main Street, Lower Plenty whilst a newsreader stated: “Karmein Chan’s parents Phyllis and John were working at one of the restaurants they own.” However, the restaurant Ming Chu was not owned by the Chan family. In fact, they owned the restaurants named “Mings” located in Main Street, Eltham and the Bulleen Plaza and it was the former they were at on the night of their daughter’s abduction. This is another feature of the misinformation that Channel 9 has been regularly putting in the public forum regarding this case for decades. I thank the Reddit user pwurg, whose excellent research discovered this fact.
There were a number of other mistakes aired in the program that I won’t even bother listing here as to do so would border on the pedantic. However, the five listed above are proof enough that the Nine Network’s so-called investigative journalism should be avoided at all costs when it comes to cold cases.
Request to the Nine Network and Mike King of Profiling Evil.
I request that both the Nine Network and Mike King acknowledge the fact that they did not discover the fact that many of the crime scenes have electrical connections. Not only did police themselves make the link to electrical infrastructure in the early 90s, but the pseudonymous Clinton Bailey wrote about the link as early as 2014. I also want them to acknowledge that they relied on the Melbourne Marvels Mr Cruel map and not GIS or any other forensic technology to discover the locations of these substations or terminal stations. Lastly, they should acknowledge that they have knowingly exaggerated the electrical connections theory by incorrectly claiming that many of the substations/terminal stations were “near” a crime scene. Specifically, the latter is true for the Watsonia Electrical Substation, the Templestowe Terminal Station, the Bayswater Zone Substation and the Heatherton Substation. By falsely claiming these sites were “near” crime scenes, both the Nine Network and Mike King have exhibited a shocking lack of responsibility to the victims of the crimes who are still waiting for justice in this cold case.
Note. On 1 April 2022 True Crime News Weekly published an article for True Crime News Weekly detailing the nature of the plagiarism described above.
Throughout the years, the victim of this abduction has variously been referred to as Nicola, Nicole, Nicky, Nicki and Nikki in a variety of media publications. Since Nicola is her birth name I will use this name in this blog.
The Mr Cruel crimes remain unsolved, and my hope is that by keeping the spotlight on this series of crimes that it may contribute in some way to answers for the victims of the offender. The majority of the information about this case in the public forum comes from a series of newspaper articles written by the award-winning journalist Keith Moor for the Herald-Sun in 2016 to mark the 25 year anniversary of the abduction of Karmein Chan. Moor’s articles were based on files he had received, not through official channels, but from an unnamed source. However, in researching the case, by reading all of the contemporary newspaper articles and watching archival footage on it, I couldn’t help but notice a number of contradictions between the information that was presented to the public at the time of the crimes and the information about the case that Moor presented in his 2016 Herald Sun article. Therefore, this blog post is to be a presentation of the original reports and a presentation of the facts as written in a number of books about the case. It will then compare these details with Moor’s 2016 article and highlights some of the contradications.
Lastly, I conduct an analysis of all we know about Nicola’s abduction in an attempt to offer some insights about the profile of the offender. Hopefully, having presented all of the information that is on the public record in this case I will be able to offer something constructive about the type of offender we are looking for.
The first time any media reported on Nicola’s abduction was on the afternoon of 4 July 1990 when the police held a press conference. The ABC reported on the crime in their evening news that day, but used footage of the wrong house. They said that the intruder entered the house when he “forced his way in through a rear window”. It also stated that Nicola was known as “Nicki” and that she was the daughter of a chartered accountant. “Nicola and her sister had been alone in the house while her parents were out having dinner with friends.” Journalist Cheryl Hall stated “police say the man was armed with a knife and a handgun and used the weapons to threaten the girls. They say it appears he had been watching the home and knew the teenagers were alone”.
The offender had then tied up her older sister and told her to inform their father that he would safely return Nicola if he paid a ransom of $25,000. The police also said the girls had been “petrified, but Nicola left with the man in her father’s rented car without a struggle. She was wearing turquoise pajama pants, a light-coloured t-shirt and a maroon sweatshirt.” It went on to state that she was also wearing a “navy-blue baseball cap” and that the family were from England where they were planning to return to soon, something which Nicola was happy about.
The news piece then showed footage of a female journalist asking an unnamed police detective (later established to be Ron Blackshaw) at the press conference, “how much danger do you think she’s in?” The detective replied: “You draw your own conclusions with a 13-year old girl, a naive 13-year old girl in the hands of a kidnapper. The mind absolutely boggles with what could happen.” The news piece then went on to state that the vehicle that had been stolen from the Lynas home had been discovered that afternoon a short distance away in Chaucer Crescent. The report continued by stating that the man police wanted to question was “approximately 30-years old, softly spoken with an Australian accent. He was last seen wearing dark jeans and a dark skivvy.”
On 5 July 1990 The Sun News Pictorial published the first newspaper article on the Nicola Lynas abduction, an article by Brian Walsh, titled Girl kidnap fears. It stated that police thought the kidnapper might be the same man who had taken Sharon Wills. Nicola had been taken at 11:40pm on 3 July, a Tuesday night. Both she and her sister Fiona, 15, had been asleep when the intruder broke in. Police said they thought he had “forced a window at the back of the house.” The girl’s parents had been attending a farewell party at another house. Detective Inspector Ron Blackshaw said that the man had threatened the two girls with a handgun and a knife.
Blacksaw had said the two girls were extremely frightened and so had not resisted the intruder. He tied up Fiona and left her on her bed before taking Nicola to another room where he made her get her “Presbyterian Ladies College blazer, tunic, and runners.” He then told Fiona that he would only release her sister if their father paid a ransom of $25,000. He had then forced Nicola to get into the family’s Holden Berlina, which was later found dumped “less than a kilometre away in Chaucer Crescent.”
The abductor had not told Fiona how her father could pay the ransom and he had failed to contact the Lynas family since. Inspector Blacksaw said that it appeared the kidnapper had been watching the family home, and he seemed to know the parents were not at home. The family had been living in Melbourne for about 4 years, but were originally from England, where they were due to return later that week. Nicola had been looking forward to returning to England where she was due to go to a private school.
Mr Lynas and his wife had arrived home just after midnight where they discovered the front door wide open and their car missing. On entering the home they found Fiona with her hands and feet tied lying on her bed. The article also stated “the major crime squad are investigating links between Nicola’s disappearance and other child abductions – particularly the Sharon Wills case.”
The article continued on page 2 under the title Grave fears for Nicola where it gave a summary of the Sharon Wills abduction 17 months previously. Nicola’s parents, it said, would not speak to journalists waiting outside their single-storey house. Nicola was described as being “162cm (5ft 4in) tall, slim, with a fair complexion, braces on her teeth, brown eyes, and medium shoulder-length brown hair. She was wearing a light colored (sic) T-shirt, a blue Presbyterian Ladies College blazer, a light turquoise pair of pyjama pants and a baseball cap.”
The article concluded by highlighting the exclusiveness of the street in which the family lived, Monomeath Avenue. It stated that many of the people who lived in the street were “wealthy people living in large homes with servants.”
On page 4 of the same newspaper, an article titled Street in shock and subtitled Kidnap baffles families by Andrew Mevissen and Brian Walsh, gave interviews with neighbours in Monomeath Avenue. It also contained a map of the house and the local area. A neighbour was quoted as saying “They’ve been renting the house for only a few months and we never saw them much. I knew they were going back to England this week but that’s about all. This is the first time something like this has happened in this street. It’s usually very quiet. I didn’t see or hear anything unusual at all”. Former Premier of Victoria, Sir Rupert Hamer, who lived at the opposite end of Monomeath Avenue, was quoted as stating: “I know they weren’t living there very long but I know nothing about what happened. It’s always sad when children are involved in things like this and it must be a terrible thing for the family to go through. I only hope the police are successful in finding the girl”.
The Vice Principal of Presbyterian Ladies College, was interviewed and expressed the concern staff and students at the school had for Nicola.
Below this article, also on page 4, there was an article by journalist Serena Williams about Sharon’s abduction 17 months previously. Interestingly, the offender was described as having a “young” voice, something that wasn’t reported at the time of that earlier abduction.
The Age reported on the same story that morning with an article by Paul Conroy, Peter Schwab and Jacqui MacDonald titled Girl, 13, abducted from home. We will pay $25,000. The article stated that the parents of Nicola Lynas had told police that they were prepared to pay the kidnapper’s ransom demand in order to secure their daughter’s release, something that had not been reported in The Sun earlier that day. In reporting on what clothes the kidnapper had taken from Nicola’s room, it listed the same clothes that were said to have been taken as in The Sun article, but added that underwear was also taken in a bag. The article named Nicola’s father as Brian Lynas “a partner with Price Waterhouse in London”. It added that “two police officers kept guard inside the house and monitored incoming telephone calls”. It also quoted Detective Inspector Ron Blackshaw as pleading with the kidnapper to contact him: “We are prepared to discuss any time, anywhere. Anything he wants to talk about”.
The article paraphrased the head of the police crime department, Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday, as earlier stating that policed had initially believed that the abduction may have been “staged because Nicola had not wanted to return to England”, but that police had since changed their minds on this and had visited Nicola’s school, Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood, and spoken to some of her classmates. It added that results of fingerprint tests on the family car that had been dumped at Chaucer Crescent were expected that day.
The article continued on page 7 where it described the vehicle that had been taken from the Lynas house and dumped in Chaucer Crescent as a “leased blue Holden Berlina, registered number DPG266, with a Waterford Soccer Club sticker on the rear windscreen”. (It is unclear if this refers to the League of Ireland football club Waterford F.C. and what association, if any, the family may have had with it). Interestingly, while the description given of the offender was largely the same as that given on the ABC News the previous day, they described the balaclava he was wearing as “black”, which would contradict the information that would emerge in the coming days when it was described as dark green, but we shall come back to this point later.
An article on page 7 of that day’s The Age, by Enrica Longo and Jacqui MacDonald titled Abducted girl was reluctant to leave Australia, stated that the family were “due to return to London later this week.” They had previously lived in Margaret Street, Canterbury, but moved in March to their new rented home on a dual occupancy site.” Brian Lynas “had been seconded to work in Australia at Price Waterhouse’s Melbourne headquarters in Spring Street.” Fifteen-year-old Fiona, and 13 year old Nicola were due to attend their last day at school at Presbyterian Ladies College on Friday 6 July. (Note, this is important information since, one year later when Karmein Chan was abducted, the media widely (and erroneously) reported the claim that all of the victims of Mr Cruel had been attacked or abducted during school holidays. However, this was clearly not the case with Nicola Lynas).
Vice Principal of Presybeterian Ladies’ College Mrs Mary Hutchings was quoted as describing Nicola, whose name was spelt “Nicky”, by saying “She was hard working, very balanced and stable girl (sic)…one of our best students.” The article stated that none of Nicola’s friends wanted to talk when questioned by journalists at the school. Mrs Hutchings said the girls were “obviously upset, but they’re not panicking. It’s early days yet.” Fiona was described as being in Year 11. Mrs Hutchings said the girls’ parents “were not greatly involved in school activities but attended the annual parent-teacher nights.”
The Lynases were described by neighbours as people who “kept to themselves” and they said that the house had been sold nine months previously. The article also claimed that police said that Nicola, a year nine student, was “not keen to leave”. It may be that this was false information as later, Brian Lynas disputed this claim.
Also on page seven of The Age that morning was an article by Jacqui MacDonald and Paul Conroy titled Abudctions are rare in Victoria. It described how a computer was being utilised to search for similar crimes to Nicola’s abduction and sifting through “dozens of previous crimes against children”. It continued: “Police from at least four squads worked into the early hours of the morning assessing the details of Nicola’s abduction and comparing them with crimes across Australia.” These types of crimes were rare in Victoria, it claimed, especially ones with ransom demands. It noted how in the cases of Sharon Wills, 10, and Eloise Worledge, eight, the abductors were never found. It then gave a description of what happened in the cases of both of these abductions. The article also went on to describe the exploits of Edwin John Eastwood who had participated in two high profile abductions of teachers and their pupils in the 1970s.
Interestingly, the article claimed that Australia’s first reported child abduction was the case of Graeme Thorne in Sydney in 1960, who was kidnapped with a ransom demand for 25,000 pounds five weeks after his parents had won a lottery prize of 100,000 pounds. This amount being the same as the amount demanded by Nicola’s abductor, albeit in a different currency, may have raised some eyebrows. Stephen Bradley had been convicted of kidnapping and murdering Graeme Thorne and sentenced to life imprisonment before dying in prison in 1968.
The last article that appeared in The Age on 5 July was titled Quiet street unlikely crime setting, by Kevin Childs, Enrica Longo and Tim Graham. It included a map of the local area. Note this map appeared to depict the location of where the family car was dumped as in the eastern section of Chaucer Crescent, however, I believe this is incorrect as it appears from later television news reports that the car was dumped on the western section of Chaucer Crescent, possibly close to Marlowe Street before the offender transferred Nicola to a different vehicle that was parked in a car park right near the corner of Canterbury Road and Chaucer Crescent (we will come back to this later). The article was largely about how exclusive the area was and how many of the properties on Monomeath Avenue were valued at over $1 million. The article largely mused on the type of exclusive cars that were being driven around the area – BMWs, Mercedeses, and Jaguars, and commented on the people who were walking past and visiting the Lynas residence as journalists watched from outside. A woman who was waiting for a friend who was visiting the Lynas residence spoke of how people in Italy constantly feared abduction and that her friends carried guns with them to protect against it. She now wondered whether Australia was becoming like this.
The Canberra Times reported in an article the same day mostly the same details as had been reported in The Age and The Sun. However, it added a quote by Ron Blackshaw: “It’s certain to me that he had been watching the house. The way he broke into the house would indicate that he knew the girls were alone”. It also added a time for when the girls’ parents arrived home, stating this occurred at 12.30am (note this will be contradicted later by both other newspaper accounts and Keith Moor’s 2016 account).
Numerous other newspaper articles were published around the country on 5 July about the kidnapping. While the details were mostly the same as has already been established some had slight differences. For example, in an article in The Adelaide Advertiser by Andrew Ramsey titled Kidnapper may have schoolgirl fetish, it was stated that police feared that the perpetrator “may have a schoolgirl fetish because he instructed Nicola to collect her Presbyterian Ladies College school uniform before they left the house”. However, it also stated that Fiona had been tied up and left on the floor, when every other paper suggested she was left on her bed.
The Ballarat Courier described the knife the offender carried as “a kitchen knife”. The Bendigo Advertiser ran with the headline Hooded man abducts girl, demands $25,000. The West Australian claimed “Police fear she has been taken by a sex pervert”. It also quoted Brian Lynas as stating: “She didn’t refuse to return home but we don’t know if she had any reservations about going back to England”.
The ABC News reported once again on 5 July 1990 on a police press conference that had occurred that evening at about 8:30pm. Daytime footage of the front entrance to 10 Monomeath Avenue was also shown in this report where reporter Cheryl Hall stated: “the evening Nicola was kidnapped was to be the last night in this home before returning to England on Sunday.” She also stated that Brian Lynas felt no anger towards the kidnapper and he was quoted as saying: “We have no remorse at all towards him, why he’s doing it or understand why he’s doing it…our real concern is with the child and if she’s listening to this as well we’re all there waiting to see her again and can’t wait to have her back with us.” The report also showed an interview with Judy Nicholls, a student coordinator of Presbyterian Ladies’ College who was quoted as saying “Some of (Nicola’s) close friends spent some time with one of our counsellors just going through how they felt and what they could do to help”. The report also stated, whilst showing the released image of Nicola in her school uniform, “Nicki and Fiona, who share the same birthday, would have been celebrating at a friend’s house tomorrow”. Brian Lynas was also shown as the reporter stated “Nicola’s father dismissed speculation that his daughter’s disappearance may be a hoax” and he was displayed saying “No, no it’s genuine in my view”. It stated that Brian Lynas made an emotional plea to the kidnapper and he is shown saying “…he’ll understand that what we want as parents is to have Nicki back”.
Melbourne newspaper The Herald also reported on the abduction in an article by Mike Edmonds titled Nicola cash ready – kidnap plea. This was an edition of The Herald that went out at noon. It included an illustration of the offender dragging Nicola from a bedroom in which her sister Fiona is depicted lying on a bed. The article stated that the $25,000 ransom demanded by the abductor would be available “at a moment’s notice”. It claimed police “said they wanted to assure the abductor of the 13-year-old Canterbury schoolgirl he could speak directly to her parents if he wanted”. Ron Blackshaw was quoted as stating about the Sharon Wills abduction: “there are certainly similarities between the two crimes but we are not hanging our hat on the possibility that the same man is involved”. Blackshaw was also paraphrased as stating that the kidnapper could discuss the ransom demand with Brian Lynas if he did not want to talk with police.
Another article on the front page, by Campbell Fuller, titled Abduction revives the fear included a photo of Sharon Wills and her mother from 1988 after she had been abducted. The article was about an interview with Sharon Wills’ parents John and Julie, who gave words of encouragement to the parents of Nicola Lynas. Julie Wills was quoted as saying “We really feel for those people…we didn’t want it to happen to another girl” and that their ordeal had been “worse than a death in the family”. She added: “it’s just a totally numb feeling of disbelief…nothing helps you through until the police knock on the door with the news”. John Wills was quoted as saying: “I am really feeling for the girl. I hope she doesn’t go through what Sharon went through”. The article stated “Sharon’s parents believe Nicola’s abductor could be the same man who took their daughter and was believed to have attacked another girl more than three years ago”.
The evening edition of The Herald went to press with the benefit of being able to report on the police press conference that was held that afternoon. It’s front cover went with an article titled Kidnap dad’s plea, subtitled $25,000 ransom ready – police, by Mike Edmonds. It stated that “Brian Lynas faced a packed news conference at St Kilda Rd police complex to beg for (Nicola’s) safe return”. He was also quoted as stating “She’s a normal 13-year-old, slightly quieter and more reserved than her older sister. The family just has to wait and hold its nerve. In fact, her older sister is probably the one holding the family together”. The article stated that Nicola’s mother was not present at the press conference, stating that she was at the family’s home in Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury in case the kidnapper rang with “further demands or instructions”.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday was quoted as saying: “Her parents are naturally very distressed”. Detective Inspector Ron Blackshaw was quoted as stating: “Fears for Nicola’s safety are growing. Thirty-six hours is a long time for a girl of 13 to be in the hands of an abductor. We now hold incredibly grave fears”
Another article was also published on page 1 of The Herald by Derek Ballantine titled Tragic tale of misplaced trust. It stated that Brian Lynas had been due to take his family back to England on Sunday 8 July that weekend and that the night Nicola was abducted was to be the family’s last in the house. He also expressed his view that one of the elements that had attracted him about life in Australia had been how safe it was for children. He also stated that both girls were to have birthdays the following day, Nicola was to turn 14 and Fiona was to turn 16. On Brian Lynas’ demeanour the article stated “in casual clothes – his appearance that of a man who had gone without sleep – Mr Lynas held his nerve with light-hearted banter with the media. But it was clear he was hurting beneath his bravery.” He was also quoted as stating about Nicola: “she’s just a normal 13-year-old girl who has always been a happy girl”. He also stated” When you see one of your family taken away from you like that you’re under huge stress. It’s hard for everybody. Hopefully she’s being properly looked after. There’s no feeling of anger at all. Just a feeling of confusion.”
The Sun article detailed how a taskforce had been set up to catch this offender in November 1987 and again in December 1988 after the Sharon Wills abduction. It also stated that the offender in Nicola’s abduction was “wearing a balaclava and was armed with a long knife and hand gun – the same weapons used in the Lower Plenty attack”. The article also described how “leading Melbourne psychologist” Tim Watson-Munro had said “he would be happy to speak with the kidnapper”.
Page 2 of The Sun included an article by Antony Catalano under the title Family relives kidnap agony. John Wills was quoted as saying: “The fact that your daughter is somewhere with someone and that you have no control of the situation is something you can’t explain. You just don’t know until you’ve been there – it’s like it was only yesterday”. Julie Wills was quoted: “It’s 18 months since it happened, but we can remember every minute of the time he (Sharon’s abductor) was there. We can’t remember much from then until the time Sharon was found. John Wills was quoted: “it was the longest 18 hours of our lives, but we were very fortunate in that we got Sharon back, that is all we can hope for for these people. We got Sharon back alive and that’s all that really matters and we pray to God that that is what happens them”. Julie Wills also added: “I don’t know why but I suddenly thought it was the same person who took Sharon.”
Also on page 2 of The Sun was an article titled Grief grips schoolmates by Andrew Mevissen. The article stated how “grief, disbelief and anxiety” had taken hold at Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood “where kidnap victim Nicola Lynas, gained straight As in a special class of gifted children”. Friends of Nicola’s from class 9T had “sought help from school counsellors”. Student coordinator Judy Nicholls was quoted as saying “Nicola is very intelligent, very perceptive and totally reliable. But she and Fiona are not sophisticated – they are very straight kids who couldn’t be described as streetwise”. The article went on to say that Nicola had been enrolled in a “girl’s school near Winchester in southern England” once the family returned to England. Nicola had already attended a number of private farewell parties organised by her classmates in recent weeks.
There was also an article titled Gran waits and hopes by an unknown author which described how Nicola’s grandmother, Mrs Sonia Lynas, 66 of Esher, Surrey was waiting to speak to her son Brian Lynas, but had not been able to reach him.
The Age ran that morning with an article titled Letter imprint clue on missing girl by Paul Conroy, Jacqui Macdonald and Peter Schwab. The article claimed “forensic experts yesterday examined an imprint on a pad which police believe may help identify the masked and armed man who took 14-year-old Nicola Lynas from her Canterbury home on Tuesday night”. Apparently, the letter was an innocent one written by Nicola to her father about a recent shopping trip she had made, but police were hoping an imprint on the pad “may provide the vital breakthrough in the case”. The article went on to state that “about 20 detectives assigned to the case had been ordered by senior police not to reveal the existence of the letter. Several officers contacted last night confirmed its contents, but stressed it was not a ransom note”. Apparently a document expert from the Forensic Science Laboratory at MacLeod had attended a meeting at William Street police headquarters on 5 July. Note, it is not known what happened to this lead in regards to the investigation of this case. However, I would suggest there is a good chance that nothing ever came of it because we do not hear anything about the imprint again from the media. This article also included a paragraph which claimed a spokesperson for the Police Minister, Mr Sandon, said that he was prepared to offer a reward for information.
The Age also included on an article on page four of that morning’s newspaper an article titled Joke breaks tension of real world drama by Kevin Childs. It stated “Brian Lynas joked about his nation, England, being knocked out of the World Cup yesterday. At the end of the news conference the father of the kidnap victim Nicola Lynas seemed to be trying to cope with the inconceivable”. Mr Lynas had asked the media crowded into the St Kilda Road police press conference “Maybe you can tell us why England lost the World Cup?”. England had been eliminated that morning by their old enemy West Germany in a penalty shootout in the most important game the nation had played since the World Cup final in 1966. Mr Lynas though, would not have been able to enjoy the game considering the extreme amount of stress he had been placed under since his daughter had been abducted. Mr Lynas was also quoted as saying: “We’ve loved the safety of the children on the streets, trams and other public transport”.
Also on page four of the newspaper was an article by Sally Heath titled “Psychologist puzzled by abductor’s motive”. It paraphrased forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro as stating that it was difficult to tell whether the abduction of Nicola Lynas was planned or done on the spur of the moment. But, Watson-Munro said that the amount demanded as a ransom, $25,0000, seemed unusually small. He did however, believe that the offender was “a disturbed individual”. He was quoted as saying: “it is someone who can’t empathise with the family or the victim and is very directed to his own demands. But he seems to be in touch with reality. There is no indication he is suffering from a psychotic influence”. Watson-Munro said he believed this was a good thing because “if he’s in touch with reality, he will probably calm down and release the child”. Also in this article, a senior lecturer in psychiatry at Monash University, Dr Nick Keks was paraphrased as saying that “kidnappers were generally psychopaths, without conscience or guilt, often with a paranoid persecuting attitude towards society. They could infringe the rights of others without inhibition”. He was quoted as saying: “this sounded like something less than planned. He risked being seen, risked his voice being identified, risked leaving clues. Either it was impulsive or he is very, very angry. It appears less than straightforward, rather to do with a disturbance or wreaking revenge or havoc”.
Numerous other newspaper articles were published around the country on 5 July about the kidnapping. The Ballarat Courier’s article Father pleads for kidnapped daughter’s safe return stated “the family was to have returned to Cobham, London, and Nicola was to have gone to school at St Swithums, Winchester”. The Bendigo Advertiser stated in its article Dad’s plea to kidnapper: let Nicky (sic) come home quoted principal of Presbyterian Ladies’ College, William MacKay as saying that Nicola’s classmates were “in a profound state of shock”. The Sydney Morning Herald named Nicola’s mother as Rosemary in an article by Mark Skulley. It quoted Brian Lynas as saying “she’s not a worldly sort of kid. She’s not street-wise. But resourceful in a situation like this…who knows?” (note this was the same quote attributed to student co-ordinator Judy Nicholls the day previously). It also stated that he and his wife had always used babysitters in England but that “their elder daughter had insisted, during the family’s first week in Australia, that here they no longer needed one. It was fantastic. It gave the children a freedom which, certainly at their age and as girls, we would never have let them have in London”. The West Australian in an article titled ‘Cruel’ fears in girl’s kidnap by Gary Adshead stated that “police refused to speculate last night, but they were said to be concerned the abduction was the work of “Mr Cruel”, a vicious rapist who two years ago abducted a 10-year-old girl from her home in outer suburban Ringwood after tying up her parents”.
The first newspaper to report on the fact that Nicola had been found was The Herald with their 6 July afternoon edition headline Nikki’s (sic) safe subtitled Bound, gagged 50 hours, an article by Mike Edmonds, Philip Armstrong and Louise Talbot. It reported that the schoolgirl had been “thrown out of” a car in Tennyson Street, Kew just before 2am that morning. She had then knocked on the door of a family living in the street where a couple called the police. Nicola had told police that she was bound and gagged for most of the time. Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday was later quoted as saying “at the moment she is being medically examined, but is in not too bad a state”. He also added that police would interview her later that day. The article also said that police had cordoned off an electricity substation in Tennyson Street, Kew where Nicola had been dumped. An unnamed resident in Tennyson Street told a reporter that she had heard a car pulling away from the substation during the night. Mr Holliday also stated that, after being released, Nicola walked the streets for five to seven minutes before going into number 8 Tennyson Street. He was quoted as saying: “she’s been masked and bound 95 per cent of the time. She cannot identify the offender in this matter. She was not treated in a violent manner, that is, she was not knocked about.”
Mr Holliday also said that Nicola had been transferred to another vehicle after the offender had driven her family’s rented car to Chaucer Avenue (sic). He went on: “she received food and drink. In that regard she was treated well. We believe only one offender is involved”. He said that the family were “exhausted and extremely tired. All things considered, she is not too bad at all. She has told us a certain amount which we are not going into. The family are prepared to stay here as long as we require them”. The article also stated that the family would delay their return to England at the request of police and that the abductor had not received any ransom before dumping Nicola.
The article continued under the subtitle She’s not too bad – police. Mr Holliday was quoted as saying “certainly the person made some comment regarding her father’s appeal”. He said they had no suspects in the abduction, but that there was a danger he could strike again. He requested help from the public in Kew who may have seen a man and a young girl covered in a light brown blanket. He also said that Nicola was blindfolded until just a few seconds before her release. When she was released she was made “sit with her head between her legs” before the offender left the scene. When the police were contacted a divisional van arrived on the scene within minutes. Constables Tony Schlitz and Constable Dean Leaumont were the officers who arrived on the scene in divisional van 311. Schlitz was quoted as saying: “I asked her how she was, and she said OK. I then just made sure she was comfortable and warm enough. It was one of those calls we were glad to get on the night shift. It’s good to see her safe and well”. He also was paraphrased saying that “Nicola was wearing the clothes she had on at the time she was abducted”.
The article also stated that the site in Kew where Nicola was dumped was about 5km from her Canterbury home, but that it was not known where she had been held for 50 hours. It added that the teenager was taken to the Austin Hospital “for medical checks, and once cleared by the doctors she was being questioned by police”. The article added that Nicola’s grandmother, Sonia Lynas, 66, “wept with joy” on hearing of Nicola’s release. The article then mistakenly stated that 10-year-old Sharon Wills had been abducted from her “Bayswater” home 18 months previously, it was actually in Ringwood. John Wills was quoted as saying “we are delighted” on hearing of Nicola’s release. The latest edition of that evening’s The Herald also included a fascinating map of how the offender broke into the house at 10 Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury. He was depicted entering the house by breaking a window at the back leftside of the house. This was presumably the parents’ bedroom because the other two bedrooms at the back-centre and back right side of the house were described as being the sisters’ bedrooms. After entering the parents’ bedroom the offender walked along a hallway just below the sisters’ bedroom before entering them. He was then depicted as having walked through the living room to the front door of the home where he dragged Nicola before abducting her at 11:40pm.
While I was unable to find footage of any ABC news reports for 6 July 1990, I did find access to some outtakes from the crime scene where Nicola had been dumped in Tennyson Street, Kew. Images from this footage are fascinating as they show two detectives examining the scene at the electricity substation and examining what appears to be a footprint at the scene. They also show the detectives interviewing a neighbour.
On page five of the late edition of The Herald the story from the front page continued under the heading Cold comfort for parents. Here Mr Holliday was quoted as saying “he certainly knew who he was looking for. He knew where he was going and what he was about”. The article also stated that the offender had never revealed his face to Nicola, and that he had been “calculating and cold in her release, just as he had been in the execution of the outrage in the first place”. The following snippet of information contradicted what the earlier version of The Herald said when it stated “He drove her to Kew about 2am, then walked with her for five, six, or seven minutes, a fawn blanket shielding her from the wind”. This was different to the earlier edition which had said that Nicola had walked around by herself for five to seven minutes after the man had left. Nicola “had her eyes taped” it went on “at the end when she was forced to sit with her head between her legs. The kidnapper was gone when the frightened schoolgirl found the courage to remove the blindfold.” On hearing the news that his daughter was alive Brian Lynas “broke down in a release of nervous tension”. The family were then reunited at the Austin Hospital and Nicola was said to be exhausted. Mr Holliday also said that the kidnapper might have struck before, and warned he might strike again.
Another article titled ‘Dangerous’ fantasy the key to kidnap, say police, by Louise Talbot and Phillip Johnson was on page five. In this article, consultant forensic psychologist, Tim Watson-Munro was quoted as saying: “We are dealing with a very dangerous person who is in need of help. There is a possibility his fantasies may become more bizarre”. It paraphrased Watson-Munro as saying that he had counselled the Wills family after Sharon Wills’ abduction in Ringwood in 1988 and he believed that there were similarities between the two abductions. “Both girls were taken from their homes after dark, taken by car to an unknown location nearby and both returned to their families hours later”. Watson-Munro was also paraphrased as stating “He said he wanted to abduct a young girl and probably had fantasies about it”. The article also stated “police believe he could be the elusive and vicious kidnapper known as “Mr Cruel” who was responsible for the rape of a 12-year-old girl in August 1987 after tying up her parents and six-year-old brother in Lower Plenty”. It also stated: “This man may also be responsible for attacks in December 1985”. This is clearly a reference to the rapes of women in Donvale, Warrandyte and Bulleen that all occurred within the space of 5 days. Mr Watson-Munro also asked for the abductor to contact him and was quoted saying: “Next time he will leave more clues which could lead to his arrest so he may become more dangerous”.
7 July 1990 began with The Sun’s page three $100,000 fiend hunt by Andrew Mevissen and Marianne Bell. Nicola had celebrated her 14th birthday the previous day it stated. “He dragged Nicola, wrapped in her blanket (note I’m not sure if the blanket was taken from her house or if he provided it to her), along Tennyson St Kew, at 2am yesterday and forced her to the ground.” Brian Lynas said Nicola was “bearing up exceptionally well”. It also stated “Nicola’s schoolfriends at Presbyterian Ladies College hugged each other when told Nicola was safe and almost 1000 girls sang Happy Birthday for her at morning assembly.” (Note how this contradicts the false information the Victoria Police provided the FBI less than a year later when Karmein Chan was abducted. They told the FBI that all the Mr Cruel attacks had occurred on school holidays, however, this was clearly not the case).
Victorian Premier John Cain announced a $100,000 reward for information that might lead to the capture of the offender. Nicola had been “forced to walk, still blindfolded, for about seven minutes to an SEC substation in Tennyson St.” The man whose house Nicola had sought help from just after 2am said “she was not crying and wanted to ring her father”. Another neighbour was quoted as saying “whoever did this is obviously sick and I hope they catch him quickly. The only thing for him is a bullet between the eyes”. The newspaper also stated “dozens of police combed streets and parks in Kew yesterday and questioned hundreds of residents”. Chief Superintendent Mr Holliday was paraphrased that “police would have a caravan in Chaucer Cres., Canterbury, from 9am today where members of the public could go with any information they might have”.
Page 12 of The Sun included an article titled Nicola’s friends sing in joy, by an unnamed author. It said that schoolgirls at Presbyterian Ladies College “danced and sang for joy in the corridors”. Judy Nicholls was quoted as stating “there’s a great feeling of relief in the school. There are a lot of smiles and a lot of hugging but everyone knows Nicola is not 100 per cent OK. The girls are emotionally exhausted and fragile after this but they are still worried about Nicola and are anxious to see her. They need these school holidays to get over this”. The article also stated “Nicola and her Year 11 sister, Fiona, were to have spent their last day at the Burwood college yesterday farewelling friends and celebrating their double birthdays before leaving for England.”
There was also an article on the same page titled Nikki (sic) is bearing up well, says proud dad by Marianne Bell. Brian Lynas was quoted in this article as saying “We are very, very pleased at the moment as to how she has conducted herself over the last few days. I cannot thank the police enough for their magnificent efforts, long hours and the personal caring they have given us and to this case”.
The same ABC outtake footage mentioned previously also contained footage of an interview with Brian Lynas. While the footage is marked 7 July, it must have taken place the previous evening on 6 July as it is mentioned that the previous press conference was the day before and that was on 5 July. The footage is fascinating as it has not been edited for a news program. It starts out with Brian Lynas explaining to a journalist from Channel 9 by the name of Tom Worland that his daughter is known as Nicki, saying “Yes, she was christened Nicola, but she’s never been called Nicola”. Brian Lynas then reads a statement saying “We are obviously delighted to have Nicola back with us safe and well. I cannot thank the police enough for their magnificent efforts, long hours, and the personal caring they have given us, and to this case. The support we have received from our friends and from PLC has been overwhelming. I would also like to thank the manner in which the responsible media have handled the case, in particular yesterday’s media conference. I firmly believe the conference materially helped in bringing Nicola back to us. I hope that in the next few weeks we will still be able to thank the media. Only by leaving us alone can we begin to piece together our normal lives. This is the only statement that any of my family is prepared to make. I will not be speaking to any other media, including current affairs programs”
Brian Lynas is then thanked by the journalist Tom Worland who proceeds to ask Mr Lynas a few more questions. When asked how Nicola is bearing up, Mr Lynas answered “considering all the circumstances, she’s bearing up considerably well. We are very, very pleased at the moment as to how she has conducted herself over the last few days. I could say the same about all my family, Fiona and Rosemary have done exceedingly well in the circumstances. Worland then states: “Nicki turns 14 today as I understand sir, in one way it is rather a sad occasion, sad birthday?” Brian Lynas responded with “It is sad in that sense, but obviously we are delighted to be able to celebrate her birthday in her company today”. Worland then asked “So you will be having a celebration today?” Brian Lynas responded: “If we can stay awake that long, yes we will”.
Worland then states: “I understand sir that you were returning to England at the weekend, what are your plans now?” Brian Lynas responded: “You are correct, we were due to return on Sunday. Obviously, given what’s happened those plans are being put entirely into limbo and I’m sure will be changed. I’ve no idea when we will be physically returning, but certainly our previous plans will no longer be happening. When asked what his memories of Melbourne would be, Brian Lynas responded: “As I said yesterday, that we’ve had three magnificent years in Australia. We’ve loved the country and those memories will not change whatsoever in our eyes and certainly speaking for myself, I look forward to returning to Melbourne. I was actually planning on coming back at the end of September to watch the Demons win the Grand Final, but I’m not sure that in itself will happen, but we’ve certainly thoroughly enjoyed our three years here and will still regard them as three very happy and interesting years.
When asked if there was anything he would like to say to the offender, Brian Lynas simply responded: “No, I don’t believe there’s anything one can say to these people. I just hope that he can be helped really”.
The final article published in The Sun that day was a sensationalist piece, this time by Michael Cox titled Another attack on cards. It described the offender as a “sadistic psychopath”. It quoted forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro as saying “my main concern is that this person is still out there. We are dealing with a fairly callous psychopath whose only redeeming feature is that he released the girl. He is able to sit on his impulses, but as time goes on he will find it harder to control those urges. Cox also paraphrased Watson-Munro as saying that the offender may well appear normal to people who knew him and that he probably worked in a normal job. He described the ransom demand made in the Lynas case as probably a “red herring”. “The amount quoted was fairly small considering the wealthy area, so it is more likely that the abduction took place for other reasons. He seems to be a very cold and calculating character, who stalks his victims before he strikes. I think a lot of these people get addicted to the adrenaline. I don’t think he would feel any shame about what he has done.”
Another Melbourne psychologist, Ronald Conway, said he didn’t think the offender would ever be caught. “I don’t think he would ever kill because he would want to prolong the terror. He probably has never had a fulfilling relationship with a woman. That is probably the reason he chooses young girls as victims. Two offences is hardly a pattern, but there is no reason why there wouldn’t be a third. But it would be in a totally different part of the city.” It should be noted here that, like another psychologist that was consulted by the Herald Sun in 1991 when Karmein Chan was abducted, Paul Wilson, Ronald Conway, would later be accused of sexually abusing young children. However, Conway was never charged with any offence as the allegations only surfaced after his death. How bizarre, that two of the psychologists consulted by The Sun News Pictorial and its derivative The Herald-Sun about the abductions and sexual abuse of children would end up being accused of sex crimes themselves, but we will come back to this topic at a later date.
The Age published Kidnap girl: $100,000 reward offer by Paul Conroy and Peter Schwab on 7 July 1990. It stated “police said they had several pieces of forensic material that they believed might provide a breakthrough. The material, from the Lynas family house in Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury, and the family’s leased car…is being examined by scientists from the Forensic Science Laboratory at Macleod. This article was the first time The Age used the Sun News Pictorial moniker “Mr Cruel” in reference to the offender. The police were paraphrased as stating that the offender was believed to have been the same man who had attacked the 11-year-old Lower Plenty victim in 1987 and Sharon Wills in 1988.
Detectives were also paraphrased as stating that “because of concern about Nicola’s welfare, it would be several days before they got a full statement”. It also stated “she was taken to the Austin Hospital for an examination, which showed she had been assaulted”. Interestingly, the article also gave an alternative time for the abduction stating “senior police now believe that Nicola was abducted about 10.40 pm on Tuesday, an hour earlier than thought.” This is a significant detail as, later, the time given for the abduction reverts back to the originally stated time of 11:40pm. It is not clear to me which is the correct time, and which is the error. It seems quite a significant piece of information for the police to be giving contradicting statements about as it has the potential to confuse any potential witnesses. This is something I will come back to later on. The article continued: “today, police will set up an information caravan in Chaucer Crescent, where the leased car was dumped after being taken from the driveway of the family home.”
Difficult days ahead, say Sharon Wills’ parents by Peter Schwab on page four of The Age on 7 July included an interview with John and Julie Wills. John Wills was quoted as saying about Nicola’s abduction “the healing process is opened up when something like this happens. She wasn’t our girl, but we felt for them. We just knew what they were going through. I’m thrilled that they’ve got her back. We have days when it’s hard on everybody. We suffer our own anguish and problems. It hasn’t been an easy road, but we are an extremely close family and have been able to support each other. It is almost as hard on the rest of the family. I would tell Nicola to definitely open up and talk about it to the correct people. I believe they suffer the trauma a lot longer if they don’t talk about it.” Julie Wills was paraphrased as stating that she had told Sharon that “there were a lot of good men and she should not judge all men by one bad experience.”.
Also on page four was the article Genetic tests may help identify kidnapper by Paul Conroy. The article stated how “genetic fingerprinting is the type of forensic tool that police believe could help them identify the kidnapper of Nicola Lynas”. A team of forensic scientists working at the Forensic Science Laboroatory in MacLeod had been formed “to extract a DNA profile from forensic samples collected from Nicola’s home in Canterbury and the leased car stolen from the driveway.” It also stated “police last night refused to reveal what vital piece of forensic evidence they had, but said they were confident that it would help them solve this case.” The article went on to give a description of how genetic fingerprinting worked. It also described the first instance of obtaining a conviction using the technique in Australian courts when “in December last year…in the County Court, Judge McNab heard evidence that George Gerard Kaufman, 39, had raped 14 women between March 1982 and August 1986. Police tested blood from Kaufman’s first wife and their daughter to obtain his genetic fingerprint. Kaufman later agreed to a blood test.” Kaufman had been sentenced to a minimum term of 18 years before being eligible for parole.
Page 5 included an article titled Abductor needs help, too, says Nicola’s father by Kevin Childs. This article was largely about the interview Brian Lynas had done with Channel 9’s Tom Worland the previous evening. And the article served to highlight some of the tensions between the Victoria Police and the various media organisations. In the interview, Childs wrote “Channel 9 managed to become the vehicle and he (Brian Lynas) spoke with Tom Worland, a fire-and-flood reporter not previously noted for sensitivity”. The article went on “dressed in what appeared to be the shirt he wore in his Thursday meeting with reporters, the wealthy and chubby accountant was initially cautioned by Channel 9 not to call Mr Worland by his first name, the normal intimacy-attempting television practice. This was because the interview was fed to other television stations in what is known as a pooling arrangement, a step that was seen in the industry as proof of Channel 9’s cosy relationship with the police (a former police publicity chief works for the network). “I’d be offending other people eh?” said Mr Lynas in response to the directive.” A few days later, Geoff Wilkinson of Channel 9 wrote a letter to the editor criticising this article for airing the accusation about Channel 9’s cosy relationship with the police. The same man would later co-write Mugshots 1 with Keith Moor. The rest of Child’s article largely repeated what has already been described of this press conference.
On the same page another article titled Psychopath is likely to abduct again, says forensic psychologist by Sally Heath. It was another description of Tim Watson-Munro’s views on the abduction. It described him as “a forensic psychologist…to the Victorian Office of Corrections”. It quoted Watson-Munro as saying “he had thought out the modus operandi quite well. The parents were out – he may have been watching the house or that could have been a coincidence. He took the parents’ car and then used his own car. There has obviously been quite a lot of planning. He is obviously not psychotic, he is a psychopath. He returned the girl – if there is anything to say to his credit, it is that. So maybe he is ambivalent about what he is doing. It paraphrased him by stating “It was unlikely that the time between this and the next offence would be shorter…people who commit such abductions were more likely to do it again because it rewarded their deviate behaviour. They were also very hard to treat.” It went on “he said an American study had shown that serial offenders were of above-average intelligence, had very little remorse and often led very normal lives. They generally had very high thresholds for anxiety and showed no telltale signs before or after they offended. ‘Typically, they can blend very well into the community”’. Mr Watson-Munro went on to say that with each offence the propensity for hurting their victims increased and that they were likely to become less careful with each offence as they had not been caught previously. The article also cited a forensic psychiatrist named Dr Lester Walton as saying “it appeared that the man who abducted Nicola Lynas was not wildly psychotic…often a serial offender was caught up in a special delusion, with behaviour strangely linked to that delusion in an irrational way. Sometimes it was found that the man had been badly treated as a child, often sexually abused. He frequently had an intense hatred for his mother or another adult woman”.
A collection of interstate publications also published articles about Nicola’s abduction, among them The Adelaide Advertiseer which paraphrased Tim Watson-Munro as saying that the offender “ probably had a fetish for young girls and fantasised about them”. It also quoted Watson-Munro saying “we are dealing with a very dangerous person who is in need of help. There is a possibility his fantasies may become more bizarre.”
The Ballarat Courier stated “She (Nicola) told police he made her kneel in the street with her head down as he took off the tape”. The Daily Telegraph stated “she (Nicola) was thrown out of a car and the kidnapper told her to sit in a gutter with her head between her legs as he drove off”. It also stated that Nicola was “wearing the same clothes as when she was abducted and wrapped in a blanket”. The Australian stated “police believed only one person was involved”.
8 July started with The Sun News Pictorial publishing a police sketch of the balaclava the offender used in the attack on Nicola Lynas alongside an article titled Green balaclava key to Mr Cruel by Michael Cox. The police sketch was captioned “A police sketch of the dark green home-made balaclava used by Nicola’s kidnapper”. The article also included an image of a “35cm knife used by the abductor”. “Police yesterday released an artist’s drawings of a 35cm knife and a home-knitted balaclava they believe were used by the abductor”. Detective Inspector Greg Bowd of the major crime squad was paraphrased as saying “Nicola had described the balaclava as dark green with cream stitching around the eyes and mouth”. He was quoted as saying, “it is fairly distinctive and anyone who may have seen it before should come forward”. The article said that police had set up an information caravan the day before “in Chaucer Crescent, where the abductor dumped the Lynas’ family car’” Detective Sergeant Bowd was also quoted as saying “we have had hundreds of calls from people with information, as well as from people who are simply shocked by what has happened”.
The article also stated: “Nicola told detectives her abductor forced her to huddle under the dashboard of his car and covered her with a blanket while he drove for about 45 minutes”. Bowd was quoted as stating “the car had a blanket on the front seat, which Nicola was forced to pull over her, which indicates that the man had come well prepared”. The article also stated “Nicola has told police she was moved from room to room during her 50-hour ordeal, but she did not hear anyone else in the house.” Bowd was also paraphrased as saying that “police wanted to hear from anyone who saw a man and a girl in the area of Chaucer Crescent and Marlowe St between 11pm and midnight last Tuesday. Someone may have seen a man either on foot or in a car behaving suspiciously”, Bowd was quoted. The article went on to state “the knife used by the gunman was described as possibly a kitchen knife with a black plastic handle and serrated blade”.
Bowd was also quoted as stating that police had been “extremely impressed” with Nicola’s courage during questioning. The article also stated that police were to man an information caravan “in Tennyson St today, from 9am to 5pm” and that “about 50 people offered police information at a similar van in Chaucer Crescent, Canterbury yesterday.”
The article continued under the subtitle Chilling trail of child raider. This article made the claim that “the trail of the ruthless child abductor known as ‘Mr Cruel’ probably stretches back as far as 1985“. It claimed that there were “similar trademarks” between this abductor and a series of violent abductions dating back to that year. It also stated that “the crimes indicated a man who gained gratification from assaulting helpless girls.”
There was also another article by Michael Cox on the same page titled Another attack ‘on cards’. This article was largely about the interview with Tim Watson-Munro that had been published in the previous day’s The Sun. However, there were some interesting additions including the following quotes: “Mr Cruel probably gained satisfaction by watching the fear in his helpless victims”. Also, “he seems to be a very cold and calculating character who stalks his victims before he strikes”. Also, “he said the danger of being caught probably added extra excitement to Mr Cruel’s fantasies”.
The Age had a story by Toby Darvall about Nicola’s pending interview by police that day titled For Nikki, one terrible ordeal ends and another begins. The article was about how police were to interview Nicola in the company of her parents and psychologists. A police spokesman was quoted as saying “we don’t want to push her and have her run from end to end in only a few sessions. From what we know so far, it’s obviously going to take a long time before we know everything. She is making a statement rather than being questioned outright. We are taking her slowly through all the events.” An independent forensic psychologist, Mr Ian Joblin was paraphrased saying “it would be difficult to obtain evidence from Nicola during an interview without upsetting her”. He was quoted as saying: “If she relived what she was going through and became obviously distressed, then you are out of line and have to back off. You can’t cause this girl more distress than you have to, because she can’t be objective under those conditions. She will then become emotionally involved and subjective. You want to get a statement and have her be objective. That’s very, very important because she may eventually have to give evidence.”
That afternoon The Herald published Liberty is victory for the man they call Mr Cruel, by John Gillman. It included information gleaned from an interview with Tim Watson-Munro. It cited Watson-Munro as stating that the offender “is probably a reasonably well-adjusted individual. He could be a family man and hold a good job” and that he “is also possibly feeling a great sense of achievement even victory” It continued “it is almost certain this man will abduct again. Maybe next week, maybe next year. The risk will be greater and his precautions may threaten his victim’s life. But it is possible his bravado will undo him.” The article mentioned something that hadn’t been mentioned previously, when it stated the second vehicle that he transferred Nicola into from the family’s Holden Berlina in Chaucer Crescent was an “older vehicle’” It also contradicted previous reports of the length of the kitchen knife used by the offender as being 25 as opposed to 35cm long (however, we know this is incorrect as the image on the television footage clearly shows the police artwork and it says 35 cm).
The article continued on page two under the subtitle Kidnap: when ‘Mr Cruel’s’ fantasies became reality. It paraphrased Watson-Munro as saying that he didn’t think the attack was a copycat crime. Rather, he believed it was by the same person who had carried out the Sharon Wills abduction. It also paraphrased him as saying he believed the offender’s crimes “stemmed from an uncontrollable urge brought on by continual fantasies involving young girls”. He was quoted as stating “I think the urges just become too powerful, the fantasy itself is not sufficiently satisfying. Typically, what happens then is the person may go driving, aimlessly driving until he spies a child. Having become fixated with the victim, the next step is the planning that goes into the abduction which then follows. What usually happens is that he can sit on the urge, but often it can become too powerful. The way this offence has occurred tends to suggest it wasn’t a situation where he spied the girl that afternoon and then decided to abduct her. It’s purely speculative of course, but I would say he has gone home and incorporated her in his fantasies. He probably watched the house to see how many family members there were and then waited for the best time to break in. It may have been purely coincidental the parents were not home at the time. With the Wills case, both parents were in. He’s gone in well prepared. He’s armed, which I suspect was more to intimidate the victim. It’s just part of his repertoire, I believe.”
That afternoon the ABC television news published a story about the case. The first footage shown is of Chaucer Crescent where police had set up an information caravan near the corner with Canterbury Road, presumably at the location where the offender had parked his vehicle. Twenty people had already reported to the information caravan the report stated. Police had also put together an artist’s impression of Nicola’s assailant who was aged somewhere between 20 and 40, they said. Detectives had scoured the Kew area yesterday near where “Nicole” (sic) was dumped. Greg Bowd was heading the investigation and he “hadn’t dismissed possible links with similar abductions over the past few years” He was quoted as saying on this point “we are looking at that very closely, but once again it is pure speculation at this stage’” Footage was then shown of police members searching Eglinton Reserve in Kew.
Other newspapers which covered the story on 8 July included The Sunday Tasmanian which stated “leading psychiatrists say the man dubbed ‘Mr Cruel’ by Victoria Police, gained sexual satisfaction by subjecting his young victims to hours of torment”. It also claimed “forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said Mr Cruel was a callous psychopath whose paedophilliac impulses would force him to strike again”.
On 9 July 1990, The Sun published ‘Mr Cruel’ covered his tracks – police, by Greg Thom and Natalie Sikora. Detective Sergeant Chris O’Connor of the Major Crime Squad was quoted in the article saying “he is a person who has put preparation into the crime, obviously, and he is a person who has taken as little risk in the circumstances as possible”. The article said that detectives had worked long hours at the weekend to try to work out who the perpetrator might be, and said that there were several strong leads after the information caravan set up in Chaucer Crescent attracted more than 60 enquiries. There had also been hundreds of calls to Crimestoppers.
Despite previous claims, Nicola had not been interviewed by police the previous day. Describing Nicola, Chris O’Connor said “she has a particular mettle or fibre which is quite unique to a child so young. She is a very intelligent young girl. She is a girl I believe who is capable of telling us as much as could be possible by any child in the circumstances”. The article repeated the fact that the perpetrator had driven Nicola around for 45 minutes once she had been transferred to the second vehicle but added an interesting detail “possibly in circles to confuse Nicola”. It also added, “during this time there was a lot of conversation between Nicola and the kidnapper”.
The Age also published an article about Chris O’Connor’s interview that morning in an article by Jacqui MacDonald. But, this article also included information about a mysterious phone call to a doctor who was reportedly helping police with investigations. The caller had apparently given the doctor details of the kidnapping which had not been made public. He had indicated that he might have known “where Nicola, 14, was kept and how she was treated during her 50-hour ordeal”. The article continued “the caller spoke about a house and made suggestions about the type of suburb and street it was in. He also gave details about the food Nicola ate while she was held. The man also gave at least one unrelated specific detail about what may have happened to Nicola”. Detective Sergeant Chris O’Connor had said that it was unclear if the information had been provided by a crank caller or not. The article continued “‘The Age’ is aware of what was said during the conversations but has agreed with police to withhold details in the interest of the investigation”.
The Sydney Morning Herald that morning also discussed the telephone caller. However, it added “the caller spoke of a house and gave suggestions about the atmosphere of the street and suburb it may have been located in”.
The 10 July The Sun article titled Mystery man plea by Malcolm Elder and Greg Thom also explored the mystery caller. The article gave more information though, saying that there had been three calls to the home of forensic psychologist Ian Joblin. The man had phoned Joblin on Sunday and they had spoken for over 30 minutes about the abduction. Apparently Joblin had received the first of the three calls the previous Friday night after having appeared on the Hinch current affair program on Channel 7. Joblin had said “the man spoke in great detail about the area from which Nikki was taken and the house she was kept in by her masked abductor”. It continued “the caller indicated he knew of two other similar offences”. The article added that the caller had warned Mr Joblin not to inform the police. Joblin had appeared on the Hinch program again the previous night (Monday) where he requested that the caller call him back. The caller spoke “in great detail about the area from where Nikki was taken, the house where she was kept, what she ate and even what she did when she went to the toilet”. The article added “Mr Joblin said that it was safe for the caller to telephone him again, as he had given only some of the details and nature of the calls to the police.” Detective Inspector Dannye Moloney, who was heading the investigation, said “the man revealed details about the ordeal known only to the victim and police”.
That day’s The Age had an article by Paul Conroy and Jacqui MacDonald titled Kidnapper may have kept watch on school, police believe. The article claimed that police had said that the kidnapper may have been one of a number of suspicious men who was regularly seen loitering around schools in the eastern suburbs. The article also stated how Detective Inspector Dannye Moloney had said that the investigation was focusing on where the offender had exchanged cars in Chaucer Crescent and where Nicola was dumped in Tennyson Street.
An article Police pull drivers over for help by Paul Conroy appeared in The Age on 11 July 1990. It focused on a police operation which pulled over thousands of drivers in Canterbury the previous night, exactly one week after the abduction.
Police house kidnap family by Paul Conroy appeared in The Age on 12 July 1990. The article mentioned how the Lynas family were being held in a police safe house at a secret location. Dannye Moloney was quoted in the article as stating that the road block two nights previously had brought forward valuable information regarding the investigation. The article also stated that senior police had dismissed the possibility that the offender might be a policeman. A quote from Moloney stated “However, it could even be someone who has read a lot of detective books and knows something about police procedures”.
On 4 September 1990 The Age ran an article titled FBI to help in Lynas case. The article explained how Victoria Police had sought the help of the FBI in the Mr Cruel investigation. “The head of the investigation, Detective Inspector Dannye Moloney, said police were building a profile of the man, who they believe has been responsible for at least five other attacks since 1984”. Regarding the help the Victoria Police were to receive from the FBI, it stated “the FBI have been pioneers in a profiling technique that enables police to assess a suspect’s personality to see if it matches that of the likely offender. Police already have clues to the man’s marital status, intelligence, likely occupation, movements before an attack and other identifying features.”
Drawings of the inside of the detention premises 1993
On 27 January 1993, the Spectrum Taskforce investigating the Mr Cruel series of child abductions decided to release previously secret information about the lair where both Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas were held. Head of the Spectrum Taskforce David Sprague spoke at a press conference about his frustration of not having come up with a result until that point in the investigation and expressed hope that they still might be successful. The police released drawings of the bedroom and bathroom of the building the two girls were held in. The illustration of the bedroom was based on the recollection of Sharon Wills, who had lifted up her blindfold to take a peek at the bedroom she was being held in whilst leashed to a bed. She had taken the opportunity to spy the room after the offender had appeared to leave the building temporarily.
Paul Anderson’s 2003 book Shocking Australian True Crime Stories
Paul Anderson’s 2003 book Shocking Australian True Crime Stories also briefly covered the Nicola Lynas abduction in his chapter of the Mr Cruel story. Anderson stated that the abduction occurred at 11.30pm. He starts out the description of the abduction with a definite mistake though when he says that the offender gave Fiona a ransom note. In fact, the offender told Fiona verbally to pass on the ransom demand to her father. Anderson quoted a detective who had dealt closely with Nicola saying: “In his own way he loved her. There was no gratuitous violence. He even snuggled with her. He said to her, “Do what I tell you and I will let you go. Unfortunately my freedom is more important than your life.” [The victim] said to me she was sure for some reason he was going to put her body in the bay. She pleaded with him to let her mum and dad have her body. He continually told her ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing and I will let you go.’” One point I would like to make here is that the quote “my freedom is more important than your life” has also been attributed to the offender known as Mr Cruel by both Keith Moor and Adam Shand. However, these journalists stated the offender said it to a 14-year-old female rape victim who was attacked in Hampton in 1985 in an attack which is not considered one of the canonical Mr Cruel crimes. If he said the same thing to Nicola Lynas then this would surely make the 1985 Hampton rape a strong candidate to be the same offender. However, there is also a possibility that there has been a misunderstanding here, and perhaps the detective being referred to mixed up the two attacks.
Anderson also wrote about how detectives had travelled to England two weeks before Christmas in 1991 to re-interview Nicola and Fiona Lynas. This occurred while Karmein Chan was still missing from her own abduction earlier that year. Anderson said that Nicola provided more information about the offender’s demeanour. “She said while he wanted to appear in control, his nerves belied his act. He pretended to be married to her and flattered her with compliments and used distinctive words like “missy” and “worry wart”. He was also an avid reader of newspaper stories focusing on his crimes. The victim told the detectives her abductor seemed to enjoy the stories and the parallels being drawn to other abductions.”. This last point probably refers to what Keith Moor referenced in his 2016 Herald Sun article when he mentioned that the abductor had a copy of The Sun, but didn’t go into more details. Also, it is interesting to note here that the writer makes the claim that the offender used the term “worry wart” in the Nicola Lynas abduction. We know from Keith Moor’s account that he used “missy”, but the journalist made no mention of the use of “worry wart”.
Larry Writer’s The Australian Book of True Crime 2003
Also in 2003 a chapter on the Mr Cruel story was written in Larry Writer’s book The Australian Book of True Crime. While mostly based on the contemporary newspaper articles, it contains some unique information not seen elsewhere, some of which I’m sure is mistaken, while other parts may well be true. Surprisingly, the chapter doesn’t touch on the Lower Plenty attack at all. Perhaps the most fascinating inclusion however, is a letter by Tim Watson-Munro to the offender. It is not stated where this letter was published, and I have never seen it in full in any of the contemporary newspaper articles. He simply states that it was published on 11 July 1990. Here it is in full.
“I am writing to you in the belief that you may be experiencing some remorse, ambivalence and confusion in relation to your recent outbreak. I am deeply troubled by your behaviour and feel that you need to seek appropriate treatment as soon as possible. You must know, within yourself, that your underlying urges to commit this type of offence are, as yet, unresolved, and it is clearly only a matter of time before you offend again. It may be at this time that you feel some repugnance in relation to your cruelty towards this child [Nicola Lynas}. You may well be wavering about making contact [with police] because you fear the consequences of your actions. This is quite understandable. However, in the absence of revealing yourself and receiving some assistance for your problems, you will no doubt re-offend, and I fear the frequency of your offending and the severity of your behaviour will both increase.
The fact that you have released this child and possibly others suggests that you have some insight into other people’s feelings and, associated with this, the magnitude of your disturbance. To your credit, it would appear that you are able to control your fantasies and impulses for lengthy periods before acting them out. This indicates that you may well be a good prospect for treatment.
Perhaps these fantasies have been brooding within you for many years and only recently they have become too much to contain. No doubt you realise the devastating impact that you have had upon the child, her family, and indeed our community. Perhaps this affords you some vicarious pleasure? Alternatively, strong labels that have been attached to your behaviour such as ‘pyschopath’ may, in the setting of your confusion, be causing you some distress. You may well have read widely on areas concerning this type of offending. The cunning manner in which this offence was executed and the associated absence of clues, suggests that you are an intelligent individual capable of considerable planning. If this is the case then you’ll be aware that the likelihood of your re-offending is very high. So too is the prospect of escalating violence with your offending.
It bothers me that you took considerably more time to release this child than your earlier victims. This suggests that the struggle within you was more protracted and that perhaps, at some point, you were considering not releasing this child at all. Reflect on this and be aware that next time the struggle may be even greater with you possibly panicking and acting in an even more dangerous manner.
Although you have acted in an abhorrent fashion with this offence and, I suspect, others, I nonetheless intuitively feel that you want to seek assistance. In your own interests as well as those of your potential victims and the community in general, I again urge you to make contact with a psychologist and/or Insp. Dannye Moloney who is handling this case. Certainly I am available at any time to speak with you, if you so desire. Be assured that in the absence of treatment your prospects and prognosis are extremely bleak. – Yours sincerely, Tim Watson-Munro.”
While we cannot say with certainty that the same offender who abducted Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas also abducted Karmein Chan, it certainly is eerie that many police believed that Watson-Munro’s predictions came to fruition when Karmein Chan was murdered.
Another interesting detail is that Writer claimed that the offender told “more than one of” his victims that he was sexually abused himself when he was a child. Writer doesn’t say which victims the offender said this to, but it must have been at least two of the Lower Plenty victim, Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas as nobody has any knowledge of what he told Karmein Chan. I cannot say what the implications of this comment are. It could have been another one of his red herrings, or it could well have been true, and could be an important clue about the kidnapper’s identity. The same claim is made by Geoff Wilkinson and Keith Moor in their chapter on Mr Cruel in the book Mugshots 1.
Writer also claimed in his book that the knots used by the offender were similar to ones used by sailors, truck drivers, farmers and to those used by musicians “restringing guitars and violins”. This is almost identical to a claim in John Silvester and Andrew Rule’s 2008 book Rats, which we shall analyse later.
Lastly, Writer claims Brian and Rosemary Lynas returned at 12.30am on the morning of the 4 July 1990 to find Fiona tied to a bed, a time that matched only one newspaper account, that of the Canberra Times 4 July 1990 edition. There is also a slight difference to the accepted account when he states that Nicola was abducted for 52 hours as opposed to the usual 50 hours.
John Silvester & Andrew Rule Rats: Crooks who got a way with it, 2008
In 2008 John Silvester & Andrew Rule co-wrote Rats which included a chapter on the Mr Cruel story. They also mentioned how Nicola was re-interviewed in 1991 “over five days…and her statement was to become one of the main struts in the massive investigation”. They reported that Nicola told the detectives that the offender was nervous saying “his hands shook when he tried to bind his victims”. Nicola had also told detectives: “He appeared to be acting out a fantasy like he was married to me. He showed this by the affection he showed me and how chummy he was to me.” The crime writers went on to say: “He flattered and flirted with her, seemingly oblivious to the fact he kept her manacled to a bed. He told her she was prettier than the photo released to the media. She was terrified, yet her captor treated the teenager as if the whole event was quite normal. This while he kept her chained by the neck to what police call ‘the detention bed’. He even chatted to her about the investigation and dwelled on media reports. ‘He told me hadn’t been in Victoria eighteen months ago and so he couldn’t have committed one of the abductions (this obviously refers to the Sharon Wills abduction). I don’t know whether he was genuine or not, but I do know he wanted me to believe it.’”
Regarding the jets Nicola had heard coming into land, she told detectives that the man didn’t mention the noise which led her to believe that he no longer noticed them because he had lived there for so long “in the way people who live next to railway tracks no longer hear the trains pass”. She also told investigators “the aircraft were not light planes, but commercial jets” and they were “coming into land, not taking off”. Furthermore, police “noted the girl had lived near another airport and concluded she knew what she was talking about”. Despite reportedly checking 30,000 houses around the Tullamarine Airport flight paths, police were never able to identify the detention premises.
John Silvester ‘Mr Cruel’ filmed his victims say police, The Age, 8 April 2008.
In preparation for the 15th anniversary of Karmein Chan’s abduction John Silvester wrote an article for The Age revealing previously secret information about the investigation. The article revealed that “Australia’s most notorious child sex offender, Mr Cruel, kept secret videotapes of his victims as trophies of his crimes, police have revealed before the 15th anniversary of his last known attack. Detectives believe the serial sexual predator set up a video camera in the house where he took his victims so he could later relive his attacks” Despite saying that it was a video camera that was set up Silvester then contradicted this information by stating “One of his victims has told police she saw a tripod and camera set up at the end of the bed where she was held prisoner after her abduction. She was unsure if it was a still or video camera. So, after saying that “Mr Cruel kept secret videotapes of his victims as trophies” Silvester then went on to state that the witness, Sharon Wills, wasn’t actually sure if it was a camera or video camera that was set up in the room.
Silvester’s article continued “investigators kept secret the information that Mr Cruel filmed his victims in the hope that when he was identified they would also find the irrefutable evidence. But after 15 years, they have agreed to release the last known lead in the hope of a belated breakthrough. Detectives believe that if he is still alive he will have kept the tapes and/or photos and will still collect, and possibly swap, child pornography. They say he almost certainly continues to collect pornography through the internet and may communicate with children using chat lines.”
An updated image of the detention premises bedroom was also released with this newspaper article. It featured the wooden tripod in question with a camera fixed to it. However, we should remember that Sharon wasn’t actually sure if it was a stills camera or a video camera.
Another book that looked at Nicola Lynas’ abduction was Infiltration: The True Story of the Man Who Cracked the Mafia, by Colin McLaren. McLaren was a detective who worked on Operation Spectrum after the 1991 abduction of Karmein Chan, but he had also worked on the Nicola Lynas abduction. It is a fascinating read because it is the only account which gives us an insight into the investigation by the Spectrum Taskforce. There are some understandable errors of fact which can occur when one is remembering an old case which occurred many years before, but interestingly the account gives us an insight into the investigation around attempting to locate the detention premises.
Before we look at the investigation McLaren was involved I must point out some minor errors McLaren made in the book. McLaren says he started working on the case when “Nicky (sic) had just turned thirteen”. She had in fact just turned fourteen, an easy error to make He also says “she was stolen from her wealthy family’s home where she had been watching television with her sister while both parents were out”. In fact, the two girls were sleeping in Fiona’s bedroom when the intruder woke them up. He probably confused this case with that of Karmein Chan who had been watching a documentary about Marilyn Monroe with her two sisters when she was abducted in April 1991. Later he says Nicola was “dumped in a large plastic bag in a small inner-suburban park”. She was neither dumped in a plastic bag, nor in a park. McLaren has obviously mixed her up with Sharon Wills here (although even she wasn’t actually dumped in the plastic bag, but rather the offender took it off her just before she was dumped in order to avoid leaving forensic evidence). Nicola was dumped at an electrical substation, not a park.
There are other pieces of information mentioned in the book which contradict other sources, but it’s not clear who is correct here. One major contradiction is that McLaren says that Nicola said the journey from Canterbury to the detention premises only took 10 to 15 minutes, which contradicts all the media reports at the time that said it took about 45 minutes. This is what McLaren says of the trip: “She remembered that they didn’t seem to drive far, although there were a few stops and starts, indicating traffic lights. She spoke of driving continuously (indicating that they had travelled on a freeway) and felt that the whole journey only took ten to fifteen minutes.”
On entering the property McLaren said “They took only ten steps in a straight line [note this contradicts Keith Moor’s 2016 article which stated five to seven steps]; they never stepped sideways or around anything (indicating that the car was parked down a driveway that was on the right-hand side of the house block). She was barefoot and could feel concrete underneath. At the end of her walk she stepped up three steps to a door (indicating a footpath coming off the driveway leading to two to four steps to the door)”.
McLaren next stated that Nicola: “was chained by her ankle to the foot of the bed”. This contradicts Keith Moor who stated she was leashed with some type of harness around her neck. McLaren says the clock radio was left on the entire time she was there and that she “heard the news updates and her name mentioned often”. Here McLaren says Nicola heard the 10 o’clock news on the first morning in the house which agrees with Keith Moor’s account. But, then he states she heard the news at 11am as well. Moor states that the offender only turned on the radio at 10am on both mornings, and that it was before this time that she heard the aircraft. Whereas with McLaren he says she heard the aircraft for the “hour in between” the 10 am and 11 am news. How can the two accounts be so contradictory of each other? It really is remarkable that there are so many differences between the two accounts.
Some other unique information in Mclaren’s book that is not found elsewhere is the following description: “Often she was led around the house by her captor, the bathroom and toilet in particular. Through her recollections we believe the toilet was separate from the bathroom”. He states the toilet door opened from left to right; the toilet roll holder was on the left-hand side if you were sitting on the toilet, and that it was dual flush. The bathroom had a bath tub, handbasin and cupboard and “all the taps had star-shaped handles”. Nicola was of the impression that it was an old-fashioned bathroom.
There is more original content that makes McLaren’s account worthy of discussion. For example, he says “the culprit was otherwise kind and gentle to his victims”. McLaren says he was chosen to head a group of four detectives during Operation Spectrum to try to identify the offender, no doubt his experience in having worked on the Lynas case was crucial to being assigned this senior role. During this time McLaren and his team researched police records of convicted paedophiles before going and paying them a visit, but the visits came to nothing as none of the paedophiles matched the person they were looking for.
The most interesting part of McLaren’s chapter on the case, Nicola’s account of the aircraft noise she heard while shackled to the bed, is quite compelling. McLaren said that Nicola lay on the bed between the 10am and 11am news and counted eleven aircraft flying overhead, nine of which she believed were jets and two of which she said were lighter aircraft. Apparently she had travelled quite a bit with her parents and took an interest in aircraft and so was able to tell the difference between the sounds they made. He goes on to say “She said the aircraft were all flying from the same direction, at varying times in the hour, descending, on a flight path that moved across her body. But the aircraft eventually changed course, banking ninety degrees, then flying in a line from her head to her toe, before fading away.” This is incredible detail about the aircraft that is not in any other source it should be noted that this description of the aircraft flight path seems to line up with the North-South runway flight path for landing aircraft coming into Tullamarine Airport at the point where the aircraft bank 90 degrees above the Keilor/Keilor Park/Keilor East area of Melbourne.
McLaren himself states that the information convinced the detectives that the detention premises weere near Tullamarine Airport. As a result, he states that they got in touch with the head air traffic controller at there. The air traffic controller took out a map of the flight paths into Tullamarine Airport and identified what McLaren refers to as “Laneway No. 2” which ran straight “approaching from the north-east” before banking hard left into Tullamarine. The north-south runway into Tullamarine Airport heads largely from east to west before making a 90 degree angle turn to the north to land at at the airport. If the chart that McLaren was viewing was positioned such that it appeared to “bank hard left” at the point where it heads north then this could well match.
According to McLaren, for the Wednesday morning in question, there were nine jets and two light aircraft which came in to land between 10 and 11am, and this convinced detectives that they had the correct area. Of the search, McLaren says a great amount of research was done to identify houses that might fit the description Nicola gave for the area in question. He goes on to say that their search “centred on the suburbs of Essendon and Keilor” which included an area of more than 10,000 houses. He said certain houses could be eliminated by performing a quick drive by of the property and checking whether they were a right-hand drive or not. Others were eliminated by using common sense “those built on steep blocks, or where there were many steps leading to a front door”.
McLaren then goes on to say that police officers posed as water sewerage employees under the pretence of needing to replace the pipes in the area. When a house could not be eliminated from being the detention premises they used this front to gain access to the property without a search warrant. He even admits it was extremely unlawful to do this. Once inside, detectives attempted to match Nicola’s description of the bathroom and toilet with the properties they were infiltrating. However, at the end of their search they came up with nothing. McLaren said about 20 houses matched the description well, but when they searched the backgrounds of their owners they were all ruled out.
In summing up his thoughts on Mr Cruel, McLaren says that he has a hunch that Mr Cruel might have “had connections to New Zealand, or a remote pocket of Australia, such as Tasmania”, but he doesn’t elaborate on this further. He also says: “he may have had a background in medicine, whether as a doctor, medico or paramedic. He had an uncanny awareness of forensics”.
Keith Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun article Victoria Police and FBI Dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks
Let us now analyse Keith Moor’s 2016 account of the attack on Nicola Lynas. This account was based on files he had received from an anonymous source and it presumably includes the police statements made by Nicola and Fiona Lynas. He states that the family were preparing to leave their rented house in Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury the day after the abduction 4 July. This is backed up by the contemporary newspaper articles. However, his account then makes the incorrect claim that the family were to stay in rented accommodation in the city until 4 August. We know this is incorrect because Brian Lynas states very clearly that the family were returning to England on Sunday 8 July.
According to Moor’s account, the offender entered the home through Brian and Rosemary’s bedroom window at “about 11.30 pm”. While this agrees with the early newspaper reports, it contradicts The Age’s 7 July article which revised the abduction time to 10.40pm, but more on this later. Moor states here that the offender “had almost certainly been stalking Nicola and was aware the family was preparing to leave Monomeath Ave”. However, Moor does not provide an explanation as to why it was almost certain that the offender was aware that it was the family’s last night in the home. Moor then states “he would also have been aware Mr and Mrs Lynas were attending regular farewell functions with different work and social groups”. Again it is not clear why Moor believes the offender would have known this. Perhaps Moor’s police contact conveyed this to him, but there is no other evidence in the public record that would confirm this.
Brian and Rosemary had left the house at 7.50pm when their friends picked them up from Monomeath Avenue. Fiona and Nicola had then ordered a pizza which was delivered quite late, at 10.05pm. The girls usually slept in separate bedrooms, but not wanting to be alone, Nicola dragged a mattress into her sister’s bedroom and slept there with Fiona going to bed at 10.45pm and Nicola at 11. Nicola was then woken up at 11.20pm by the offender tapping her on the head with a knife (a slight contradiction since Moor had previously stated the offender hadn’t entered the property until 11:30pm). The man was clad in a “balaclava, gloves and dark clothes” and was carrying a handgun and a knife.
The offender then demanded money, leading the sisters into Brian and Rosemary’s bedroom. Here he searched through Brian Lynas’ wallet, but did not take the $4000 in traveller’s cheques inside it.
The offender then forced the sisters to lie face down on their parents’ bed and Fiona was “hogtied with galvanised wire, identical to clothes line wire”. The offender then led Nicola into the kitchen where he rifled through her mother’s purse. Here he cut the telephone cord and took the car keys to the family’s rented Holden Berlina, which was still in the driveway of the house. He then took Nicola to her bedroom, going through her cupboards and drawers where he picked out different items of clothing. He then told her to “get dressed”. She kept on her turquoise pajama pants and “put on a white T-shirt with two rugby emblems on each side of the front, one was a rooster and the other a kangaroo, and slipped into her Presbyterian Ladies College school blazer”. The offender also took Nicola’s Ken Done bag and put the items of her clothing he had taken from her cupboards and drawers into it.
At this point he led Nicola back to her parents’ bedroom where her sister was still tied to the bed. Here he asked the teenagers about their father’s job and the company he worked for before telling Fiona that he was going to abduct her sister and that “he wanted a ransom of $25,000”. He informed Fiona that he would call her father the next morning to explain how he could pay the ransom (however, he never did make any attempt to call the family). As the offender was leaving the room with her sister, Fiona looked at the bedside clock and saw that it was exactly 11.47pm. Once again we should highlight the startling contradiction with this time and the time of 10.40pm given by that 7 July The Age article. In this article it was stated that “senior police now believe that Nicola was abducted about 10.40 pm on Tuesday, an hour earlier than thought.” I am at a loss to explain this discrepancy. Is it possible the bedside clock in the parents’ room was displaying the time an hour ahead of what it should have been? Perhaps they hadn’t turned back the clocks the previous daylight savings. The time of the abduction is quite crucial as it would be the difference between Brian and Rosemary Lynas arriving home less than 15 minutes after the abduction compared to 1 hour 15 minutes after it. This would considerably lengthen the window of time the offender had to carry out the abduction. We will come back to this point later in the analysis of the crime.
According to Moor, Brian and Rosemary apparently arrived home less than 15 minutes later where they discovered Fiona tied up and Nicola missing. Once outside, the offender put Nicola in the front seat of the family’s rented Holden Berlina where he ordered her to kneel down under the dashboard and to keep her head down, before pulling her Melbourne Football Club cap down to cover her eyes. From here Nicola believed he turned right out of the driveway onto Monomeath Avenue towards the north (the opposite direction of his destination in Chaucer Crescent). Nicola believed he then turned left onto Mont Albert Road towards the west. He then stopped the car and “put thick adhesive tape over Nicola’s eyes and then put a balaclava over her head before driving the car to Chaucer Avenue, Canterbury”. Here he got Nicola out of the car and walked her a short distance and put her inside another car where she was again ordered to “get under the dashboard”. He then drove Nicola to an unknown location. For some reason, Moor’s account does not go into any details here, such as how long the drive took and what the two talked about during the trip.
At the detention premises the offender led Nicola into the building where she would be kept for the next 50 hours. Moor says here that Nicola entered 4 rooms while she was detained, “a bedroom, a room Mr Cruel referred to as “the kitchen”, a toilet and a separate bathroom”. When the offender led her inside the premises at first he led her straight to the bedroom where Nicola could hear a radio playing. Here the offender removed the thick adhesive tape from her eyes and put “surgical-type cotton eye pads” over her eyes. Nicola was then led to the bathroom where she was made to brush her teeth and take a bath. The offender told Nicola she had to do this because “he didn’t want to leave any forensic evidence which could identify him”. The offender referred to her as “Nicky” during the abduction, which is the name all her family and friends called her.
She was then taken back to the bedroom where the offender “assaulted” her before he “leashed her to the bed with some type of harness around her neck”. The offender then fell asleep next to her. Nicola told police later that she didn’t sleep at all that night. The radio was not on throughout the night and she heard no sounds throughout the night. However, the following morning she “heard the loud sound of between seven and nine jet planes landing”. The offender did not wake up until 10am at which point he put the radio on. Nicola had heard the jets landing prior to this time. Nicola could tell the time based on the radio, and the offender assaulted her again about 11am after which he fell asleep next to her again. He unleashed Nicola at sometime between 12.30pm and 2pm and carried her to the bathroom where he assaulted her again. At this point he told Nicola that he had followed her home from school and “that he had a schoolgirl fantasy”.
The offender then took her to a room which he called the kitchen where he made her wear her school dress and he assaulted her again. He then gave the child a glass of water and took her back to the bedroom where he re-leashed her to the bed. Here “he told her he was going to dress her in her tennis skirt the following day” before falling asleep. Nicola went to sleep herself for some time before waking up the following morning to the sound of “more planes flying overhead”.
The offender woke up himself at 10am and put the radio on again, Nicola had heard the planes before this. The offender made Nicola have another bath at about noon before she was led to the kitchen again, where she was dressed in her tennis skirt and assaulted again. “He called Nicola ‘missy’ during the fantasy games he played with her”. The offender then took her back to the bedroom about 2pm where he re-leashed her to the bed, but told the girl that he would not assault her again. “Her legs were tied together with wire during some of the times she was left alone”. Between 2 and 4pm the offender came into the bedroom to check on Nicola and give her bread and water.
At about 5pm the offender told Nicola that “he and a friend had been looking for areas suitable to drop her off”. Moor also states at this point that he had a copy of The Sun with him, but gives no details as to whether he read her some of the articles about her abduction. Nicola was left leashed to the bed until 10pm when the offender checked on her and “asked her if she wanted any food as he was about to pack it away”.
At about 11.45pm the offender took Nicola to the bathroom again. This time she was made to stand on a sheet on the floor. The offender told her that he had the sheet down because he didn’t want to leave any forensic evidence. She was then ordered to have a shower. At this point the offender said something in front of Nicola to someone else in the premises, but Nicola herself never heard another person in the premises throughout her ordeal, so this may have been a red herring.
When Nicola finished her shower the offender took her back to the bedroom “to get dressed”, and he “removed her eye patches and replaced them with adhesive tape”. The offender then led Nicola“through the kitchen and outside to the driveway”. Nicola told police that the offender seemed nervous at this point and “hurried her along the five to seven steps down the driveway to the car”. The offender then wrapped Nicola in a sheet and made her get into the car on the floor under the dashboard on the passenger’s side. Moor says here “his nervousness was increased when the car wouldn’t start. As he was repeatedly trying to start it, he told Nicola the car had been stolen by his friend”. According to Nicola the offender stopped for petrol before “stopping a second time and getting her out of the car at an unknown location”. At this point the offender removed the sheet and “walked her for about five minutes on footpaths until they stopped at another location”. Here he took off the adhesive tape on her eyes and gave her a change of clothes, saying that he was going to leave her at that location. However, then he “walked about five metres, returned and told Nicola the location was no good”. He then took her for another walk of about 3 minutes. He then told Nicola to count for a while, before finding someone and ringing the police. Nicola had been dumped “in bushes in front of an SEC substation in Tennyson St, Kew”. It was just before 2am on the morning of her 14th birthday. Moor then says that “the Lynas family left Australia and returned to live in England six days after Nicola was released”. I’m not sure how accurate this is. We know the family were being kept in a police safe house until at least 12 July, so it is possibly true, but considering the earlier mistake about the family planning to leave on 4 August when it was actually 8 July, it is not clear how accurate this date is.
Nicola and Fiona gave separate statements to police and their description of the offender differed markedly, with Fiona saying he was between 182cm to 185cm tall, and Nicola giving him a height of less than 170cm. Police believed Nicola’s estimate to likely be more accurate as she had spent more time with him and had been marched out of the house next to him whilst walking alongside him. With she herself being 162cm tall, this means she must have gauged him to be not too much taller than herself, although she would not have had much time to see how tall he was because she was blindfolded for the majority of the time she spent with him. The fact that Fiona and Nicola gave such differing accounts of his height may be why there was no estimate of his height given in the contemporary newspaper reports at the time.
Both Fiona and Nicola said “he was well-built” while Nicola said he “had a slightly big stomach, like a beer belly”. The two sisters both said he had a deep or gruff Australian accent (although this contradicts media accounts from the time which stated that he was “softly spoken”). Fiona said he used the term “yous”. For example he said “lay down on the bed yous” and “get the cash yous” which perhaps would have stood out to these well-bred, English, private schoolgirls. Neither had seen his face because of the balaclava he was wearing. Fiona said he had his handgun tucked into either his trousers or his belt on the left side, but Nicola said that it was on the right side. Fiona also said that he carried the serrated carving knife in his left hand. Fiona said the gun had “a dull silver barrel with a brown wooden handle”, whereas Nicola described it as “shiny silver”. Nicola said he “didn’t smell of body odour, alcohol or cigarettes; that his hands felt sort of hairy with rough skin and shortish fingernails; that his arms were quite solid and stocky with fine hair; that he had fine hair on his chest and no hair on his back; that he swore a lot, but only at the Lynas house, in the car and about his friend and that he sounded “not really educated”. Fiona thought that he was probably aged in his 30s.
Keith Moor then listed a collection of the items that were taken by the offender. These included “a handmade pink and white striped sundress with a drop waist and gathered (belonging to Fiona); a pair of blue tracksuit pants of the brand endorsed by PLC, may have had Fiona Lynas label inside or F Lynas written in biro on the inside label; three pairs of white Marks and Spencer label girl’s underpants and two pairs of blue Dobson brand girl’s underpants; four pairs of white cotton Marks and Spencer brand socks; a Marks and Spencer brand green and white fine horizontally striped T-shirt, size small or 8; a Melbourne Football Club hat; a white tennis skirt, size 8, pleated with velcro and slip catch on the front, very fine knife pleats with red and blue ribbon around the bottom; PLC school jumper, size not known; a large Ken Done beach bag with green fish design and a string draw opening; a pair of blue and green knee high stockings, bought in England; a maroon ladies wallet; a Victorian driver’s licence in the name of Rosemary Lynas with the address of 16 Margaret St Canterbury (the Lynas family had lived at this address until March 1990) on it; a Medicare card in the names of Brian, Rosemary, Fiona and Nicola Lynas; an ANZ visa card in the name of Rosemary Lynas.”
Regarding the vehicle the offender used to abduct her in, Nicola thought it was “a four door vehicle with bucket seats; that it had a floor gear shift, probably manual; that the radio was tuned to KZFM; there were no odours in the car; that it sounded oldish and had carpet on the floor”.
Moor also listed things the offender said while carrying out the attack.
Firstly, to Nicola and Fiona he said “see this here, this is a really sharp knife.” And: “this is a real gun. It shoots real bullets.” And: “Blow your heads off.”
To just Nicola he said: “if you try to see it will be very dangerous for you.” And: “Keep your eyes shut if you want to stay alive.” And: “Crouch down on the floor. Get down low. Get your head right down.” And: “You’ve got to clean yourself thoroughly.” And: “Clean your teeth thoroughly.” And: “I’m just going to tie your feet up now”. And: “Think you’re worth $25,000?” And: “You will get home. You will be home by late Thursday evening, early Friday morning.” And: “I’ll drop you off at a place and change of clothes (sic) and you have to wait for about 10 minutes and then you can walk to a police station. I’ll give you directions to the police station.” And: “When you get back the police will ask you a lot of questions.”
Confusing Contradictions between Mugshots 1 and Keith Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun article Victoria Police and FBI Dossier on Shocking Mr Cruel Child Attacks
While researching this case I couldn’t help but notice some contradictions in the reporting of the case. Keith Moor and Geoff Wilkinson co-wrote Mugshots 1 in 2003. In this book they had a chapter on the Mr Cruel story which I presume was a summary of the events based on newspaper articles from 1990. However, then in 2016, Moor published his article in the Herald Sun titled Victoria Police and FBI Dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks. This article had previously unreleased information after Moor had received files from an unnamed source. Presumably he received some of the police statements made by the victims of the attack. Some of the details from these files clearly contradicted some of the ‘facts’ of the case that had been presented in Mugshots 1. The main point of difference between the two publications was that, in the book, the offender was described as being 175cm tall whereas in the 2016 Herald Sun article he was described as being less than 170cm tall. Despite this, Moor and Wilkinson did not correct the record when they republished Mugshots 1 in 2019 where the original description of the offender’s height of 175cm is retained. This has led to a lot of confusion in the public record. We know from a 5 July 1990 The Sun article by Brian Walsh that Nicola was only 162cm tall, yet Moor and Wilkinson stated in Mugshots 1 “Mr Cruel then walked Nicola out of the house. He had his arm around her shoulder, with his head very close to hers. She later told police he maintained this position for several minutes, enabling her to work out that he was the same size as her, making him about 175cms tall.” I don’t know where they are getting this information from since it is not in any of the contemporary newspaper reports, but we know The Sun had already said Nicola was 162cm tall when she went missing and this certainly seems to be a much more likely height for a 13 or 14 year old girl to be. Therefore, the claim in Mugshots 1 that Nicola was 175cm tall is most likely an error, and Wilkinson and Moor perhaps should have corrected this error when republishing Mugshots 1 in 2019. The public needs some clarity on the facts of the case if we are to stand any chance of identifying the perpetrator, but by putting out on the public record contradictory facts about the offender’s height, this is causing confusion.
2016 Herald Sun article
Offender broke in
11.30pm (woke Nicola up at 11.20pm)
Fiona tied to which bed?
Her own bed
Her parents’ bed
less than 170cm
The facts are that, according to what we assume is Nicola Lynas’ police statement, she thought the offender was less than 170cm tall. However, this contrasted with her sister’s estimation, who stated he was between 182-185cm tall. This large range means we cannot say with any certainty how tall the offender actually was.
My analysis of the Nicola Lynas abduction.
Unfortunately we cannot say with any certainty what time the significant events occurred. The main contradiction that affects our analysis is the contradiction as to what time the abduction actually occurred and how soon afterwards the parents arrived home. While most sources state the abduction occurred at 11.40-11.47pm and that the parents arrived home 13 to 20 minutes later, the 7 July 1990 The Age article throws a massive spanner in the works by stating: “senior police now believe that Nicola was abducted about 10.40 pm on Tuesday, an hour earlier than thought.”
What caused Kevin Holliday to give this information to the press conference? Did they realise that the clock radio in the parents’ bedroom was an hour out? Does this affect the length of the window of opportunity the offender had in carrying out his attack? If we believe the police perception that the offender had chosen his victim carefully and was watching the house, he struck within a narrow window of opportunity with Brian and Rosemary Lynas arriving home less than 20 minutes after the abduction. He must have known that they were out and that the girls were vulnerable, alone by themselves. But, if we accept Kevin Holliday’s information that the abduction occurred at 10.40pm then, does this mean that Fiona was tied up for over an hour and the offender had a longer window of opportunity? I suspect the latter is unlikely, no matter the reason why senior police reevaluated the time of the abduction down to 10.40pm as it is unlikely Fiona would have mixed up the difference between 15 minutes and an hour and 15 minutes while lying, tied to a bed.
Therefore, we will conduct our analysis with the belief that the offender had only the narrower timeframe in which to carry out his abduction. Since the parents’ may have arrived home as early as midnight, the offender had probably less than 40 minutes in which to get Nicola to his vehicle in Chaucer Crescent, switch cars, and flee the scene.
What did he know?
So, let’s analyse the scene based on the likelihood that the 2016 Herald Sun article contains the most correct information, but leaving aside for a moment the time of the abduction. Doing this raises a number of questions. Firstly, did the offender know the parents’ return was imminent? Probably, but how imminent? Did his surveillance provide him with information that meant he knew exactly when they would return? Either way, you would have to say that his actions were extremely risky. The possibility that the parents would be dropped off by their friends as he was leaving their Canterbury home with their daughter makes the whole enterprise fraught with danger for him. Then again, perhaps this only elicited excitement in him.
The keys to the Holden Berlina
The offender took the family’s rented Holden Berlina and used it to smuggle Nicola to the general location of his getaway car in Chaucer Crescent. Therefore, surely he had planned this element of the abduction. His surveillance must have provided him with the information that the keys to the car were present in the house. This knowledge led him to factor in how he carried out the crime. I say this because otherwise he would have had to walk Nicola down Monomeath Avenue and across the busy Canterbury Road before passing residential properties on his way to Chaucer Crescent. This surely would have increased his risk of getting caught. It is far more likely, he knew he would have been able to take the keys from the hook in the kitchen and therefore planned to bundle Nicola away in the family vehicle. This indicates incredibly careful planning, despite the risk he took in carrying out the abduction not long before Brian and Rosemary returned.
Some might argue that we cannot say this for sure, and the fact that it was a late hour meant that he may not have been noticed walking Nicola back to his vehicle in Chaucer Crescent. They might point to the fact the offender seems to have walked Nicola, presumably whilst she was still wearing the balaclava he had put over her head, several hundred metres down Chaucer Crescent, a residential street, between the two vehicles. But, I’d suggest this was still less risky than marching her down her own street and across a main road would have been.
An experienced burglar?
Next, the offender displayed sophisticated burglary and abduction skills. He broke in through a window in the parents’ bedroom without waking up the girls sleeping in the adjacent bedrooms. This suggests someone who was skilled in the ways of breaking and entering. Similarly he had no trouble subduing the girls with his commands whilst armed with a kitchen knife and a gun. He displayed a confidence in how he spoke to them as well: “See this here, this is a really sharp knife…this is a real gun. It shoots real bullets…blows your heads off.” This was an offender who had committed similar crimes previously, he may well have had experience as an armed robber. Sure, we heard from John Silvester and Andrew Rule that he was “nervous” and that his hands shook as he tied up his victims, but in my opinion the offender was likely experienced at subduing victims. He used galvanised wire to tie up Fiona, and later used the same wire on Nicola at the detention premises and he displayed prowess in doing this which points to someone who had done this a number of times previously.
The fact that this was the Lynas family’s last night in the house before they flew back to England on 8 July is surely also significant. Did the offender know this? It certainly seems likely. If so, how? Had he followed the family? Did he hear them talking about their plans? Was he operating as a prowler in the days or weeks leading up to the attack? Perhaps observing the family through their windows from the backyard? This also raises another question, how did he gain access to the property without being seen? The sun would have set before 6pm in Melbourne in early July, so he may have used cover of dark and just walked into the property from the front driveway. He could access the back of the property by walking past the left side of the house. We know he then broke into the parents’ bedroom window at the back of the house. Did this occur after 6pm while the parents were still in the house? Had he planned to take on the parents and tie them up like he had the Wills’ parents until he saw them get picked up to be taken to their dinner party? If he did observe the parents leave perhaps this is how he knew the keys to the car would be in the house. If I were to guess, I’d say he knew the parents were going to leave beforehand and planned to attack once they had. Then, all he had to do was wait for the girls to go asleep before attacking.
No parents present
A notable difference between this offence and the offence against Sharon Wills was that the offender struck while the parents were not present. He may have seen his opportunity and decided to strike at the most opportune moment. It was to be the family’s last night in the house though, meaning it was his last chance to act. He may well have known for days beforehand that the parents would be going out and that this was when he would strike. A pizza was delivered just 40 minutes before Fiona went to bed. This may have delayed him striking. He may have observed the girls order the pizza and may have been forced into delaying his attack. He may have grown frustrated during this time as the pizza was delivered. He may have not been 100% sure that he was going to strike. Perhaps he thought he would only strike if the girls went to bed at the right time. When they did go to bed, he may have thought he could strike then. But, did he know he had the forty minute window before the parents would come home or did he just risk it? We can only speculate.
A home-knitted balaclava?
The other aspect to discuss here is what the offender was wearing. An early newspaper report stated he was wearing dark jeans and a dark skivvy. It was also during this attack that he was wearing the iconic balaclava that has become roundly associated with “Mr Cruel” over the decades. The balaclava often elicits an emotional reaction of extreme fear when it is displayed on internet messageboards. While it is usually depicted as black, it was actually described as “dark green” and “homemade” or “home-knitted” when it was published in newspapers on 8 July 1990. This may well be a vital clue in working out the identity of the offender.
In 1990 knitting was a largely gender-specific activity with women far more likely to be skilled in the production of such garments. Yet, over the decades, no woman has come forward with information relating to a similar balaclava she might have made for a lover or son. Can we then take a leap and suggest that perhaps the offender made the balaclava himself. Was the offender skilled in textiles? In 1990, what type of men may have had the skills necessary to make such a garment. Well, one such type of man may have been a former convict. Convicts often learnt textiles or knitting in prison. I know such classes were offered to inmates in Pentridge Prison in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the Pentridge Prison Mess Hall Players, an amateur theatre group for inmates in the 1970s and 1980s, made their own costumes for their plays. Is it possible the offender made his balaclavas himself having learnt his knitting skills in jail? Having a female companion create the garment for him would have run the risk of her informing on him. Perhaps, by creating the balaclava himself, the offender was able to skirt around this problem.
We should also ask at this point, whatever happened to the imprint clue that was written about in The Age on 6 July 1990? Forensic experts were examining an imprint on a writing pad on which Nicola had written an innocent account to her father of a recent shopping trip she had taken. We can only assume that the offender had touched the pad. Was he wearing gloves? This detail was never stated clearly in the media. However, it may simply be that they found an imprint on the pad that wasn’t the offender’s as this article appeared before Nicola was released. Fiona would have been tied up in her parents’ bedroom and so could not have seen him touch the pad in the kitchen. The fact that this lead was never again touched on in the media though, suggests that police didn’t have success in obtaining any crucial forensic evidence with it.
The route to Chaucer Crescent
Now let us analyse the route the offender took to reach his getaway vehicle in Chaucer Crescent. Despite the fact the getaway vehicle was located to the south of 10 Monomeath Avenue, the offender chose to turn right out of the driveway towards the north, perhaps to confuse the blindfolded Nicola. He then turned left onto Mont Albert Road before stopping the vehicle, putting thick adhesive tape over Nicola’s eyes and putting a balaclava over her head. It is not clear whether this was the iconic balaclava the offender was wearing when he was in 10 Monomeath Avenue. It may have been that he didn’t want to be seen driving around the streets of Canterbury whilst wearing a balaclava himself. Alternatively, he may have had a second balaclava which he put over her head.
We are not sure what route the offender took to get to Chaucer Crescent, or what part of Chaucer Crescent he parked the Lynas rented car on. He may have taken the next left south down Alexandra Avenue before turning left again on Canterbury Road before taking a right onto Marlowe Street and then a right onto Chaucer Crescent. I say this because the 8 July The Sun article by Michael Cox specifically mentioned a police request for the assistance of the public for anyone who saw a man and a girl in the area of Marlowe Street and Chaucer Crescent on the evening of the abduction.
Also, the information caravan that was set up in Chaucer Crescent was set up at the western tip of Chaucer Crescent near the corner of Canterbury Road in the location of some off-street car parking spaces near the shops there. I suspect this is where the offender parked his getaway vehicle after walking Nicola from near the corner of Marlowe Street and Chaucer Crescent, but this is not certain, and the location was never officially released. By walking a blindfolded girl several hundred metres down a residential street the offender ran a considerable risk of being seen.
Alternatively, he could have reached Keilor East via the Eastern Freeway which may well have been faster late at night, and one report did say that both Nicola and Sharon thought they might have been travelling on a freeway at one point. I’ve used Keilor East as a destination as this suburb is roughly where the 90 degree angle change in the flight path occurs before aircraft come in to land on the north-south runway at Tullamarine Airport. This route avoids the use of any modern toll roads. Only Colin McLaren’s account disputes the 45 minute figure given for this journey. His account states that the route was 10 to 15 minutes, however, as mentioned previously, his chapter on Mr Cruel is filled with so many mistakes it is hard to trust this figure. The other problem is that some newspaper articles stated that the 45 minute figure may be misleading as Nicola had told police that she felt the offender may have been driving in circles to confuse her.
Another commonly cited location for the detention premises is in the area of Eltham near Mings, the Chan family restaurant. A route from Chaucer Crescent to Eltham would take about 30 minutes leaving about midnight today. Is it possible the detention premises were located in the Eltham area, (as was claimed by Ron Iddles recently), but the offender drove in circles to confuse Nicola before arriving at the destination?
Having arrived at the detention premises, the true reason for the abduction became apparent. He assaulted Nicola a total of five times in the 48 hour period she was held there. He told Nicola he had a schoolgirl fantasy and he dressed her in her school uniform, and her tennis skirt during two of the assaults. He had also stolen a number of pairs of her underpants and a pair of knee-high stockings. She was leashed to the bed with some type of harness for the majority of the time she was held there (or, according to a John Silvester The Age article from 15 December 2010 titled The hunt for Mr Cruel, Nicola and Sharon were shackled with a “rough neck brace”). It is unclear why this seeming contradiction between Silvester’s and Moor’s accounts exist.
All of this suggests an offender with an indecent motivation for the abduction. Silvester and Rule mentioned how he “flattered and flirted” with Nicola, telling her that she was better looking than the photo which was released to the media made her look. His interest in fantasy games in which he pretended to be married to Nicola and in which he dressed her as a schoolgirl, referring to her as “missy” could possibly reveal a clue about the offender to any former lovers of his. We also know from the Sharon Wills abduction that the offender kept a wooden tripod at the foot of the bed, perhaps to record the assaults he committed on the 10-year-old with a camera or video camera. While Nicola never peaked from her blindfold, it is possible the offender also recorded the assaults on her so that he could re-live the experience whenever he chose. However, his usage of a wooden tripod is interesting. I have been informed by interested parties that such devices were rare in the 1980s and were generally owned by professionals, perhaps professional photographers, surveyors or cinematographers. Is the wooden tripod a clue to the identity of the offender?
Nowhere to be
The offender slept in to 10am on the two mornings Nicola spent in the detention premises. He also went back to sleep at 11am, after one of the assaults. This suggests an individual who was not used to waking up early to go to work. It also suggests someone who was very relaxed despite the offences he was committing. Does it also suggest someone who was in their 30s or younger? That may be a reach, but certainly people tend to wake up earlier as they get older.
The same man
The offender was definitely the same person who abducted Sharon Wills. There are a number of features that the two crimes have in common. He made both girls wear eye pads while in the detention premises. Both Sharon and Nicola described the same features of the bathroom and separate toilet in the detention premises. Both heard aircraft noises in the mornings of their detention. Both were assaulted in different rooms in the premises. Both were made to wash themselves in a bath and clean their teeth thoroughly before and after they were assaulted. Both were finally made to shower themselves before he released them. He put a sheet down on the floor of the bathroom when he made them shower so as not to leave behind any forensic evidence. He told both of them that his vehicle was stolen (this is a good reason for believing that he may have been using his own car, and it is possible he used the same vehicle in both abductions, but by no means certain). He put the radio on in the bedroom for both girls while they were in there. He fed both girls. So, I am convinced it was the same offender in both cases, despite the fact that, according to Silvester and Rule, he told Nicola he could not have abducted Sharon Wills because he was in a different state at the time.
The location of the detention premises
Much has been made of the information Nicola Lynas provided to police about hearing landing aircraft, and that this must indicate Nicola was being held somewhere close to Tullamarine Airport. We have already seen however, how the most detailed account of this analysis comes from Colin McLaren’s book Infiltration. If the information about the plane banking at a 90 degree angle is true, there is realistically only one area of the two main flight paths which could be the location where the detention premises were. That is around the suburbs of Keilor East, Keilor, Keilor Park, Airport West and Niddrie. The problem is, these suburbs were thoroughly searched back in 1993 and, while according to Colin McLaren, a number of properties were found which matched the description, the owners were all checked and cleared. Is it possible Victoria Police were looking in the right area, but either missed a property or cleared the perpetrator himself? Or is it possible the offender was simply using a friend’s property in this area, and it was never linked to him?
A red herring?
The offender spoke to an apparent accomplice on the last day of Nicola’s detention and made it seem that this person was organising the procurement of a stolen vehicle in which to drop Nicola off in. However, Nicola never heard this person, and she was of the impression that the offender was misleading her as to his existence. This probable red herring is consistent with a number of other red herrings employed by the offender in this case and that of the Sharon Wills abduction, not to mention a number used by the offender in both the Lower Plenty attack case and the Karmein Chan abduction. This simply suggests that the offender was cunning and would go to great lengths to avoid leaving behind clues to his identity.
Nervous Mr Cruel
On exiting the detention premises, Nicola noted that the offender seemed nervous and hurried her along the five to seven steps to the vehicle. Does this suggest the offender was vulnerable at this point? Perhaps he could be seen at the front of the house. It would have been late, perhaps between 1 and 1.30am, but the abduction story was big news at the time. The description of the detention premises make it seem like the building was either a 1 or 2 bedroom unit. Perhaps the front of the property was in full view of other units where the offender was vulnerable to being seen.
A petrol stop?
During the drive to dump Nicola, the teenager believed the offender had stopped at a petrol station to refuel. Surely, this counts as another extreme risk given Nicola could easily have got out of the vehicle to raise the alarm while he was paying for the petrol. Perhaps he was confident that she was afraid enough not to do this, but still it does seem like a gamble. As Nicola was blindfolded and under the dashboard, perhaps the offender felt confident enough that Nicola didn’t know where she was, and he threatened her not to move while he was outside the vehicle. Or, perhaps she also had her hands tied behind her back making it impossible to exit the vehicle.
Walking the streets of Kew
The perpetrator then stopped at a second unknown location before removing the sheet and got Nicola out of the vehicle and walked her around the streets for several minutes. After initially telling Nicola he was going to leave her at a particular location, he changed his mind and took her somewhere 5 to 7 minutes’ walk away and left her at the electricity substation in Tennyson Street. These locations where he had Nicola prior to finally dumping her are unknown, but what is clear is that police searched Eglinton Reserve in Kew which is about a 5 minute walk from the electricity substation. Contemporary photographs show a number of police carefully searching this park. It may be that he parked his vehicle adjacent to this park to avoid being spotted before walking Nicola to the substation. Either way, the offender still ran somewhat of a risk in walking the girl around the streets, even though it was 2am. It would have been a strange sight indeed seeing a man walking in close quarters with a blindfolded teenage girl, especially considering the massive publicity the abduction had already generated.
A risky dump location
It still raises the question as to why he chose the electricity substation. There were still residential houses very close by. Would it not have been more discreet to have left the girl in the middle of Eglinton Reserve? And why did the offender become spooked and change his mind about dropping her in the first location? Did he see someone at a distance and suddenly change his mind about the location? Or was this another red herring? Did he plan to drop the girl at the electricity substation all along? Did he know that the substation was at this location and did he figure it could give him a couple of minutes to make his getaway?
I have mentioned previously about the seeming coincidence that electricity stations seem to play in the Mr Cruel saga. Was the offender a linesman or electricity worker who had previously worked at the substation in Kew and so knew of its existence as a location he could dump the girl. This is impossible to answer, but it wasn’t a great place to dump the girl to give him a great deal of time to make his getaway. He must have known that the girl was suitably fearful not to go and knock on a door as soon as he had left. One report said he told the girl to wait ten minutes before knocking on a door. Perhaps she did this and this gave him enough time to get back to his car. Perhaps sniffer dogs tracked him through the park, and this was why police were seen searching it.
It should be pointed out here that an unidentified detective was seen inspecting and measuring something at the crime scene at the electricity substation in Kew where Nicola Lynas was dumped at 2am on 6 July 1990. It may well be that the detectives identified a footprint in the grass here. I have spoken to someone who was one of the supposed 27,000 people interviewed by police after the Karmein Chan abduction. This person had been nominated as a person of interest because he had worked at Presbyterian Ladies’ College years previously. He told me how the first thing police did when they interviewed him was measure his foot. This leads me to believe that police have evidence of the size of the offender’s foot. It may be that, the crime scene at Kew is where they have this evidence from.
The Mystery Caller
Who was the mystery caller who called forensic psychologist Ian Joblin three times between Friday 6 July 1990 and Sunday 8 July 1990? This person was described by head of the investigation Dannye Moloney as having knowledge of Nicola’s ordeal that was only known to her and the police. He had told Joblin that he knew of two other similar offences to Nicola’s, which may well have been the abduction of Sharon Wills and the Lower Plenty attack. He had spoken in great detail about the area where Nicola was taken, what she had eaten and even what she did when she was on the toilet. This seems like an incredibly important lead in the investigation and yet, we heard nothing more about it after 9 July 1990. What on earth happened with this lead? Did police manage to identify it as a hoax? If so, why didn’t they tell the public about it? Or, did police realise it probably was the offender and so shut up shop on releasing any more public statements about it so as not to reveal any more information? It is still a mystery who this person was and whether it was the offender or not. If not, how did he know inside information about the case?
A final word on electricity stations.
As mentioned previously, electricity substations, terminal stations and overhead power lines seem to feature unusually prominently in the Mr Cruel story. We know that the police questioned linesmen because of the frequency of electricity related connections to a number of different crime scenes. It should also be mentioned that there was also an electricity substation located very close to the Lynas family home in Monomeath Avenue. This is an old railway substation located near East Camberwell Station. The location is only a few hundred metres from Chaucer Crescent. Once again we ask if there is any relevance to an electricity station sight located so close to a major crime scene.
Summary– Questions about the case that need to be clarified
In conclusion, I once again call on detectives working on the case to clear up the contradictions in this case. In the abduction of Nicola Lynas the most pressing contradiction to clarify is what time she was actually abducted at. Why did senior police revise the abduction time on 7 July 1990 after Nicola had been released?
How long did Nicola estimate the trip to the detention premises took? Was it 45 minutes as the majority of sources stated, or 10 to 15 minutes as described by Colin McLaren?
What happened to the lead regarding the mystery caller who called forensic psychologist Ian Joblin three times between 6 July 1990 and 8 July 1990 with inside knowledge about the abduction?
Was Nicola shackled to the bed “with a rough neck brace” as described by John Silvester in 2010, or was she “leashed to the bed with…a harness” as described by Keith Moor in 2016?
Clearing up these contradictions will go a long way to helping solve this case.
Here is a table of some other contradictions in the reporting on the case.
Original newspaper reporting
2016 Keith Moor article
7 July The Age article
Height of offender
Nicola: less than 170cm Fiona: 182-185cm
Time of abduction
Time Brian and Rosemary Lynas returned home
Just after midnight / 12.30am
20 mins after abduction
Offender wakes Nicola up
(Offender breaks into home) 11.40pm
Nicola goes to bed
Fiona goes to bed
Voice of offender
I wouldn’t have been able to create this detailed post without the help of a Mr Cruel discussion group I am a member of with some other online sleuths. I would like to particularly thank Reddit users u/mjr_sherlock_holmes; u/pwurg; and u/Elocra for the valuable insights they regularly offer in relation to the Mr Cruel case. u/mjr_sherlock_holmes also runs his own excellent website on the Mr Cruel case at https://whoismrcruel.com/, so please check it out. I would also like to thank Clinton Bailey for his valuable insights and those of Reddit users u/HollywoodAnonymous, u/satansandwiches and u/int3rest3d.
Note. If you have gained something from this post please consider donating to my Patreon to cover the costs I have incurred in researching it. You can find my account on Patreon by searching for Melbourne (as in the city) Marvels. https://www.patreon.com/melbournemarvels
The Mr Cruel crimes remain unsolved, and my hope is that by keeping the spotlight on this series of crimes that it may contribute in some way to answers for the victims of the offender. The vast majority of the information about this case in the public forum comes from a series of newspaper articles written by the award-winning journalist Keith Moor for the Herald-Sun in 2016 to mark the 25 year anniversary of the abduction of Karmein Chan. Moor’s articles were based on files he had received, not through official channels, but from an unnamed source. However, in researching the case, by reading all of the contemporary newspaper articles and watching archival footage on it, I couldn’t help but notice a number of contradictions between the information that was presented to the public at the time of the crimes and the information about the case that Moor presented in his 2016 Herald Sun article. Therefore, this blog post is to be an analysis of the original reports and then a comparison of them with Moor’s 2016 information.
Lastly, I conduct an analysis of all we know about Sharon’s abduction in an attempt to offer some insights about the profile of the offender. Hopefully, having presented all of the information that is on the public record in this case I will be able to offer something constructive about the type of offender we are looking for.
An analysis of the contemporary newspaper articles and archival footageof the Sharon Wills abduction
On 7 July 1988 an article appeared in the Melbourne tabloid the Sun News Pictorial which detailed the story of a house fire which occurred at the home of the Wills family on 5 July in the outer eastern Melbourne suburb of Ringwood. The article, titled Mother battles blanket blaze, by Paul Cunningham described how 36-year-old mother Julie Wills had responded to cries from her four daughters while in the middle of a phone call. When she arrived in her daughters’ bedroom she was greeted by the frightening sight of one of the top bunks of the bunk-beds completely on fire. Mrs Wills had ordered her daughters, Sharon 10, Linda and Robyn 8 and Annette 5 outside as she unsuccessfully attempted to put the fire out. The fire brigade were called but the fire still caused quite a lot of damage to the house.
Accompanying the article was a photograph by Karl Jahn of the 4 girls and Mrs Wills holding up the cause of the blaze, a faulty electric blanket. Sharon is pictured on the far left of the photograph standing on a bottom bunk bed. She is wearing glasses, a skivvy, a jumper, a polka-dot skirt, and white socks. Just over 5 months later, this innocent little girl was to be abducted from her home by an armed intruder, held captive at a residence of some sort, where she was assaulted, before being released 18 hours after her abduction. Later, investigators were to state that it was possible the abductor saw this 7 July 1988 newspaper article, and that it may have been what prompted him to take her.
Sharon Wills appeared on the Channel 10 children’s television program The Early BirdShow as a member of the Victorian Children’s Choir in early December 1988. On the program the children sang the Christmas song Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon. Sharon appears only fleetingly for no more than one second, hardly enough time for anyone to notice her.
The first newspaper article to break the news about Sharon Wills’ abduction, written by David Towler for The Herald, was titled Armed bandit flees with girl, 10. The bandit had taken the girl from her bed, it explained, at about 6am. The man had entered the house armed with a pistol before going straight to the bedroom of a man and woman before tying them up and declaring: “all I want is money”. The man had left soon afterwards and when the man and woman had untied themselves they realised their 10-year-old daughter was missing. The father of the girl had told police he had had trouble sleeping and so had only been in bed for half an hour when the intruder entered his room.
The girl who had been abducted was the eldest of 4 daughters who had all been asleep in the same room. Her 3 sisters had apparently not woken up when the man took Sharon. To the perspective of the man and woman, the gunman had left the room briefly before returning and asking about the telephone. About 15 minutes after the gunman left, the man managed to free his wife, but when they checked on their children who all slept in one bedroom, they noticed their eldest daughter was missing.
The abducted girl had been wearing a “short, white nightie, with blue and mauve flowers and lace around the neck”. She was extremely short for her age at 112cm tall with “a round face, freckles, and long wavy brown hair”. Note, 112cm would have been the average height of a 6-year-old for the time. Her sisters, who were aged between 5 and 8 had slept through the abduction and so could not help detectives. Sniffer dogs were being used in the surrounding area. This first ever newspaper article about the abduction did not mention the name of the family or the abducted girl, nor did it publish a photograph of her.
Melbourne’s evening news channels also reported on Sharon’s abduction. The ABC reported that a search was underway in Kellett’s Road, Rowville after reports that a woman had spotted a girl matching Sharon’s description in the area. They also stated that some items of clothing were missing from Sharon’s bedroom “including a tartan skirt, a white skirt, white pants with a ballerina imprint and a two-tone checked blouse”. A female neighbour of the Willses stated: “You think well, if they picked that house, who’s next?”
By the morning of 28 December the other Melbourne dailies were reporting on the abduction, with The Sun News Pictorial publishing a story by Bruce Tobin and Christine McTighe on their front page titled Kidnap agony. This story went to press before it was realised that Sharon had been released around midnight that morning. This time the article detailed the name of Sharon Wills and her family and published a school photograph of Sharon as well as a photograph of what it described as “one of Sharon’s sisters and a friend” through a window at the front of their house in 11 Hillcrest Avenue Ringwood. The article was largely about information gleaned from a police spokesperson who spoke to the media in the afternoon of the 27th.
The article detailed a plea by Sharon’s parents for the return of their daughter Sharon before stating that police were worried that she might have seen the gunman’s face after he had left her parents’ bedroom. Chief Inspector Des Johnson expressed his fears that Sharon may have come out of her bedroom after her mother had screamed saying: “He may have taken off his ski mask and she may have seen him. We are very concerned for her safety”. The article went on to state that the intruder may have taken Sharon because he was worried she could have identified him.
Other details included in the article were the facts that 2 skirts and a blouse were missing from her bedroom, and police had speculated this may have been so that the abductor could change Sharon into different clothes to make her “less conspicuous”. Chief Inspector Johnson had speculated that Sharon may have wandered out of her bedroom and seen the intruder after he had tied up her parents and robbed them of $35. The man had only been in the house 7 or 8 minutes.
Sharon’s parents were interviewed by detectives, but had no idea who the intruder may have been. It named Sharon’s sisters as 8-year-old twins Robyn and Linda and 5-year-old Annette. The intruder was wearing a ski mask and armed with a handgun had entered the premises through a backdoor about 5:45am. He then “bailed up” Sharon’s parents, named as John and Julie Wills, before demanding cash. They were forced face down on their bed and tied up with wire. It then took John Wills about 15 minutes to free his wife using a pair of pliers. They then went into their daughters’ bedroom to discover that Sharon was missing.
The article went on to describe Sharon as a pupil of Antonio Park Primary School and “a member of the Victorian Children’s Choir and a keen musician”.
A large police search was being undertaken with search and rescue squad members diving in Mullum Creek. Moreover, a police helicopter was scanning the surrounding area, but there was no sign of Sharon. Acting Detective John Telford described the clothes taken from Sharon’s room as “a white skirt and a tartan skirt and a blue check blouse”. Telford also announced that Sharon had poor vision and had left her spectacles at the house.
The article went on to state how police had searched parts of Rowville the previous day after a woman had sighted a girl in a nightie. “The woman…spotted a young girl hiding behind a fence near Blaxland Drive and Kelletts Rd”. A police caravan had been set up a few metres from the Wills residence in Ringwood “to coordinate the search”.
The police also gave a description of the abductor as “about 180cm tall, thin build and wearing a ski mask, dark blue overalls and armed with a handgun”.
On page 4 of the The Sun, published on the same day, 28 December 1988, another article was published titled A street of fear after abduction with no author listed. It was about interviews conducted with neighbours of the Wills family and their reactions to the abduction. A woman named Paula Corcoran was interviewed and told of her shock and worry that the same thing could happen to anyone. She also described Sharon as a girl who liked her singing and that “her mother is always taking her off to choir practice”.
A teenager who was interviewed spoke of his concern about the recent increase in crime in the area. “A boy got stabbed at Ringwood Station – and now this”. Paula Corcoran said that Sharon and her sisters usually played in their own front yard. Sharon was “lovely” and “quite shy with a gentle nature”.
Also on page 4 of that day’s The Sun was an article about an interview with Patsy Worledge, the mother of 8-year-old schoolgirl Eloise Worledge who had been abducted from her Beaumaris home in similar circumstances to Sharon Wills in January 1976 and had never been found. On hearing about Sharon Wills’ abduction Patsy Worledge said it “goes without saying” that they should not lose hope. She went on: “When I heard, it was a bit of a shock. I just hope that they find her quickly. It’s 13 years on. You’ve got to get on with your life. We’ve had a lot of time to come to terms with it.”
Also, on page 4 of the Sun that day was an articletitled Family in narrow escape from blaze, that detailed the fact that the Wills girls and their mother had the article published about them the previous July which described their narrow escape from the house fire mentioned earlier.
Lastly, also on page 4 of The Sun that day was an article titled Report sparks bush search. The article detailed how a search had been carried out in Rowville the previous day after a woman had reported seeing a girl in bushland in the area. The woman had seen the girl about 11:30am on the 27th from her car as she drove past. When shown a photograph of Sharon Wills, she had confirmed that the girl she had sighted looked the same. The search was only scaled back when it was reported that a girl from the area about the same age as Sharon had been playing in the same locality.
However, then the woman who had made the original sighting told police that she was sure the girl she had seen was Sharon and so the search was stepped up again, with police using trail bikes, motorbikes and a four-wheel drive. Then a car was reported in bushland in Ferntree Gully and the search moved to that area. But, this proved to be a false alarm as the occupants of that vehicle were apparently just leaving feed out for cattle. After five hours of searching there was still no sign of Sharon, but police were still open to the possibility the girl the woman had seen was her.
The Sydney Morning Herald chose to contrast the abduction of Sharon Wills with the abduction of another 10-year-old girl in Sydney, Helen Karipidis, on 22 December 1988. Helen was abducted from the suburb of Marrickville and was last seen playing in a sandpit. Her father was quoted as saying: “I’m scared as the days go by. I’m beginning to think someone may have kidnapped her”. The article also went on to say that Sharon Wills had been abducted from her bedroom by an armed robber.
On page 2 of The Sydney Morning Herald more details were given about the abduction of Sharon. While most details given in these articles were the same as that given in The Sun, there were some points of difference. The first was that this article stated that the intruder bound Sharon’s parents “with strands of copper wire”. Secondly, it stated that the intruder gained entry to the home at 5:30am, slightly different to The Sun’s 5:45am and The Herald’s 6:00am. The clothes of Sharon’s that were taken were also described slightly differently, with this article using the personal pronoun ‘she’ as if it was Sharon’s decision to take the clothes. This description was given thus: “She may have taken a red and green tartan skirt, a white skirt, a pair of underpants, and a two-tone blue checked blouse”. This is interesting as The Sun did not mention the colour of the tartan skirt nor that underpants had been taken.
The article also described neighbours saying that Sharon was a member of a choir, but also that she “played several musical instruments”. It then went on to paraphrase Chief Inspector Johnson as saying that Sharon had been awoken by her mother’s screams and had then got out of bed and “been confronted by the gunman near the lounge room”. The article seemed to present this claim more as if it was fact than speculation as The Sun had presented it.
The Age benefitted from what can only have been a later publication time than The Sun so that it was able to carry the scoop that Sharon had in fact been found in the early hours of the 28th. It ran it’s cover page with the title Ringwood schoolgirl found. Police still hunting for abduction suspect, by Paul Conroy and Gerard Ryle.
It detailed the fact that Sharon had been found alive in Bayswater early that morning. Naming her as Sharon Louise Wills, it stated that the girl would have a medical examination at the Austin Hospital that morning. Sharon had been found by an unnamed female driver who had found Sharon “walking along Orchard Road, Bayswater” according to a police spokesperson. She had apparently been dumped in the location by a man driving a car.
The Age, 28 Dec 1988, p.1 (closeup 1).
According to the female driver’s husband, his wife had found Sharon “running around in the street” at the corner of Orchard Road and Armstrong Road, when she was returning from work just after midnight. The man said that it had been raining and the woman stopped to check if the girl was alright. When Sharon told the woman she had been abducted, the woman took Sharon back to her house and called the police.
Most of the rest of the article is information that has already been mentioned in earlier articles. However, there were some other additional details. Firstly, that “the intruder was believed to have escaped on foot with Sharon, but might have had a vehicle parked nearby”. The article also mentioned that “detectives have not ruled out the possibility that the abduction was prompted by a newspaper report about the family in June”. This is a reference to The Sun article the previous July about the house fire at the Wills residence, but the writers here have made a minor error with the month this occurred. Lastly, the article described the gunman as “in his late teens to early 20s” which is the first description we have seen of the offender’s age in regards to this crime.
By the time the afternoon edition of The Sun was published on 28 December, news had obviously filtered through that Sharon had in fact been found early that morning. In an article titled Sharon Found by Bruce Tobin and Christine McTighe, news of Sharon’s recovery updated the story of her abduction that had run in the morning paper.
The front page of the newspaper included an updated section of text just above a photograph of one of Sharon’s sisters from the previous day. It stated that Sharon had been found “by a resident” in Orchard Road, Bayswater 18 hours after she had been abducted. The article reported that the police had said Sharon had not been seriously injured. She was in discussions with police in order to “unravel the mystery” of what had happened to her.
On page 2 of the same newspaper the story continued under the title Mystery as kidnap girl found.
However, no new information was given by police about the nature of the abduction. The only other additional information given was that it stated that the Wills family had lived in their weatherboard house for 4 years. Otherwise the article was just a rehash of what was included in their morning edition.
The Herald once again benefitted from its evening publication in that they were able to include in their story information gleaned from a police press conference that evening in an article by David Towler titled Sharon taken by a ‘monster’ – police. It stated that police were worried Sharon’s attacker could strike again after she was found 18 hours after being abducted from her Hillcrest Avenue, Ringwood home. After being treated at the Austin Hospital she had been allowed to go home with her parents to get some sleep. She arrived home holding a teddy bear and waved and smiled at her sisters.
Sharon’s father, John Wills, was emotional when he spoke to the media outside his home saying: “I would like to thank the lovely lady who found her. I would just like to thank all our friends, relatives and media for all the coverage that was given. I would like to thank the police. Without the police I don’t know what would have happened.”
Police had said Sharon was spoken to by a social worker before she and her father were taken back to the Bayswater area (where she had been dumped). Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday said “the crime had been very well planned and the man involved had gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal his identity”. After tying up Sharon’s parents “he had blindfolded Sharon and placed an object in her mouth – possibly a ball – to prevent her screaming as he took her away from the house and drove her away in a small car”. Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday was quoted as saying: “She’s given us some information, but as you can appreciate the child has had little or no sleep. She’s 10 years old and we don’t want to inflict any more interrogation on her so she’ll have a rest and detectives will interview her later”.
Mr Holliday was paraphrased as stating that Sharon had been dumped in the street at about midnight (a slight difference to other information that she was in fact dumped on the grounds of Bayswater High School). He was quoted as saying: “The intruder came into the room and asked her name and simply took her with him…I would say that we are dealing with a dangerous, cunning person who has set to capture this girl right from the very beginning and probably put a lot of planning into the commission of this crime…I think to get hold of this girl was his primary target and the fact that an armed robbery was committed at the time was just by the way.” The article also stated that the perpetrator had “gone to great lengths to keep his identity a secret and is not believed to be known to the girl or the family”.
However, Holliday stated that police would not reveal the extent of information they knew about the man. This is interesting because, as we saw earlier, The Age had paraphrased police as saying that the man was “in his late teens or early 20s” and The Sun had paraphrased the police as saying that he was “about 180cm” tall. One wonders what the relevance of this sudden shutting up shop may suggest about police motives in this regard. Mr Holliday was also paraphrased as stating that the man had “probably staked out the location for some time” and “was very determined and had gone to a lot of trouble”. The article also stated that “there was real concern that he might strike again”. Holliday was also quoted as stating: “We believe that the person probably looked at the scene well before the crime was committed and may have loitered around there on occasions prior to 5:30am yesterday morning”.
Television news channels also reported on Sharon’s return during the evening news of 28 December 1988. An artist’s rendition of the dark blue balaclava the abductor wore was displayed on the ABC news, as was an image of the handgun he used in the attack. Notably, the man was portrayed as wearing no gloves and the handgun was in his left hand. On giving details about Sharon’s abduction the ABC evening news reported “police say she’d been sexually assaulted, but was otherwise uninjured.” The ABC news coverage also reported: “Police say Sharon had been lying on a bed somewhere for most of her ordeal. The man had offered her vegemite sandwiches, milk and lemonade.”
The story took out the front page of The Sun’s morning edition on 29 December 1988 with an article headlined Brave Sharon by Bruce Tobin and Christine McTighe. Contrary to the previous day’s The Herald article it stated Sharon had been dumped in the Bayswater High School schoolyard. It named the woman who had found Sharon as “Paula”. It quoted her as telling Channel 10 “She just said ‘my name’s Sharon Wills and I was taken from home early this morning. A man left me here and told me to go and ring home'”.
The article quoted Detective-Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday as referring to the attacker as “a dangerous and cunning monster”. It repeated the notion that the offender had put a lot of effort into planning the crime whilst also stating that Sharon had said she was held throughout her ordeal in a house or flat.
The article also included a photograph of the woman who had found Sharon in the street, “Paula”.
Page 2 of the same article was headlined Sharon’s ordeal and included a map of where Sharon was abducted from and dumped. It went on to quote Chief Inspector Des Johnson as saying “we have to get this one” and paraphrased him as saying that the man had the potential to kill. He also said that Sharon had been found on the corner of Orchard and Armstrong Roads, Bayswater “wearing only a man’s short-sleeved shirt” and that “she was in quite good spirits”, however, “the clothes she was wearing when kidnapped are still missing”. The man had entered the room of Sharon and her sisters after tying up her parents, “walked up to her bunk and asked for her by name”. This is interesting as it is different to the previous day’s The Herald report which had stated that he had “asked her name”. It is quite a significant difference in reporting because The Herald report indicates the offender did not know her name, whereas, The Sun report indicates he knew her name beforehand.
After abducting her, the man had driven Sharon around for a while before taking her to a flat “and assaulting her”. Apparently, the man was “gruff to her first off, but was quietly spoken afterwards”. He had given Sharon a glass of milk and later a vegemite sandwich. After the ordeal, the man had wrapped Sharon in garbage bags and dumped her at Bayswater High School according to Chief Inspector Johnson. He was quoted as stating: “She was trussed up. She was placed in one and it was taped up to her shoulders. Another was put over her head and taped around her body and the face…was cut out of it”. I found the use of the term “trussed up” interesting here. I had not heard the term before, but MacMillans Dictionary claims it means “wearing tight or heavy clothes that make it difficult to move”.
The article also paraphrased Chief Inspector Johnson as stating: “as the man carried her over a fence to dump her in the schoolyard, a car drove along Orchard Rd and the kidnapper had to duck for cover to avoid being spotted. He was quoted as saying: “If someone saw anyone who they thought was putting out the garbage, he wasn’t”. He had told Sharon the direction of where she could get help and warned her not to look at him as he left. He then drove off and Sharon walked towards a house in the direction of where the man had pointed, but she hurt her feet on the ground, so she then went in the opposite direction and was found by Paula on Orchard Road.
The article also stated how surprised Sharon’s rescuer, Paula, had been and how courageous and bright Sharon was. When Paula had encountered Sharon she had asked the girl if she would like to get in and she would take her home and call the police. Sharon had agreed to and seemed pleased that the woman had offered to help.
Also on the 29th December The Sydney Morning Herald published a small article with an artist’s impression of the offender’s head in black and white. It was the same portrait that appears on video footage from news reports of the police press conferences, but which no other newspapers had published till this point.
The Canberra Times also published an article on 29 December. Most of the details were the same as had been published in other newspapers beforehand. One unique detail was that it stated that the attacker had only removed the tape with which she had been blindfolded for the entire 18 hour ordeal when he dumped her at Bayswater High. Also, that “she must not look at his face or he would recapture her”. It quoted Chief Inspector Des Johnson as stating “we can only guess what would have happened if she had taken the blindfold off”. It paraphrased Johnson as saying that “she had little idea of the distances” (from her house to the flat he took her to), “but, felt he might have driven in circles at some stages”. Like The Sun, it stated Sharon was given a glass of milk first, and later a vegemite sandwich, but added that she was also given a glass of lemonade with the vegemite sandwich.
The article added a detail that I have not seen reported elsewhere when it stated “another possible lead for police was that garbage men were in the area of the girl’s Hillcrest Avenue home in Ringwood at the time she was taken”.
That evening’s The Herald contained an article titled A father happy to cry for joy by Mark Harding. It repeated how John Wills had been emotional when he spoke to the media after Sharon’s return to their house. It stated how Sharon’s sisters had been waiting in the house next door, and that when Sharon’s auntie arrived she was taken next door to see them as the Wills residence was still cordoned off by white crime scene tape. The article also expressed surprise that the attacker had chosen to abduct a girl from this area stating: “although the kidnapper took $35 and a handbag after tying up the parents, a bandit would not expect to find great wealth in such an area”.
The same paper included an article titled Tears as Sharon returns home, by David Towler. The article included 2 photos of Sharon, one by herself, holding a teddy bear, and one as she is being carried inside by her father John Wills. All of the details included in this article were identical to information that had already been featured in other newspapers earlier in the day apart from some points including: “police hope they will be able to identify the suburb (of the flat or house Sharon was held in) and gain an important breakthrough in the investigation.
The article also stated that after she had a rest, Sharon would be interviewed again by police, and that “that interview was also expected to include a reconstruction of the trip she was taken on yesterday”. It also stated that “today, Sharon went with police as they searched the area near Bayswater High School, sifting through rubbish, and lifting drain covers”.
This edition of The Herald also included an article titled The Attacker with information about him and a photograph of an actor posing in a balaclava. It stated that the perpetrator was “wearing an anonymous blue boilersuit and a dark blue ski mask with holes for the eyes and mouth…the holes were trimmed in white with a red line running through it…a police artist’s impression gave no indication as to his type of footwear”. Interestingly, it also stated: “police said that they had no idea as to his age although initial reports indicated he may have been in his late teens or early 20s…he was of thin build and about 180cm tall”. This comment seems to acknowledge the fact that there were earlier reports giving these details, before police refused to give information about the attacker’s age at the police press conference on the 28th.
The television continued to report on the case on 29 December. The ABC evening news reported on a police press conference given that afternoon in which John Wills spoke to the media. The father of 4 girls spoke of the importance of home security after his ordeal. On reporting on the abduction the ABC noted that: “The man sexually abused the 10-year-old, and then dumped her at Bayswater High School.” On reporting on the description of the offender the ABC reported: “Police believe he’s a loner in his late teens or early twenties.” John Wills was also shown saying: “I could never forgive him for what he’s perpetrated against my daughter. I guess if ever I got the opportunity I would certainly convey those thoughts into an action.” It then reported that “police have set up stations at Eastland and Bayswater shopping centres”.
30 December 1988 started off with The Sun’s Trauma lingers for kidnap family, by Bruce Tobin. It included information from John Wills from the previous day that had not been included in the articles from the 29th. Mr Wills spoke of how he and his family had been sleeping in the lounge room since they had returned to their house as they were too afraid to sleep in their own bedrooms, and that they expected to be doing this for some time. He added: “We are all naturally very concerned that he is going to return. If he ever came back I would be prepared next time”. He also mentioned how he thought the attacker was “sick” and needed help, but that he himself would never forgive him, and that he believed the man would continue to commit these sorts of crimes adding: “I feel very aggressive towards him, but I do understand that he needs help”.
Detective Inspector Des Johnson said that detectives were investigating whether the man had been responsible for other attacks in the Melbourne area. John Wills described Sharon as a “brave little trooper” who was coping well despite her ordeal. He also said he would not want the same sort of thing to happen to another little girl. Mr Wills said that he was considering moving his family to a different house because of the attack. He described the trauma he had suffered saying: “To have your daughter taken and not know where she is is indescribable.”
The article went on to describe how the intruder had entered through the back door “at around 5:45am”. Next the intruder had entered the parents’ bedroom, put a gun to John Wills’ temple and told him “not to be a hero”, before ordering him and his wife to lie face down on their bed and tying them up with copper wire. After he had robbed them of $35 he had cut the telephone line. He then blindfolded and gagged Sharon, with “a ball and tape”. Mr Wills then described how he reacted on finding Sharon missing from her bed: “I immediately ran next door because he had cut my telephone, banged on the door and woke up my neighbour. I asked him to ring the police and then I started running around the block looking for her”.
Mr Wills then urged others to put more effort into securing their homes because “they would hate to have happen what has happened to us”. He also called on anybody who might know the perpetrator to come forward to police. The article then gave the same description as had been described previously, saying he was “1.8 metres tall”, but not mentioning his age.
The Age’s article for 30 December 1988 by Paul Conroy was titled We fear intruder will return, says abducted girl’s father. It repeated how the family were sleeping in the lounge room, but added they had been “for the past two nights”, and the family were “too frightened to go to their bedrooms in case the man…returns”. Mr Wills also described how he had installed security doors and an alarm system since the attack. The article added that police said that Sharon and her 8 year-old twin sisters were receiving counselling since the attack. Mr Wills was also quoted as saying: “He put the gun to my head and asked whether I was going to be a hero. I said I wasn’t”. The father also said: “I got the impression he was looking for a little girl. I had four to choose from”.
John Wills was also quoted in The Age article as stating: “I honestly believe this man has done this before. He came well prepared and covered his tracks. I have run his voice over and over in my mind to try to remember whether I might know him but I don’t”. The article added that John Wills became emotional by the end of the press conference and had to be helped away by detectives. It was also stated that similar offences were being checked to see if there were any connections with this crime.
Sharon a brave trouper, says father was published by The Canberra Times on the same day. It included most of the same details from the previous day’s press conference as The Sun and The Age articles did earlier. However, it described John Wills as remaining calm throughout before, at the end of the press conference, putting his head in his hands and being led away by police. The article also stated that both the “major crime squad and the rape task force were involved in the hunt for her attacker”.
The Herald article that day, by David Towler, titled Police check links in Sharon abduction, stressed the importance of how police were “sifting through files of similar offences in a bid to establish a link”. It also stated that the “public response to information caravans set up near the family’s Hillcrest Av. home and at Bayswater, where Sharon was left, has been slow.” It may be that this article was published after that day’s police press conference as there were additional details not included in The Sun and The Age articles. Detective Inspector Kevin Holliday was paraphrased as stating that “the methodical nature of the crime has left investigators with little evidence to follow up and they are desperate for any information”.
Holliday was also paraphrased as stating that he thought the gunman had operated by himself and “apparently had access to accommodation where he could be alone”. Interestingly, the article also stated: “the only evidence to establish an identity so far was the man’s voice which suggested he was young, perhaps in his late teens or early 20s”. The article also stated that neither John or Julie Wills knew the perpetrator, but that the fact that he had addressed Sharon by name may have been evidence that he may have learnt about the family from the newspaper article that had been published about the house fire at their home earlier that year. Mr Holliday was also paraphrased as stating that the attacker may have spent months planning the crime, but may not necessarily have known about the house.
There was another article in The Herald, published on 30 December, by Carolyn Ford, titled Police wait for clues in hunt for kidnapper. This article was more of an exploratory piece, highlighting the irony of a road sign outside Bayswater declaring the suburb “Australia’s most liveable suburb”. The article pointed out that there was an information unit set up just 150 metres from this sign, established to hunt for Sharon’s attacker. The article quoted Senior Detective Ralph Carnell as stating that “this is the worst part of police work, sitting and waiting”. The detective had been working at a similar information unit near Sharon’s home in Ringwood.
Apparently, 5 people had approached the Ringwood unit after the 6pm evening news the previous day, while there had been 13 callers on the 30th. At Bayswater, 6 people had phoned, 2 after the evening news. There, Senior Detective Mick Wheeldon was quoted as stating: “it is frustrating work because you want to go out and apprehend the offender”, but that “valuable information could come in at any time”. Wheeldon had only had 4 hours of sleep since 6am on the 27th. The article said that the information gleaned from these people was largely based on car descriptions and suspicions who the attacker may have been based on his description of being 180cm tall and thin. Detective Senior Constable Andrew Humberstone and Constable Andrew Wyatt were to man the information unit at Mountain Highway during that night’s graveyard shift.
On 31 December 1988 The Age published an article about the abduction by Paul Conroy titled The crime that stirs passions and is solved by cool logic. It was an article about the man in charge of the investigation into the abduction, Detective Chief Inspector Des Johnson. Johnson is quoted as describing the perpetrator as “a monster and a mongrel”, and as having four children of his own, before denying that this emotion would reduce his capacity to do his job professionally. Johnson had been told of the abduction when he received a telephone call at 6:55am on Tuesday morning. The article described how Johnson had told Sharon Wills’ distraught mother Julie, when he arrived at their home, that police “had to assume the worst”. He was also quoted as stating: “I told her (Julie Wills) and her husband to keep their spirits up, and that we were doing everything.” The investigation was to include “two teams of detectives who will be assisted by two CIB detectives from Ringwood and Nunawading”.
Detective Chief Inspector Des Johnson was also quoted as stating: “The unfortunate fact is that there are so many of this type of offender who are out there in the community. There are so many people with the propensity to do this”. We also have to consider the fact that he could have committed this for the first time.” The article then described how the offender had probably been watching the house for some time and had decided to strike after watching John Wills go to bed at about 5am after having had difficulty sleeping and doing a jigsaw puzzle to relax. The offender had entered the premises via the back door and after tying Sharon’s parents up with copper wire, had gagged Sharon with masking tape.
Des Johnson is then quoted as stating: “We can only dread what the man would have done if the girl had pulled off the blindfold and seen his face. It is that close to being a homicide. It is only an extra step.” The article then states how police had drawn up a list of similar offenders and “have focused their attention on a particular man who is known to have committed similar crimes”. They also paraphrased police as stating that it was also possible that the offender had previously committed milder offences before escalating to the level of this abduction over the course of several years. Lastly, Johnson is paraphrased as stating that the police had “no firm leads” as yet, but was then quoted as expressing his confidence that they would catch him.
A very brief article appeared that evening in The Herald titled Police step up kidnap hunt. It simply paraphrased Des Johnson as stating that the information caravans would be discontinued that evening and quoted him as stating: “There are quite a number of suspects to be checked out and the information that has been received has to be gone through.”
Also on 31 December 1988, evening television news programs reported on a police press conference that was held that day in which a $100,000 reward was announced to help catch the offender. The ABC evening news showed Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday stating: “We suspect that he probably has committed offences in the past…we do suspect that this is not the first offence that he’s committed.” Chillingly, the ABC also paraphrased Holliday as saying that the offender could be capable of murder if he was ever seen by one of his victims and that the police were very concerned that that could happen in the future.
On 2 January 1989 an article by Neil McMahon and Alexandra Cutherson appeared in The Sun titled Family backs reward – $100,000 bid to catch Sharon’s kidnapper. The article made the claim that John Wills had welcomed the reward when speaking to the media on 31 December 1988. Treasurer and acting Police Minister Rob Jolly was paraphrased as stating that the government shared the police view that everything needed to be done to catch the offender. Kevin Holliday was quoted as stating: “We are concerned at the likelihood this offender will offend again and perhaps commit an offence worse than he has. We suspect this is not the first offence he has committed”. The article paraphrased Mr Holliday as saying he feared the offender could eventually kill someone.
Kevin Holliday was also paraphrased stating he believed that someone may have known the identity of the offender, but was covering for him, before calling on any such people to come forward to police. He also stated he believed only one man was involved in the abduction, but would not rule out others being involved. On how Sharon was coping with her ordeal, Mr Holliday was quoted as stating: “So far, for a girl of her age, and the horror she has been through, she has been excellent. She is coping with it extremely well and only time will tell.”
The Age also published an article that day titled $100,000 for information on Ringwood abduction by Paul Conroy. It was also about the police press conference from the previous day.
The Canberra Times also published an article about the previous day’s police press conference titled $100,000 reward to find abductor.
On 4 January 1989, television news stations ran a story about a lead in the abduction case. The ABC News reported that a suspicious white Holden Commodore Vacationer, which was seen behaving strangely in Bayswater around the same time Sharon Wills was dumped at Bayswater High School, was a new lead in the case. Police held a press conference to discuss the potential lead in which they explained that the suspect vehicle, with its headlights turned off, almost collided with another car when turning left from Jersey Road onto Mountain Highway at about 11:15pm on 27 December 1988. Inspector Dannye Moloney said that the driver of the second car told police that the suspect was doing his best to avoid being seen, and that he “pulled the car forward trying to avoid showing his face to the other witnesses.” The Commodore had continued down Mountain Highway before turning right at Church Street heading towards Bayswater High School. The suspect vehicle was described as “an early 1980s Vacationer sedan with three blue stripes down the side.”
On 5 January 1989 an article by Brian Walsh titled Car lead in kidnap case appeared in The Sun regarding information about a lead in the case that had been divulged the previous day at a police press conference. The information had been provided to police by a motorist who had seen “a driver acting suspiciously in the area Sharon was dumped”. Inspector Dannye Moloney said “the witness was driving along Mountain Highway, Bayswater about 11.15pm on the night Sharon was found when a white Holden Commodore Vacationer sedan turned out of Jersey Rd in front of him. The witness was forced to swerve violently to miss the Commodore which had its lights switched off. Insp Moloney said the Commodore’s driver appeared anxious not to be identified. He said when the witness pulled up at traffic lights next to the Commodore the man turned to avoid being seen. The witness’s description matched that given to police by Sharon and detectives were treating the information as a definite breakthrough.” The article also stated that police believed Sharon’s abduction could be connected to 8 similar attacks throughout the previous 10 years.
The Age also published an article by Innes Willox about the car lead that had been revealed in the previous day’s police press conference. In reference to the 8 attacks that had been linked to Sharon’s abduction, this article added that they were all still “unsolved”. Police would be pamphletting the local area around the Wills family home and near where Sharon was dumped in Bayswater. Also, police hoped to display a car similar to the Holden Commodore Vacationer that was sighted by the witness in both areas. The Age article also added that the vehicle had “three blue stripes along its side” and that the witness had to “brake and swerve to avoid a collision”. Inspector Moloney was paraphrased as stating that the suspect in the Holden Commodore Vacationer “turned his head away and edged forward, as the irate witness, upset at the near collision, looked into his car.”
The article also paraphrased Inspector Moloney saying that “Sharon’s description of the car had been considered before the information was released”. The article continued: “The suspect’s car then went ahead and turned right about 1.5 kilometres along the road into Church Street, towards Bayswater High School, where Sharon was left less than 45 minutes later. The witness…did not see anybody else in the car.”
The Canberra Times also covered the story of the car lead on the same day, but there was no extra information included in the article.
The newspaper articles on 5 January 1989 were the last ones to cover the story of Sharon Wills’ abduction until the abduction of Nicki Lynas in July 1990. There has been no more mention about the car lead in any subsequent newspaper publications until the present day.
On 24 January 1989 an article by David Thomson was published in The Age titled Man accused of nine rapes held in custody. The article detailed the fact that one Mark Anthony Jewell had “made about 40 telephone calls to the family of Sharon Wills.” The information was gleaned from a session at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court where Detective Sergeant Ian Tanner had told the court that when Jewell was arrested “he was in the process of making telephone calls to the Wills family.” Jewell was remanded to face a host of sex crime charges including 7 rapes which had occurred over 5 years “but mainly in the past 10 months”.
On 6 February 1990 an article by Peter Gregory titled Phone calls led to rape arrest for The Age was published. The article stated that Mark Anthony Jewell had pleaded guilty to raping and indecently assaulting numerous women in Armadale and Ringwood. He had been arrested after making phone calls to Sharon Wills’ parents in December 1988. The phone calls had been traced to a phone booth in the Alfred Hospital. The Crown Prosecutor Mr Damien Maguire said that Jewell was not involved in the abduction of Sharon. Maguire also accused Jewell of raping a 41-year-old woman in Prahran and raping 2 schoolgirls aged 14 and 15. Jewell had apparently also indecently assaulted girls aged 10 and 12, and women in theirs 20s.
When Nicki Lynas was abducted on 3 July 1990, Sharon Wills’ parents John and Julie were in the news again expressing their sympathy with Nicki’s parents and hoping for her quick return. Then When Karmein Chan’s body was discovered in April 1992 the Wills family attended her funeral.
Drawings of the inside of the offender’s lair.
On 27 January 1993, the Spectrum Taskforce investigating the Mr Cruel series of child abductions decided to release previously secret information about the lair where both Sharon Wills and Nicki Lynas were held. Head of the Spectrum Taskforce David Sprague spoke at a press conference about his frustration of not having come up with a result until that point in the investigation and expressed hope that they still might be successful. The police released drawings of the bedroom and bathroom of the building the two girls were held in. The illustration of the bedroom was based on the recollection of Sharon Wills, who had lifted up her blindfold to take a peek at the bedroom she was being held in whilst leashed to a bed. She had taken the opportunity to spy the room after the offender had appeared to leave the building temporarily. This story ran on the ABC news on 30 January 1993.
An analysis of Keith Moor’s description of the Sharon Wills abduction from his 2016 Herald Sun article titled Victoria Police and FBI Dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks.
In 2016, award-winning journalist Keith Moor wrote a series of articles for the Herald-Sun in which he described previously unknown information about the four canonical Mr Cruel crimes, including the Sharon Wills abduction. According to Moor, he was handed the information from an anonymous source, but not through official police channels. Moor claimed the files included previously unpublished information taken from witness statements and the police files about the Mr Cruel case. While much of it was original, some of it directly contradicted information that had been released by police at the time of the abduction as described above. In fact, some of it even contradicted information contained in Moor’s own chapter about the case from his book Mugshots 1 which he co-wrote with Geoff Wilkinson. Despite this, Mugshots 1 was updated in 2019 and it still contained some of the old information from when it had been published previously, and was not updated with much of the new information from the police files that Moor had published in the 2016 Herald-Sun articles. So, now I will analyse some of the original information Moor presented in the 2016 Herald-Sun article and compare it to the historical information about the Sharon Wills case.
In his description of the abduction of Sharon Wills, Moor mentions that the offender may have seen her photograph in the newspaper article she had appeared in with her family a few months before the attack, as I covered earlier in this blog post. He describes how the victim in the Lower Plenty attack had also appeared in a newspaper article before she was attacked. While Moor suggests that the offender may have chosen Sharon “after seeing her photograph published in a local newspaper”, Sharon’s photograph was published in The Sun News Pictorial (he even says this himself in Mugshots 1). This newspaper was not a local newspaper, but a Melbourne wide morning tabloid.
Moor states that the Wills family were away from their home between the hours of 6pm and 10pm on Boxing Day, 26 December 1988. This is new information that hadn’t been included in the contemporary newspaper articles about the abduction. He doesn’t state where the family were during these hours, just that they arrived home at 10pm and the children were fed and in bed by 10:45pm. Moor also states that both John and Julie Wills went to bed at 1am on the morning of the 27th.
As was stated by the newspapers from 1988, Moor says that John Wills had trouble sleeping and so, got up and did a jigsaw puzzle. The father of four then went back to bed at 4:50am after turning out the lights in the house. Moor then states that the offender gained entry to the house around 30 minutes after John turned out all the lights – about 5:20am. The contemporary newspaper reports gave different times for this event, ranging from 5:30am to 5:45am to 6:00am, all slightly different to Moor’s 2016 information. Even Mugshots 1, puts the time of entry at 5:45am.
However, perhaps far more interesting was the way in which the offender gained entry to the residence, something that had not been reported anywhere else previously. Moor claimed the man had gotten into the house by sliding a newspaper under the back door and pushing out a key that was placed in the keyhole on the inside of the door. The perpetrator had then apparently pulled the newspaper back under the door.
According to Moor, the offender then burst into John and Julie’s room and turned the light on whilst wearing a balaclava and carrying a handgun, but Moor doesn’t mention what hand he held the gun in. The newspapers of the day specifically mentioned he was carrying it in his left hand, but we will return to this detail later. As was described in the newspapers, Julie began to scream. In his 2016 Herald-Sun article, Moor says that Julie began to scream first, and then the offender put his gun to John’s head and told her to stop. However, in Mugshots 1, Moor and Wilkinson state that the perp put the gun to John’s temple first and then he told Julie to stop screaming. While holding the gun to John’s head the offender said to him: “You’re not going to be a hero are you”?
According to Moor’s 2016 Herald-Sun article and Mugshots 1, the offender then forced both John and Julie to lie face down on their beds and tied up their hands and feet. With “copper electrical wire” according to the Herald Sun article, which is slightly different to the “copper wire” as reported historically and in Mugshots 1. He then robbed them of $35 as was mentioned in the newspapers of the time.
Like the contemporary newspaper reports Moor reports that Mr Cruel then cut the phone line at this point, before entering the children’s bedroom where the four daughters occupied four bunk beds with Sharon on one of the top bunks. Again, this is verified by newspapers of the day. However, Moor’s 2016 description is unique in describing the subsequent events as told from the perspective of Sharon. Presumably it was taken from her witness statement to police.
It describes how Sharon had woken up when her mother had screamed and she had heard a man’s voice. The man then entered her bedroom and she pretended to be asleep as she was afraid. The offender had then “rolled Sharon over and shone the torch in her face and asked if she was awake”, but Sharon pretended to be asleep (none of the contemporary news reports made any mention of a torch). The offender then left the bedroom, closing the door, only to return a short time later and attempted to wake her up, when “she decided she could no longer pretend to be asleep”.
According to Moor’s anonymous source, the perpetrator then helped Sharon get down from the bunk bed and then started rummaging through her wardrobe for clothes (the items of clothing he is supposed to have taken differ somewhat to what was said to have been taken in the initial newspaper reports, but we will get to this later). Having taken some of Sharon’s clothes from the wardrobe Mr Cruel took Sharon into the lounge room of the house and stole a coat belonging to John Wills off the hat stand in the hallway and put it on Sharon over her nightie.
In the lounge room Moor states that the offender went through a basket of clothes and took a shirt from it which he used to wrap the clothes he had taken from Sharon’s wardrobe. The offender then carried Sharon onto the back porch and put her down, but the girl began to scream so he placed a red rubber ball in her mouth to gag her. He then removed the ball when Sharon agreed not to scream anymore.
Mr Cruel then blindfolded Sharon “by placing material over her head that was either tied or stuck together”. This is an interesting detail as the historical news reports didn’t say exactly when Sharon was first blindfolded, while Mugshots 1 suggested it occurred while she was still in her bedroom. Next, Moor said that the offender carried Sharon out of the driveway and, after walking a short distance, put her down before changing direction and taking her to a car. He told Sharon during this walk to the car that he wasn’t going to hurt her and that he was going to give her parents a ransom note and “would return her in the morning when the banks opened and he got his ransom money”.
In the car the offender put her on the front passenger seat and told her to get on the floor, but after he began to drive, the man asked her if she could see, and she admitted she could. The man then used “adhesive tape” to stick the blindfold to her head and put a blanket over her head. He then drove the car “for some time” before stopping in a driveway where he carried Sharon into a house and put her on a bed.
Here he changed the blindfold he had on Sharon’s head, taping some type of eye pads to her head. While Sharon was on the bed blindfolded, she could hear a radio going and the sound of a running bath. The man then carried her to the bathroom and made her brush her teeth and bathe. He then took her back to the bedroom where she recognised the radio station as 3TT and heard the 7am news playing. Moor states at this point that Sharon “later told police she heard two planes flying over the premises”.
Moor states that Sharon was then “assaulted” before the man gave her a glass of milk and a stale vegemite sandwich. The offender then said that he was going out before he “leashed Sharon to the bed with some type of harness around her neck”. He did not turn off the radio before he left. While the offender was gone Sharon worked up the courage to lift up her blindfold and sneak a peek at the room she was in. This is when she was able to see “a wooden tripod set up for filming near the end of the double bed she was in”.
When the offender returned he took the leash, which was attached to Sharon’s neck, off and carried her back to the bathroom where he once again made her bathe. He then took her to “another room” to “assault” her again before once again taking her to the bathroom where she was made to bathe yet again. Next, she was again carried to the bedroom where he reattached the leash to her neck.
According to the 2016 Herald Sun article, the offender left Sharon leashed to the double bed for quite some time at this point, often returning to the room to check on her and ask “how she was”. The offender finally told Sharon that she was to have a shower rather than a bath where he “made her wash her hair and body really well”. When she was dry the offender dressed Sharon in the shirt he had taken from the basket in the Wills family lounge room and put her inside two garbage bags. He pulled the bottom garbage bag up to her neck and taped it to her shoulders, while he put the other one over her head and taped it to her waist. Then he made a hole so that she could breathe before carrying her to a car and placing her on the floor in front of the front passenger seat.
The car would not start at first, and as the offender struggled to start it he told Sharon that “stolen vehicles do not always start properly”. Once he had the car started he reversed it out of the driveway and “drove for what she described as a long time, sometimes fast, sometimes slow”. After some time he stopped the vehicle, got out and lifted Sharon out of the car with the garbage bags still on her. He began jogging while carrying Sharon “stopping now and then to put her down while he rested”.
After an unstated period of time the man put Sharon down and “told her how to get to a nearby Food Plus store”. Moor states that the offender then removed the garbage bags and blindfold and told Sharon not to look at him as he left. The information about the Food Plus store directly contradicts the information Moor himself gives here in his book Musgshots 1 which stated that the offender told Sharon to walk across the oval to the north of Bayswater High School and “towards a house with lights on” as did the historical newspaper reports. The only Food Plus store which was operating in the area at the time was located to the south of the school at 684 Mountain Highway, Bayswater, in the opposite direction of the houses on the other side of the oval, so it is unclear why this contradiction occurred.
However, it is the description of the offender himself from Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun article which contradicts the historical reports more than any other area, and I am at a loss to explain why they differ so dramatically. The first discrepancy is that it describes the offender as between 173cm and 180cm tall “and of thin to medium build”. This contradicts all the original reports in various newspapers and the ABC television news which described the offender as 180cm tall and of thin build.
Secondly, Moor’s files described the offender as “aged mid 20s to 30s”. Again this contradicts the historical account in various newspapers and the ABC television news which put his age between “late teens and early 20s”. However, other information from Moor’s files was original with the article stating that the offender “had either a moustache or whiskers, possibly an early beard growth”. It also said he was right-handed. While the historical articles didn’t mention whether the offender was right or left-handed, the artist’s depiction of the offender showed him holding the handgun in his left hand. Furthermore, it depicted the offender as ungloved, but Moor’s file states that he was wearing gloves, directly contradicting both the police artist’s depiction of the offender and a Herald article from 29 December 1988 which specifically mentioned that the offender’s hands were “bare”. Moor also said that the offender was carrying a bag and a torch.
There were also discrepancies between the information provided in Moor’s 2016 article about the items the offender stole from Sharon Wills’ house as compared with the historical record. The 2016 article provided new information about the offender stealing a men’s “brown and black checked waist length lumber jacket with lamb lining” belonging to John Wills. It also stated that “a pair of girl’s cream coloured panties with an amber motif on the left side…of either an apple or an umbrella”, were stolen. Historically, one newspaper reported that “a pair of white pants with a ballerina imprint” had been stolen, while another stated simply that “a pair of underpants” had been. Perhaps they are referring to the same item of underwear?
Moor’s 2016 article also referred to “a girl’s cotton knee length nightie with a mauve and blue pattern, cap sleeves and a ribbon to tie the neckline” had been stolen. This was the nightwear Sharon was wearing when she was abducted that numerous newspapers referred to. What was not mentioned in the newspapers was the “pair of children’s blue thongs with plastic straps and white beading” that Moor’s 2016 article refers to, presumably the footwear Sharon was wearing when she was abducted. Also, not mentioned in the newspapers was a “Bonds white singlet, size 8”. However, other items of clothing that were reported in the historical newspapers as having been stolen, but not mentioned by Moor’s 2016 article, included a “white skirt” and “a blue checked blouse”.
Keith Moor also gave a description of the vehicle the offender drove based on the testimony of Sharon Wills. However, he makes no mention of the witness description of the Holden Commodore Vacationer which had been seen to have been behaving strangely in the Bayswater area not long before Sharon was dumped. In fact, Keith Moor makes no mention of this vehicle in any of his writing, and I have not been able to determine whether anything more ever came of this lead. While that description was only of the exterior of a vehicle, Moor’s 2016 description of the vehicle used in the attack only provided information about its interior.
Sharon described the vehicle as having bucket seats, and that it sounded like an old vehicle. There was a hump in the middle of the floor, and the glove box was located down low. In the middle of the hump was a gear lever. The arm rest, inner front door and the carpet were all coloured cream. The lock on the door was also cream and had a circle on top. The car also smelt clean.
Analysis of the Sharon Wills abduction
In researching the abduction of Sharon Wills I did come across a couple of interesting pieces of information that had not been published anywhere in written accounts of the crime. Firstly, the day before Sharon was taken from her house in Ringwood the area received a whopping 54.2mm of rainfall in 24 hours. This was the highest amount of rainfall received in Ringwood in the entire year of 1988. None of the newspapers covering the crime mentioned this weather anomaly in their coverage of the case. One wonders whether there was any relationship between this event and the committal of the crime. For example, no doubt there would have been a degree of flooding in the low-lying areas of Ringwood that day or around creeks. The Victorian SES (State Emergency Services) may well have been active in the area for this reason due to flooding or rain damage. There may well have been electricity outages in the area requiring SECV linesmen to work on the nearby transmission lines.
Secondly, one element of this crime which has not been reported on at all in the published media is the fact that the Wills residence was and is located barely 30 metres from a 50 metre tall, high-voltage electricity pylon and 750 metres from the Ringwood Terminal Station. As I have written about previously, and as has been pointed out by researcher and writer Clinton Bailey, electricity pylons, sub-stations and terminal stations seem to feature unusually prominently in all the canonical cases of the Mr Cruel series. Perhaps most famously, Karmein Chan’s body was discovered buried at the Thomastown Terminal Station in 1992. Less well-known is the fact that her home was located only 800 metres from overhead transmission lines running along tall pylons from the Templestowe Terminal Station located four kilometres from the Chan family home. Furthermore, Nicki Lynas was dumped at an electricity substation in Kew after she had been held by the perpetrator for 50 hours, and her home at 10 Monomeath Avenue was an 850 metre walk to East Camberwell Substation. The latter was even closer to where the perpetrator parked his getaway vehicle in Chaucer Crescent. While just across the road from Nicki and Karmein’s school, Presbyterian Ladies College, was the site of Burwood Electricity Substation and Box Hill Electricity Service Centre. Lastly, the house in which the Lower Plenty sexual assault occurred in was located approximately 800 metres from overhead transmission wires which ran to an old State Electricity Commission of Victoria substation in Lower Plenty also within a 1km radius of the home.
It should also be noted that Eastlink (a tolled section of freeway) now runs just to the east of Hillcrest Avenue. It had not yet been constructed when the crime was committed in 1988 (despite a well-known American blogger claiming the offender could have used it as a fast getaway). Its construction involved the destruction of the street immediately to the east of Hillcrest Avenue, Bonview Avenue. The 1988 map clearly shows the future path the highway would take in light green.
Regarding the electricity pylon located directly behind the Wills residence, I was startled to discover on visiting it that a linesman working on the tower would have had a direct line of sight into the windows at the back of the Wills residence. What was the Wills residence on Hillcrest Avenue now has a granny flat that would block a view from the tower, but in 1988 this building was not there. Given all of the other links to electricity infrastructure in the Mr Cruel series I wondered whether the police had investigated this angle.
I managed to get in touch with a community of linesmen who had worked at various terminal stations and electricity substations throughout the Melbourne area. When I enquired as to whether any of them knew of any police enquiries at their places of work during the Mr Cruel investigation I was pleasantly surprised to hear that indeed the police had entered their work premises and interviewed many of the workers. I’ve been informed that the police interviewed workers at Watsonia Electrical Substation. Another worker who said that he worked for the SEC at Broadmeadows Depot told me he was visited at home by the police and questioned there, and he informed me that some of his colleagues had the same experience. Yet another linesman told me the police visited his depot at Sunbury and questioned numerous linesmen there as well. If nothing else, all this shows the police did consider the electricity infrastructure angle worthy of investigation. However, that is as far as I have been with this lead, and I know of no excellent suspects who were SECV linesmen.
Another feature of the Sharon Wills abduction that merits discussion is the fact that, according to Keith Moor, the Wills family spent the hours of between 6 and 10pm away from the house on 26 December 1988. Of course this begs the question as to whether the offender saw the family out somewhere and decided to follow them home. If the family were shopping during the Boxing Day sales, he may have seen them in a crowded public case and taken notice of Sharon. If this was the case he may have heard Sharon’s name being used and this could have been how he knew her name later.
What other features of the Sharon Wills abduction are worthy of discussion? The method of entry, as described in Keith Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun article surely meets this criteria. Moor claimed the man had gotten into the house by sliding a newspaper under the back door and pushing out a key that was placed in the keyhole on the inside of the door. The perpetrator had then apparently pulled the newspaper back under the door.
I consulted a locksmith about the feasibility of such a method of gaining entry to a house. He assured me that it would be impossible with modern locks, but that it was a technique that was employed by house burglars decades in the past. The method of entry certainly seems to point to a perpetrator who was somewhat skilled in the arts of burglary, and it begs the question: did he know the key would be on the inside of the lock, or did he just notice this in the early hours of the morning of 27 December 1988? It raises another question. Could he see that there was a key on the inside of the lock from some vantage point in the back garden of the Wills residence? Or, had the perpetrator been on the inside of the residence in some other capacity and seen the key on the inside of the lock? We know firemen, journalists and a photographer were inside the residence in July of 1988, what about others? No doubt tradesmen had been on the inside of the household in the weeks after the 5 July fire to repair fire damage. We also know that in all three of the other canonical crimes attributed to Mr Cruel, he gained entry to the residence through a window, so this method is certainly unique in its MO. And Did the offender bring the newspaper he used with him, or whatever device he used to poke the key out of the door? Perhaps these items were inside the bag Moor said he brought with him.
The next detail of the attack on the Wills family to analyse is the way in which he dealt with the two adults in the house. The offender confidently managed to subdue two adults including the man of the household. Unlike the three other canonical attacks, the offender in the Sharon Wills abduction was not carrying a knife. He was carrying a handgun in his left hand and, according to Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun article, a torch. Pointing the gun at John Wills’ head asking him if he was going to be a hero suggests a brazen individual who perhaps had executed this type of crime previously. Perhaps the modus operandi on display here points to an individual who was experienced at armed robbery, an alpha-male type character who was confident enough to control two adults because he had committed crimes in the past that similarly involved threatening adults with a gun, such as bank robbery. This fact might be one reason why any future investigation should concentrate on individuals who had a history of armed robbery prior to 1987. Perhaps the offender had experience as an armed robber and later decided to employ these skills to satisfy some latent sexual fantasies he had about prepubescent/early pubescent girls.
This last point also raises an interesting detail about the offender’s victim selection. If we are to accept that the same offender was responsible for all four canonical crimes (something for which there is not a consensus on among the police) we can analyse his victim choice. Nicki Lynas was the oldest of the victims at the time of her attack as she was almost 14-years old. Likewise, Karmein Chan would also have already reached puberty, being 13-years old when she was abducted. The Lower Plenty victim however, was only 11-years old, and Sharon Wills was a 10-year old who was the height of a 6-year old. Perhaps Sharon was the anomaly amongst all these girls in that she certainly wouldn’t have appeared to have been pubescent at the time she was abducted. Was Sharon abducted because of her unusually small size? The offender was able to carry Sharon around various crime scenes because she was so small, something he could not do with Nicki Lynas. Perhaps he had decided carrying his victim was not so important by the time of Nicki’s abduction in 1990.
This also raises the discussion of the motive of the offender. While Keith Moor never states in his writing that either Sharon Wills or Nicki Lynas were sexually assaulted, historical news reports did say they were. The ABC television news reported that both Sharon Wills and Nicki Lynas were sexually assaulted saying that the police said this was the case. In fact, celebrity policeman Ron Iddles also stated this in an interview with Matt Dunlop Media in November 2020. Looking at the clothes the offender selected from Sharon’s wardrobe also points to the sexual motive of the offender. He stole two of her skirts and a pair of her underwear. Moreover, after she was assaulted by the offender, and he had apparently left the building temporarily, Sharon reported seeing a wooden tripod set up for filming. It is therefore likely he recorded the assault on the child to satisfy a sexual motive. Sharon’s statement to police also included information about her being “leashed” to the bed. Does this indicate that the offender had some kind of sexual fetish or an interest in sado-masochism? Or was the leash simply a tool of convenience to prevent the child’s escape?
Another major feature of the offender’s modus operandi in the abduction was the fact that he was so careful not to leave behind any forensic evidence. Both times Sharon was assaulted he forced her to bathe to remove any trace of evidence. He even forced her to shower before he dumped her, and she was instructed to “wash her hair and body really well”. She was then dumped wearing only a shirt taken from her home. Since it is unclear whether he was wearing gloves as, as mentioned previously we have contradictory reports about this, it is unknown whether he would have left any fingerprints, either at the Wills residence or on Sharon (although Keith Moor claimed that police had no DNA or fingerprint evidence in an interview with Ethan Cardinal in November 2020). It may be that, as the police artist’s depiction portrays him, he was not wearing gloves, but that any fingerprints left at the crime scenes did not match any in the police database. One does have to wonder about the only item of evidence left on Sharon, the men’s short-sleeved shirt that the offender took from a laundry basket in the Wills lounge room. Has this item of evidence been retained? Could it be checked in the future for DNA evidence?
Another interesting aspect of the offender’s personality was his use of trickery to get what he wanted. He told John and Julie Wills when he first burst into their bedroom that he only wanted money. He told Sharon while transporting her to his vehicle that he was going to give her parents a ransom note and that he would return her in the morning once he got his money. He told Sharon on the return journey that “stolen cars do not always start properly” when he struggled to start the engine. Of course, we have no way of knowing whether the vehicle was stolen or not, but I’d suggest there is a good chance it wasn’t since he seemed to want Sharon to believe it was.
While he did finally dump Sharon at Bayswater High School, no source, whether historical or later sources, state where the offender parked his car. All we know from Sharon’s statements is that he carried her while jogging and would stop to rest every now and again. This suggests that he must have parked his car a reasonable distance from the school, perhaps because he was worried about it being seen in the area. We will see in a future blog post that the offender displayed the same wariness about his car being identified in the abduction of Nicki Lynas in 1990. If the perpetrator was the same person as the man seen driving the Holden Commodore Vacationer, we know that he did turn right from Mountain Highway onto Church Street not long after 11:15pm. Unfortunately, that is still currently a big ‘if’. I did contact former detective Dannye Moloney regarding this lead as he was the officer who gave the press conference about it, but he had no memory of the incident. All he said was that, any enquiries about the vehicle mustn’t have led anywhere if there was no more information about it.
So, where did the offender leave his vehicle? As I said, it must have been some distance from Bayswater High. We have conflicting accounts of the offender ordering Sharon to flee to houses to the north of the oval (itself to the north of Bayswater High), and to the south towards the Food Plus. An analysis of the crime scene however, suggests that the latter account is more likely to be true. Why? Because this part of Bayswater is completely cut off to traffic to the north, east and west because of Dandenong Creek to the north, the railway line to the east, and no main connecting roads to the west respectively. It is for this very reason that Bayswater High School made such an excellent dumping site and would have made for an easy getaway. The offender would have been anxious about police arriving on the scene in the minutes after Sharon was dumped and closing off exit points from this part of the suburb at the only location that could be closed off – to the south. However, I have found a relatively simple walking route he could have taken to enter a completely different suburb on the other side of both the railway track and Dandenong Creek.
In fact, the offender could well have parked his vehicle north of Dandenong Creek at the southern tip of Bungalook Road East in Bayswater North, very near Dandenong Creek. From here he could easily have carried Sharon over the footbridge over Dandenong Creek and then west towards the railway line. From there he would have used the tunnel at this location under the railway line which would have brought him out to the north eastern end of Bayswater High School. Rather than entering the school through the football oval here, he may have tried to confuse the girl by carrying her south down Church Street before turning right at Orchard Road. Here (according to The Sun on 29 December 1988) he lifted Sharon over the small fence and had to duck for cover as a car drove down Orchard Road. Of course, Sharon was still blindfolded at this point so there is every chance she was confused and he lifted her over the fence at Church Street, and this is where he ducked for cover to avoid being seen. Either way, by telling Sharon she could reach a Food Plus store, which was located to the south on Mountain Highway, this would have given him enough time to flee to the north east and head back through the tunnel and over the footbridge over Dandenong Creek to where his vehicle would have been waiting in Bayswater North. This way, he would not be caught by any roadblocks set up along Mountain Highway to block vehicle exit points from this part of Bayswater.
We don’t know for sure that this is what the offender did, but it would go a long way to explain why he chose this particular area as a dumping ground, and hence, escape site. However, while the area by the creek would undoubtedly have been deserted at that time of the night, as mentioned earlier, it had been raining heavily on Boxing Day. Would Sharon not have heard the sound of running water as he carried her over the footbridge? Google Streetview images of Dandenong Creek show it as little more than a trickle today, but it surely would have been raging after the area received 55mm in a day only 24 hours previously. I’ve spoken to a person who grew up in this area and he has no memory of this creek being anything more than a trickle even after heavy rainfall. Furthermore, if we are to accept that the Holden Commodore Vacationer really was the perp’s car then wouldn’t this theory be ruled out as the vehicle was seen turning right onto Church Street (a dead end road that cannot reach Bayswater North) just before 11:20pm. It was cryptically suggested in some newspapers that the information was checked with Sharon before it was released. Does that mean that Sharon corroborated the fact that the two cars almost collided? Even if we are to accept that Sharon was in the Vacationer though, there was still 40 minutes to kill before she was dumped, and it is therefore possible the offender turned his vehicle around, turned back onto Mountain Highway, before turning left at Bayswater Road and driving to the Bungalook Road area of Bayswater North. Indeed, Moor’s 2016 article stated Sharon had felt the offender may have been driving around in circles at times.
If the offender really did escape under the tunnel and over the footbridge over Dandenong Creek to Bayswater North he would have had ample time to flee as we know Sharon was not picked up by Paula at the corner of Orchard and Armstrong roads until 12:15am. By then, he surely would have been in his vehicle.
Summary– Questions about the case that need to be clarified
Having researched everything I can find that has been written by original sources about the Sharon Wills abduction case, I must conclude by requesting that the following items are clarified.
Was the offender wearing gloves during the commission of the crime? If he was, then why did the police artist’s rendition of him picture him as wearing none? If he wasn’t then why did Keith Moor’s 2016 article on this case state that he was? Was it that he wasn’t at some point, but was at other points in the commission of the crime? If so, how did he manage to leave no forensic evidence behind?
Did the offender tell Sharon when he dumped her at Bayswater High School to head north towards the lights of houses on the other side of the footie oval as stated in the historical account, or did he tell her to head south towards the Food Plus on Mountain Highway as stated in Keith Moor’s 2016 article?
Was the lead of the witness seeing the Holden Commodore Vacationer on the night of 27 December 1988 the offender or not? Was this lead ruled out, or do investigators still consider it important?
What was the actual description of the offender? Late teens to early 20s and 180cm tall as reported in the historical record, or late 20s to early 30s and 173cm to 180cm tall as reported in Moor’s files.
If detectives cleared up these items, it would go some way to creating a clearer picture about the crimes.
Melbourne Marvels 4 September 2021
Thank you to Reddit users Elocra, mjr_sherlock_holmes, pwurg and HollywoodAnonymous for lots of help and feedback which helped a lot in the creation of this blogpost. Thank you also to researcher Clinton Bailey.
Note. If you have gained something from this post please consider donating to my Patreon to cover the costs I have incurred in researching it. You can find my account on Patreon by searching for Melbourne (as in the city) Marvels. https://www.patreon.com/melbournemarvels
This is a Zoom interview of Keith Moor by Ethan Cardinal from November 2020. Matt Dunlop of Matt Dunlop Media gave me permission to publish this interview.
Topics mentioned in the interview include:
Some detectives don’t think Mr Cruel murdered Karmein Chan, but they had to treat it as Mr Cruel case as so many similarities.
Karmein was a feisty 13 year old, her mum says she would have ripped off his mask.
The offender may have reluctantly killed Karmein Chan. Some detectives think offender might have got such a shock he stopped offending.
Says it’s possible offender flies to Bali, Cambodia or Philippines three times a year and hires someone to dress up as a schoolgirl.
Police hated the title of Mr Cruel.
Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas were spoken to for hours and hours and both were incredible witnesses.
Both heard aeroplanes probably landing.
Police first of all released FBI profile, that was a big story.
Then they released the stuff about the bathroom, then the flight paths.
In 2016 for the 25th anniversary Moor obtained a lot of information that had never been made public before including the names and identities of the 7 main suspects.
They had a shortlist of 20 people of whom, 7 were more likely than the others.
All of them had the propensity to kidnap girls from their bedrooms.
One of those 7 was the self-confessed main suspect.
Moor spoke to him.
David Sprague believes he’s the prime suspect.
Other detectives put him alongside the other six.
There are no fingerprints, no DNA evidence in this case.
Moor had no qualms with abiding by the stipulations of Victoria Police in relation to the information contained in the Sierra files because he’s got a good rapport with Victoria Police and would never jeopardise an ongoing investigation.
He didn’t get the files officially, he got them from a source, but he then went to a senior serving member of the Victoria Police and still is and he said, “look, I’ve got this stuff, surely it’s time to bring out some new stuff as it’s been 25 years”.
He struck up a deal with him that he would write his long article, but he let him read it and if there was anything in there he thought they should keep out as it might jeopardise the investigation that was fine.
There were a couple of things he left out.
He had originally named the Melbourne Uni lecturer, but he left that out at the request of the Victoria Police as they are concerned with vigilantism.
Not that he has sympathy for somebody who’s already done nasty things to six other girls.
But, he did agree to that, nor did he go into the details of the attacks on the girls.
He reminded the interviewer to remember it’s illegal in Victoria to identify sexual assault victims, and he’s not saying whether Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas were sexually assaulted, but they’ve never been referred to as such in any respectable media (this is untrue as numerous media organisations including the ABC reported the police as stating that both girls were sexually assaulted).
He never has, they’re referred to as being kidnapped, and abducted and assaulted. Neither of those girls have given their permission to be identified.
John Wills spoke to Keith Moor for support.
He felt he failed in his duty as a protector.
David Sprague was horrified when evidence of a rope used to tie up a rape victim in 1985 was lost.
It had been thrown in a bag and put in a policeman’s locker, and then the policeman moved somewhere else and then someone cleaned his locker out and chucked it out.
A lot of evidence that might have caught Cruel out…if that happened now. Rehash about new rules coming in to preserve evidence.
If the another journalist had the running of a particular crime he wouldn’t try to knock him off. Keith Moor would be surprised if the offender’s not one of the 7 in the Sierra Files.
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On 8 April 2016 Keith Moor wrote an article for the Herald Sun to mark the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of Karmein Chan. In the article, Moor claimed to have recently received previously secret information about seven suspects that police had been unable to eliminate from their investigation into the identity of Mr Cruel. According to Moor, when Operation Spectrum had wrapped up without identifying Mr Cruel in 1994, the detectives had provided a dossier on the seven suspects named the Sierra Files. In the case that another child was abducted, Victoria Police were to arrest all seven suspects and interrogate them.
None of the suspects in the Herald Sun article were named, but Moor did give some details about each of them, such as their age and the suburb they lived in at the time of the Karmein Chan abduction and suggested that all seven had the propensity to commit the types of crimes Mr Cruel was accused of. Nevertheless, within 5 days the Nine Network had named suspect #1 on the list, albeit incorrectly.
On 13 April 2016 A Current Affair ran a story by Reid Butler in which they claimed “Brian Enkler” was among the suspects that could not be ruled out by detectives. Only, they had named the man incorrectly, his real name is Brian “Elkner”. The program included a typical ACA scene in which Elkner is assailed leaving a residence and getting into a vehicle. It has been suggested by commentators that the scene in question is located at Elkner’s Thornbury residence, but this is not the case. While this ACA video is no longer accessible online, to this day, the written account of this article is still accessible on the ninenews.com.au website, still with the misspelling of Elkner’s name.
Elkner had been a strong suspect in the Mr Cruel case because of a series of sex attacks he had committed on teenage girls in the 1970s. In the years since Nine News revealed his identity, a number of online writers and sleuths have revealed more about these crimes. But, what of the six other suspects mentioned in the 8 April 2016 Herald Sun article? Until recently, Melbourne Marvels has been unsuccessful in attempting to uncover some of the identities of these other men.
Was paedophile Christopher Michael Crowther Suspect 7 of the Sierra Files?
According to Keith Moor, Suspect 7 of the Sierra Files was living in Glen Iris at the time of the Karmein Chan abduction. Moor’s article further stated that it was unclear if this suspect was still alive in 2016, but if so, he would have been 67 years old, suggesting this suspect was born in either 1948 or 1949. According to Moor, suspect 7 wasn’t on social media, on the electoral roll or in the telephone directory in 2016. Was this information referring to convicted paedophile Christopher Michael Crowther? Melbourne Marvels does not claim it was, nor do we claim Crowther was a suspect, but let us take a look at his criminal history to see what type of offender he was.
“Paedophile jailed for 16 years”
On 5 September 1992, The Age published an article titled Paedophile jailed for 16 years. Christopher Michael Crowther had “stalked and attacked six children aged four to seven”. He had been jailed by Judge Barnett in the Country Court. The article stated that Crowther was 44 years old and had lived in High Street, Glen Iris before his arrest. He had earlier been “found guilty of five counts of child stealing, four of indecent assault and two of penetration of a child under 10”. The article also reported that he had, just the day before, pleaded guilty to another count each of child stealing and indecent assault.
Immediately we can see that at 44 years of age in 1992, Crowther’s age matches that of Suspect 7 and so does his place of residence (Glen Iris) at the time of the Karmein Chan abduction. But, we should tread carefully here before declaring we know the identity of Suspect 7.
“The judge set a minimum of 13 years for Crowther”.
An article about Crowther’s conviction was also published in The Hearld Sun the same day titled Pedophile ‘relished publicity’, written by Christine Giles. It stated that Crowther was to serve a minimum term of 13 years and gave more details about the court case. It stated Crowther had been in police custody since January 1991, meaning it would have been impossible for him to have committed the abduction and murder of Karmein Chan. This is significant as, if Crowther was Suspect 7 in the Sierra Files, it would seem to indicate that the police were considering the possiblility that the murderer of Karmein Chan was not the same person who had abducted Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas and who had attacked the girl in Lower Plenty.
The article also referred to the fact that Crowther had volunteered to appear on an episode of 60 Minutes in 1983 as a “reformed pedophile”. The judge in the trial, “Judge Barnett”, had stated that the appearance on the TV show in 1983, and a later appearance on Day by Day in 1986 seemed to reflect the fact that Crowther had relished in the publicity of his crimes.
A long history of ‘child stealing’
An article for The Age by Antony Catalano titled Man faces 71 sex charges was published on 15 January 1991, just 3 months before Karmein Chan’s abduction. The article stated that Crowther was charged with rape, child stealing, abduction, gross indecency and indecent assault against 14 girls “as young as three”. This means that he must not have been convicted of the majority of the charges he faced, as we know from the later article he was only found guilty of attacks on six children aged between four and seven.
The article went on to describe Crowther’s long history of offending dating back to 1972 “when he was convicted on charges of willful and obscene exposure” and was convicted of child stealing in 1974 and abduction in 1981.
“A very twisted and dangerous personality”.
On 1 January 1983 an article was published in The Age titled Man who attacked two girls, twisted, dangerous, say police. The article included a photofit of a bearded man and described an attack on two girls in Box Hill in which a six year-old girl had been raped and a seven year-old had been molested. While we haven’t seen it stated that Crowther was ever convicted of this crime, the modus operandi and photofit are extremely similar to some of the crimes that he was later convicted of. The striking similarity being that the perpetrator first stopped his car to ask the young girls for directions and then invited them into his vehicle before he sexually assaulted them. Melbourne Marvels does not claim that Christopher Michael Crowther committed this crime.
“A man lured the little girl into a lavatory block”.
On 3 April 1985 an article was published in the local newspaper The Advertiser titled Police seek information. It described the indecent assault of a six year-old girl in Dendy Park, Brighton. “The incident happened at 3:30pm when the man lured the little girl into a lavatory block and indecently assaulted the little girl.” Again, we cannot confirm that this crime was committed by Crowther, but the MO is extremely similar, the victim is of a similar age to late victims, the offender took her into a public toilet as was alleged Crowther did in a later crime, and we know he was later convicted of this type of crime in this area from attacks in 1985 and 1986.
“The seven year-old was abducted from Black Rock and taken to a park”
In November 1986 there was a media frenzy as a bearded man in a car was abducting girls in Bayside suburbs before sexually assaulting them. On 7 November an article for The Age by Michael Cave titled 14 child sex attacks by same man, say police. The article included a map showing the locations where the 14 attacks had occurred. The most recent attack concerned that of a seven year-old girl who had been abducted by a bearded man on 5 November in Black Rock. The girl had been walking along Iona Street with a friend when the man drove up to the pair in a Ford Cortina station wagon before asking for directions. The girl got into the car because she “thought he was a nice man”. She was then driven to Riviera Park in Seaford where she was “indecently assaulted and raped”. The article also stated that the 14 girls in total who had been attacked were aged between 3 and 14 years old, but it is possible that the 14 year old included here was actually the Hampton Mr Cruel victim in February 1985 discussed elsewhere in this blog as Crowther was later convicted of attacks on children no older than seven years of age.
“She was crying and yelling and came running up to me with herarms in the air”
A similar article by Mark Davies was published in The Sun the same day. The article went into even more detail about some of the attacks, including an interview with Paul Cowan, the 16-year-old boy who had found the 7-year-old victim in Seaford before contacting the police. One slight contradiction with that of The Age article was that it stated the oldest of the 14 victims was 11-years-old, while The Age article had said the oldest was 14-years-old. The Sun article included more details about some of the other attacks in Caulfield, Sandringham and Mentone.
“A 16 year-old boy found the girl screaming”
Then on 12 November The Advertiser published an article about the same attack and some similar ones titled Abductions bring police warnings. The article stated that “3 girls aged between five and seven years have been lured into station wagons over the past five weeks”. It went on: “another attempt was foiled when two girls in Sandringham were approached but ran off”. It gave additional details about the attack in which the seven year-old girl was taken to Seaford stating “a 16 year-old boy found the girl screaming”.
“Certain matters led police to believe that Mr Crowther had been involved”
Understandably these attacks created a great deal of panic in the community and when an article in The Hampton Bugle was published on 13 November titled Child builds picture of suspect in sex attacks case with a photofit of the same bearded man, there was plenty of discussion in society about who the perpetrator was. It seems that in the same week an a current affairs television program named Day by Day was aired which discussed the attacks. Years later it would be revealed that Christopher Michael Crowther telephoned a producer of the program that week and “had discussed certain matters that led police to believe that Mr Crowther had been involved” (TV call led to 81 child sex charges, Johnson, Philip, The Age, 17 July 1991).
“Displayed a knowledge of the rape of a 7-year-old girl at Seaford that only somebody close to the case would know”.
An article on the same day in The Herald Sun titled Caller gave raped details, court told gave a few more details on Crowther’s 1986 telephone call to the producer of Day by Day that had marked him as a person of interest. It stated that 3 people who knew Crowther had identified his voice from a tape recording of the telephone call
“Goody, goody, goody, because tonight he’s on the prowl again”
In fact, years later when Crowther was convicted, it was also revealed that he had telephoned police after the attack on the Black Rock girl in November 1986. When the police told him they had not got far in their investigations he had replied “goody, goody, goody, because he’s on the prowl again tonight” (The Canberra Times, 5 September 1992). “The transcript of the recording made chilling reading Judge Barnett said, commenting that Crowther appeared to be basking in a state of sexual excitement during the call”.
“Hampton police questioned a 38 year-old South Yarra man”
It appears the police did question Crowther over the rapes in December 1986 soon after his telephone call to the television producer had identified him as a person of interest. However, he was released and was not to be rearrested for over 4 years.
“He had a beard, huge muscular arms and scruffy shirt and jeans”
On 22 December 2013 an article by Chris Johnston titled Melbourne mother Tracey Levey on finding peace after childhood abuse, was published in The Age. It detailed the story of a victim, now an adult woman, who had been picked up by a man in a car in 1979 in Glen Huntly before being assaulted by him. This victim’s memory of this event, which occurred when she was just 5 years old, had recently resurfaced after reading an article about the suicide of sex offender Robert Keith Knight. She had wondered whether Knight had been the man responsible for her own attack. The police had revealed however, that they believed the man responsible for her attack was another man an “even more notorious Melbourne paedophile who would later face 80 charges of sex offences against children over a period of 12 years. When this man was arrested in 1991 a rocking horse and photographs were seized from his home. He was jailed, and then died of a heart attack upon release”. The police had refused to name the offender because his involvement in this attack had not been “conclusively proved”. “But he is almost certainly responsible” Johnston’s article went on.
The article continued: “photographs taken by The Age when this man was finally arrested show him to be bigger and taller than the policeman arresting him. He had a beard, huge muscular arms and scruffy shirt and jeans. The man had an occupation where he had access to a number of vehicles, so at any given stage he may have been driving a vehicle he was not the owner of.” Melbourne Marvels does not claim that the man mentioned in this article is Christopher Michael Crowther.
It should be noted that Crowther was arrested in January 1991 and charged for crimes committed between 1979 and 1987. This arrest occurred 3 months before Karmein Chan’s abduction. Melbourne Marvels has been informed by a source who claims that he was in custody on remand at the time of the abduction and therefore could not have been reponsible for it.
Update: Melbourne Marvels has recently been informed by a source that Crowther was released from prison not long after his conviction in 1992. This person claimed that he only spent a couple of years in jail after he was convicted, but that he had appealed the sentence and it was significantly reduced.This person believes he was released from prison in 1993. Melbourne Marvels has not been able to confirm whether this is true as yet.
We have reason to understand that Christopher Michael Crowther died in 2003 at the age of 55. In his article on the Sierra Files, Keith Moor noted that he was unsure whether Suspect 7 had already died, but that there was no record of him on the electoral roll, and his death could have been a reason for this.
In conclusion, we cannot say conclusively that Crowther is Suspect 7 from the Sierra Files, but we do know that he had been living in Glen Iris a few months before the Karmein Chan abduction, his age is extremely close to the age profile given for suspect 7 as he was born in 1948 (although he would have been 67 at the time of the abduction), and was dead when the existence of the Sierra Files was revealed by The Herald Sun in 2016. Therefore, he seems to be a very close match with Suspect 7, but it is not conclusive.
However, even if he is Suspect 7, all this really means is that he could not be ruled out as being Mr Cruel by the Spectrum Taskforce. It is another thing completely to seriously consider him as being Mr Cruel. There are major differences between his MO and that of Mr Cruel’s considering he didn’t wear a balaclava during his attacks, abducted children off the street, and all his victims seem to have been aged between four and seven years of age.
Clinton Bailey (pseudonym) has written a manuscript analysing the Mr Cruel crimes. This manuscript was originally written in 2014 and has been updated several times. He has provided the manuscript to the Victoria Police. It has not been published previously on the internet. Clinton has given me permission to publish sections of it here.
Clinton Bailey (pseudonym) has written a manuscript analysing the Mr Cruel crimes. This manuscript was originally written in 2014 and has been updated several times. He has provided the manuscript to the Victoria Police. It has not been published previously on the internet. Clinton has given me permission to publish sections of it here.
Clinton Bailey (pseudonym) has written a manuscript analysing the Mr Cruel crimes. This manuscript was originally written in 2014 and has been updated several times. He has provided the manuscript to the Victoria Police. It has not been published previously on the internet. Clinton has given me permission to publish sections of it here.
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. NB: This attack has been verified as being perpetrated by the Ascot Vale Rapist Christopher Clarence Hall, who was convicted of this rape, and that of many other women, in 1994.
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 (unknown if this is the crime referenced in this newspaper article in which a woman was abducted from her Caulfield home on 16 February 1986 and driven to Chelsea Heights).
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.
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 2012. 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 Hampton victim 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 2012, goes into detail about an attack on a 14 year old boy that also allegedly occurred in Hampton in 1985.
“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.” The person named Bill here, is the pseudonym Keith Moor gave to one of the main suspects in the case, who was later named by Channel 9 as one “Brian Alan Enkler”. This however, was a mistake, as his actual surname is Elkner.
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.
Addendum: In a November 2020 interview with Matt Dunlop Media, retired detective Ron Iddles talked briefly about some of these earlier attacks. When questioned about the earlier attacks he stated: “On one of the occasions…it’s a vacant house which is up for sale. Now, there was no forced entry so how did he get access? And then there were questions about, well, could he be a real estate agent? But, the way in which he cleaned up, the MO is nearly identical, so that’s why they were put in I guess a basket, to say well, he might have started back in ‘85 and you’re looking about every six eight months for an attack. So, they were very, very similar.” It is not clear which of these earlier attacks Iddles is referring to here. However, the fact that he states that there was no forced entry seems to rule out the attack on the 14 year old boy, as Moor stated that attack occurred at “unknown premises”. Rather, Iddles’ description seems to match up with that of the attack on the 14 year old girl which was the attack that Moor described as occurring at “a vacant building site”, but this cannot be 100% confirmed.
“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 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 may have remembered this case incorrectly. 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.
Update 7 June 2021
On 5 June 2021, I discovered an Age newspaper article by Philip Johnson from 13 May 1994, that confirmed for me that the Moonee Ponds rape was committed by a serial rapist by the name of Christopher Clarence Hall. The article stated “Hall bound and gagged a 48-year-old victim after raping her, and took her credit card, withdrawing $300, and then returned and raped her again”. This description is clearly referring to the Moonee Ponds victim that Melbourne Marvels has repeatedly written about as possibly being one of Mr Cruel’s victims. This is astonishing because it means criminologist Xanthe Mallett was unaware that the rape of this woman in Moonee Ponds had actually been solved, when she referred to it as being one of Mr Cruel’s unsolved crimes. The fact that we now know the crime was solved all but ensures we can now rule it out as being the work of Mr Cruel. Of course, there is still the lingering possibility that it was Mr Cruel, in that it is possible that Christpher Clarence Hall was Mr Cruel. However, this seems unlikely, since police have access to Hall’s DNA profile, and it seems not to be a match for the profile the Channel 9 documentary suggested police had for Mr Cruel from the 1985 Hampton attack. Furthermore, it seems the vast majority of Hall’s victims were adult women, which would suggest that it is unlikely he is responisble for the abductions and sexual assault of the child victims of Mr Cruel. Hall was free until 1993, so, some may argue he would still make a good suspect for the Mr Cruel series. All his crimes being committed in the north western suburbs of Melbourne, however, also suggests that it may be unlikely.
Update: March 2022. Christopher Clarence Hall can now be categorically ruled out as being Mr Cruel – well at least he can be ruled out as being the same perpetrator who abducted both Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas. This is because we know he was in prison in South Australia during the commission of these crimes. Furthermore, we know more about the nature of his attack on the 48 year old former nun who he raped on 11 November 1987. This is from what was published during an appeal he filed to his conviction in 1994. You can access this file here. It should be noted here that the attack on the 48 year old former nun was particularly vicious and cruel which is likely what prompted the police to refer to the attacker as “cruel” in the first place. Thus, in a way, you could say the moniker Mr Cruel should be changed, perhaps to Mr Careful, as this moniker suits our man better.
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.
It may be that the Caulfield attack referenced here is that of the abduction of a woman from her Caulfield home at 12:40am on 16 February 1986. The woman was blindfolded and forced to lie on the floor of a red Toyota sedan by a bearded man in his late 20s who wore jeans and silver-rimmed glasses. The woman was driven to Chelsea Heights where she managed to esacape at 3:15pm.
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