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.
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.
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
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.
Many people who have studied the Mr Cruel case cannot help but notice the seeming correlation between significant events and electricity transmission lines, electricity substations or electricity terminal stations. I first came across this theory on the Mr Cruel subreddit on Reddit in 2019. I then researched it a bit more and strongly felt that it was a lead worth investigating. In Ferbruary of 2021 I was contacted by a researcher who had independently investigated the same theory in 2014. This person wishes to remain anonymous, but I will refer to him in this post as Clinton Bailey. Bailey has written a manuscript about Mr Cruel and has passed on a copy to me. Over the coming weeks I intend to publish certain chapters from this manscript, the first of which I am publishing today.
It should be pointed out that Bailey is not an electrician and is by no means an expert in this field. However, he did research the topic extensively over the course of a year for his manscript.
NB: I have had to scan the document and upload as image files because the original formatting of the diagrams contained on the file is not compatiable with this blog.
There is new information revealed about the Mr Cruel case! The big scoops from the interview are the following.
1. Iddles revealed that the offender’s lair “in the lounge room had a chunky pine lounge suite”. This is significant as previously no information about the lounge room of Mr Cruel’s lair had been revealed by police or journalists.
2. He stated that, in the bathroom of the lair, “the basin was very close to the toilet”. This contradicts previous information from published accounts of Mr Cruel’s bathroom as they all stated the bathroom did not contain a toilet, but that the toilet was located in a different room next to the bathroom (it is unclear what the reason for this contradiction is).
3. In relation to his Eltham suspect, who he talked about on the Australian True Crime podcast in July 2020, he stated that the person who told him about his Eltham suspect was a “well-known criminal” and “well-known to police” who told Iddles this information when he was dying of cancer in “about 2000 or 2001” (ie not Chopper Read as some had speculated as the latter died in 2013). The year he received this tipoff was not revealed in the ATC interview.
4. He stated that the Eltham suspect died in 1992, (this was not revealed in the ATC interview).
5. He described the Eltham suspect as “someone who from time to time crossdressed”, (this was not revealed in the ATC interview).
6. The photo of the Eltham suspect “was shown to Karmein Chan’s mum and the father, but they couldn’t identify him”, (this was not revealed in the ATC interview).
7. The suspect “ran his own business which he was very successful in”, (this was not revealed in the ATC interview).
8. He mentions other attacks that were atrributed to Mr Cruel in “southern Melbourne, down around Sandringam, Brighton”. He said there were 12 attacks in total and that in these other 8 attacks the perpetrator was “always wearing a black balaclava”. “So, there were probably 12 that you might attribute to him, but definitely the last 4”, (these attacks have been written about previously by journalists such as Keith Moor and John Silvester, but the suburb of Sandringham wasn’t mentioned – of course he doesn’t actually state that an attack occurred in Sandringham).
9. He stated about one of these earlier attacks that “it’s a vacant house that’s up for sale. There was no forced entry so how did he get access? And there were questions about could he be a real estate agent, but the way in which he cleaned up, the MO was nearly identical, so that is why all of those cases were put in…a basket. He might have started in 1985 and you’re looking at about every 6 or 8 months for an attack…they were very, very similar”. (This may refer to the Hampton sexual assault of a 14 year old girl which has been written about previously by Keith Moor and John Silvester. However, the information about the house being a vacant house up for sale is new. It is probably the same attack as what Keith Moor describes in his 13 April 2013 article for the Herald Sun in which he stated: “”One of these suspected attacks was on a 14-year-old girl who was abducted from her Hampton home in Melbourne’s southern suburbs 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 the Nepean Highway at 2:10am, nearly five hours after being kidnapped.”
Thank you to Matt Dunlop of Matt Dunlop Media for providing me with the video.
In researching for this series of blogs and podcasts on the Mr Cruel crimes, one thing that has struck me is the amount of information out there, in articles and books that have been written about the case, which contradicts other information. There are many examples of this, but to pick one example at random, the victim in the Lower Plenty attack is variously described as being 11 or 12 years old. It may seem a minor detail, but there are many of these inconsistencies. Therefore, in retelling the facts of this case, I have potentially been presented with the problem of choosing the reliability of one source over another. Should we trust the contemporary newspaper articles of the time or the most recent in-depth analysis of the Mr Cruel case, Keith Moor’s 2016 article titled Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking child abductions, perhaps the most comprehensive source of information on the case out there?
When the information is contradictory, it is impossible to know which source to consider more reliable. If you rely purely on the contemporary sources, one runs the risk of relying on information which was later realised to be mistaken. On the other hand, if you rely solely on the most recent source, (as most articles, blogs and podcasts about this case have in recent years) you run the risk of relying on a source which has gained some of its information from interviews with detectives and other experts 30 years after the events in question. Memories are fallible, and I have come across instances of incongruities in recent publications which have relied on the memories of experts who misremembered some details from 30 years ago (I will highlight some of these incongruities later in this post).
When these incongruities come to the fore, and not knowing which is the objective truth, I have decided simply to present information in a way that reports what other journalists have written about the case and bring it to the attention of the reader when there are contradictions. Perhaps by getting all of this information out there, there is a small possibility it might contribute to clearing up some confusion about the finer details of the case.
I realise this style of blog may not be for everybody. If it is pure storytelling you are looking for, there are a number of blogs and podcasts out there that cover this case. They all tell the story as if they were there, a fly on the wall, as if they know exactly what happened. They almost exclusively rely on paraphrasing Keith Moor’s 2016 article mentioned previously, which is a well-written article, but contains information that contradicts some of the details that were presented in newspaper articles in 1987 and 1988.
I have spent many months attempting to read everything that has been written on this case. As a result I have made numerous visits to libraries where I have found many newspaper articles on the subject which nobody else has made available before on the internet. I am confident I have now read the vast majority there is to read about this case that is in the public forum. This blog post is a collation and presentation of all that I found in these sources and it is largely presented in chronological order.
In the first blog post/episode I mentioned the four canonical attacks that are considered by most detectives, to be the work of Mr Cruel. Today, I will focus on the first of these, what was reported in the media as the Lower Plenty rape of a girl in her home on 22 August 1987.
“A particularly violent rape“
As far as I have found, the very first time anything was ever written about this case was on 29 August 1987, when articles were published in both The Age and The Sun News Pictorial. We can probably safely assume therefore, that there was a police press conference the day before on 28 August. Both articles were published exactly one week after the actual attack occurred on 22 August. The Age article was written by Greg Burchall, under the title:Police warn that armed rapist might strike again. It reported that a 12 year old girl (take note of her age as this will be different in later articles) was raped after he broke into her “eastern suburbs house” and bound and gagged her parents, and that police were worried that he could strike again. Detective Inspector Val Simpson of the Greensborough CIB was paraphrased as stating that the attack was similar to the 3 rapes which occurred in December of 1985 in the “Donvale-Warrandyte-Bulleen” area (I will discuss this case in the next blogpost). He went on to say that the family of the raped girl did not want any details of the attack released, but had agreed to do so when told of the “danger of their attacker repeating his crime”.
Detective Sergeant Simpson said the attacker was armed with a “small automatic handgun and a large knife”. He broke a window at the front of the property before heading straight for the parents’ bedroom where he “bound and gagged a couple in their 30s and their six year-old son”. Take note here the article says the son was “six years-old” and that he was bound and gagged in his parents’ bedroom, which contradicts information we hear later.
The attacker then took the 12 year old girl to the lounge room where she suffered a “particularly violent rape”. The detective went on to describe how the attacker stole “$250 cash and a few articles of clothing”. He was described as “an Australian in his 30s, about 175 cm tall, with brown hair and slim build”. Take note of this first ever description of this man too, as it will be different to future reports of this offence. “He was wearing a balaclava, blue jeans and a brown tweed sports coat over a blue zip-up jacket and was carrying a grey cloth bag”. A black and white photograph of an artist’s rendition of the attacker is also provided, which is clearly the same illustration as the colourised version I have included at the top of this blog, only this one is cut off at the man’s belly.
What is noticeable about this image is the balaclava is open from the upper lip up to his hairline. A tuft of hair protrudes from under the top of the balaclava, and there is material stretching across his eyes which seems to act as some kind of visor that hides his eyes. Nevertheless, this remains the best image we have of Mr Cruel as in all the later canonical attacks his entire face is covered by the balaclava.
“A very dangerous sort of person”
The Sun also reported on this crime in an article by Greg Thom on the same date titled Family tied up as girl, 12, raped which goes into a little bit more detail than The Age article. It included a photograph by Janine Eastgate of Detective Sergeant Val Simpson holding three different rolls of red, blue and green tape and two different types of rope or cord. Behind Detective Simpson we can see two illustrations, one of an artist’s depiction of the perpetrator and one of the gun and knife used in the attack. The article stated that police were looking for a man who had raped a 12 year old girl in the “Eltham-Lower Plenty” area after tying up her parents and brother in the “bedroom of their outer suburban house”. He was armed with a “small handgun and large hunting knife”. Police had expressed concern that the man might strike again and that the offences were similar to attacks that had occurred in December 1985.
The offender had handcuffed the girl’s parents and bound their hands and legs before gagging them and putting “surgical tape over their eyes”. He had then taken the girl and her 6 year old brother into the parents’ bedroom where he bound and gagged the boy before taking the girl to another room and raping her. Police said the man had tricked the parents into thinking he was only there to rob the house. He had stolen $250 from a wallet and purse. Detective Segeant Val Simpson was quoted as saying: “Obviously the trauma of rape has been a very nasty experience for the young girl. Anyone who breaks into a home in the middle of the night, subjects a family to this sort of terrorism and rapes a 12-year old girl is obviously a very dangerous sort of person.” He also said: “He has struck once and there is every possibility he could strike again”. Thom wrote that police had stated that the perpetrator was “aged in his 30s, between 173cm and 175cm, probably Australian, with brown hair, slim build, and wearing a dark blue balaclava”, but also mentioned how he was wearing “blue runners with a white trim”. Also, the article stated that the grey cloth bag he was carrying was “similar to the type used by children to carry library books”. The Sun article also included the full-length artist’s depiction of the attacker.
“May have committed 5 similar attacks”
The next newspaper publication of this attack was on 1 September 1987 when the weekly Diamond Valley News published an article titled Task force to hunt rapist, by Sally McDonnell with a photograph similar to the one that appeared in the Sun depicting Detective Sergeant Val Simpson holding up the tape and rope and the full-length artist’s illustration of the suspect.
This article stated that police believed that the man who had raped the 12 year old girl may have committed 5 similar attacks. It stated the girl had been raped after her family had been bound, gagged and locked in another room. Detective Sergeant Val Simpson, it stated, had been appointed to head a task force to “solve this attack”. McDonnell wrote that Detective Sergeant Simpson had speculated that the perpetrator may have been responsible for 3 similar incidents that had occurred in Warrandyte, Bulleen and Donvale in December 1985, and two attempted rapes that had occurred in Greensborough in March and August 1987. Detective Sergeant Simpson was quoted as saying of these attacks: “In the 1985 incidents he entered the homes of women in similar circumstances and the offence of rape was committed.” McDonnell noted that police were: “keeping an open mind as to whether the same offender was responsible for two recent attempted rapes in the Joyce Avenue, Greensborough area.” In the Greensborough attempted rapes, the offender had “forced entry into houses at around 4am early on Saturday mornings and attempted to rape the female occupant of each house”.
The article went on to describe the Lower Plenty attack in the same ways as had been described in The Sun and The Age on 29 August. But, Detective Senior Sergeant Val Simpson was also quoted as stating “We have no idea at this stage how he selected the house. That’s something we’re working on at this stage. At this stage there is nothing to indicate that he knew the family. This is just a normal everyday family with no special interests or anything that might bring them into conflict with other people. It’s almost as if their whole being has been shattered by this one incident”. McDonnell then also paraphrased Detective Sergeant Simpson as stating that the offender “could be a local resident” and that there was “no indication that he was on drugs or drunk”. The article then went on to describe the physical description of the perpetrator in the same way as was in The Sun.
“Appealing for help”
The next article about the Lower Plenty attack appeared in The Age on 4 September 1987 when a short was written stating that police were “appealing for help” to help catch the perpetrator under the title Police appeal. Surprisingly, this short described the attack as occurring in Eltham, which must have been a mistake as, while the exact address has never been publicised, it has mostly been reported as having occurred in Lower Plenty or the Lower Plenty-Eltham area, which seems to suggest the part of Lower Plenty which is near the border with Eltham.
“There is every possibility he could strike again”
The same day a more detailed article was published in The Sun by Bruce Tobin, under the title Rapist threatened a second family: police. The article described how the perpetrator had gained access to the house in “Lower Plenty-Eltham” after he “smashed a window”. However, it described how, before he raped the girl, he had made a threatening phone call to another family “from the main bedroom of the house and threatened them with physical violence”. Detective Sergeant Val Simpson was paraphrased saying the perpetrator told the second family to “move their children or they would be in danger” and “there is every possibility he could strike again.” He also suggested that the same man could have been responsible for 3 rapes that occurred in the eastern suburbs in December 1985. The man had called the second family between 4:30 and 5am and referred to the person on the other end as ‘Bozo’. Detective Sergeant Simpson “appealed to the people who received the call to contact police”. The article then went on to describe the circumstances of the attack in the same way as had been in the previous Sun article except it said the man was about 175cm tall.
“The call was made to a person named ‘Bozo'”
Then on 8 September another article by Sally McDonnell appeared in the Diamond Valley News titled Phone threat clue to rapist. In the article McDonnell stated that the police believed that the perpetrator had “made a threatening phone call from the house during the two-hour ordeal”. Detective Sergeant Val Simpson was quoted as stating that “when the offender was in the house it would appear that a threatening phone call could have been made between 4:30 and 5am. The call was made to a person named ‘Bozo’ or a similar sounding name. Threatening remarks were made to this person and it was suggested that he remove his children from the house. We are treating it as a genuine call”. The article then stated that the police were looking for anyone who had received a threatening phone call at about 4:30 am on 22 August to contact them.
“Super cool, and super cruel”
The Lower Plenty attack was not in the news again until 19 November 1987, when an article by Jim Tennison appeared in The Sun linking the Lower Plenty attack to an attack on a 48 year old woman that had occurred on the night/morning of the 10/11 November under the heading Police hunt for Mr ‘Cruel’. This was the first usage of the term Mr Cruel by the media. Tennison’s article detailed the fact that a police taskforce had been set up to help find the perpetrator who was described by police as “super cool, and super cruel”. Assistant Commissioner of Crime, Mr Vaughan Werner, was quoted as saying “We have put a very high priority on the hunt for this man. He is a cold-blooded calculating character who has caused incredible trauma to his victims.” Tennison paraphrases Senior Detective Sergeant Gerry Tatter, who was the head of the taskforce, as saying “he believed the man had committed at least 3 rapes and possibly several more over a period of at least 2 years”. Senior Sergeant Tatter then went on to describe how he believed the same man had committed the Lower Plenty attack and then gave a brief summary of that attack. What was notable about this is that the girl is this time described as an 11 year old girl rather than a 12 year old. Another incongruity was that Tennison stated in his article that the girl’s brother was 7 years old. Lastly, he stated that the brother was locked in the wardrobe along with his parents, and this account would be repeated in articles about this case in future years.
Tennison then went on to describe the attack on the 48 year old woman in which the perpetrator broke into her home 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”.
Tatter was then paraphrased as describing the Lower Plenty attack as a “virtual blueprint” of an attack on “a 35 year old woman” in her home in Donvale on 6 December 1985. The article stated that in that attack the man had been armed with a “long-barrelled handgun” and that “in all 3 cases the rapist has worn a balaclava or hood and blindfolded, bound and gagged his victims, before assaulting them and stealing money.” Tennison’s article gave a slightly different physical description of the perpetrator – about 179 cm tall, aged 25 to 35 and of a slim build.
“Park St or Clarinda Rd”
On 25 November 1987 an article by Nadine Hartnett featuring information about the Lower Plenty attack was published by the Essendon Gazette. This was largely about the attack on the 48 year old Moonee Ponds victim, but also mentioned the Donvale attack in 1985 and included new information.
Regarding the Moonee Ponds attack, it stated a man had broken into the victims home 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”.
Hartnett then paraphrased Senior Sergeant Gerry Tatter as describing the Lower Plenty victim as 11 and her brother as 7, repeating the claim that the brother was locked in the wardrobe with his parents. Again, this contradicts other articles and may have simply been a mistake by the officer at the press conference.
The Donvale attack was then also described in the same way as had been in Tennison’s article.
“Red and white and plain white nylon clothesline cord, and blue green and red PVC electrical tape”
On 15 December 1987 a Crime Stoppers report was published in The Age about the Lower Plenty Attack. It described the victim as 11 years old and it stated the perpetrator gained entry to the house when he “smashed a window”. It said he “made several phone calls to speak about a person called ‘Bozo'”. It stated “he carried a grey satchel and red and white and plain white nylon clothesline cord, and blue green and red PVC electrical tape”.
“A cold-blooded, calculating character who has caused incredible trauma to his victims”
Then on 10 May 1988, Innes Willox for The Age wrote an article about the case titled Police ask public for help tracking rapist linked to 20 attacks. This article stated that Detective Inspector Ken MacKenzie had tentatively linked the rapist involved in the Lower Plenty attack to at least 20 other attacks in the northern and eastern suburbs. Willox paraphrased the police in general as describing him as “the most audacious sex attacker they have investigated”. Detective Inspector McKenzie was quoted as saying “It puts him into the Mr Stinky category and he poses no less a threat as Mr Stinky did in his heyday”. The article then added a note that “Raymond Edwards, known as Mr Stinky, was convicted in 1985 of five rapes”. The Detective Inspector said that a task force had been set up the previous November after the attack on the 48 year old woman in Moonee Ponds and that “they are certain (the rapist) has committed three attacks since December 1985” and refer to the Donvale rape of “a 35 year old woman” in December 1985, the Lower Plenty rape of the 11 year old girl, and the Moonee Ponds “assault” of a 48 year old woman in November the previous year.
The article went on to describe how, during the Lower Plenty attack, the rapist had stolen “a box of rare classical records”. The records were by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, in a set called “Classic Gold written in gold print on a black box”. Detective Inspector McKenzie went on to ask for help from anyone in the public who might have acquired a set such as this since August 1987. Willox wrote that during the Lower Plenty attack the man was armed with a “pistol” and that: “He even made himself a meal. He picked the glass from the broken window, and stole a dark blue parka with the label ‘Ecuadorian Shirt Company’” This article described the man as between 168 and 183 cm tall, a much wider range given than in previous articles about this attacker.
“He’s without doubt one of the most dangerous criminals roaming the suburbs”
Also on 10 May 1988, The Sun published an article by Brian Walsh titled Record set clue to rape. This article gave the daughter’s age as 11 and the son’s as 8, which was a combination of ages we had not seen previously. It quoted Detective Inspector Ken McKenzie as stating of the perpetrator “he’s without doubt one of the most dangerous criminals roaming the suburbs”. Walsh paraphrased McKenzie as saying that “the recordings by the London Philharmonic Orchestra were sold by J&B Records in 1978 and 1979 and had not been widely distributed since”. It is a small detail, but it seems Willox erred in the describing the records as “classic”, when the actual title contains the word “classical”.
“Cool and calculating, a man who meticulously plans his attacks”
Innes Willox then released another article for The Age 2 days later on the 12 May 1988, under the title Police seek a new “Mr Stinky” Rapist. The article begins by suggesting police were searching for a new rapist in the vein of ‘Mr Stinky’ who, it was stated, was “now serving life for murder”. It paraphrases police as describing the new rapist as “cool and calculating, a man who meticulously plans his attacks” and he also mentions again how the perpetrator had been linked with at least 3 rapes and up to 20 attacks . Willox also wrote: “They know of, but refuse to discuss, several disturbing similarities about the attacks because they fear others could copy his methods”. Willox went on to describe how the police did not know much about the attacker because he always wore a balaclava. It is mentioned how he stole small amounts of money from all his victims. Chief Commissioner Kel Glare, is cited as using this attacker as an example of why police needed more resources to tackle crime. The quote from Assistant Commissioner of Crime, Vaughan Werner, from the article dated 10 May, describing the attacker as “a cold-blooded, calculating character who has caused incredible trauma to his victims” is repeated. Willox described the 6 December 1985 Donvale attack in a unique way with new information. “He (the attacker) waited in a house for a 30 year-old woman (he had described her as aged 35 in his own article just two days previously), 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 in the back of the house. He had broken in through the backdoor. 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 bedroom 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.”
Willox then described the Lower Plenty attack with some new information, saying: “a family home surrounded by bushland in a quiet street”. Also, “he went first to the Master Bedroom where he tied up the parents of an 11 year old girl and forced them into a wardrobe. Again the doors were secured, this time with a shoe rack”. It is stated that he tied the 7 year old brother to the bed in the parents’ bedroom before the girl was taken to the lounge room and assaulted.
Willox also paraphrased the police as reporting that “the man spent two hours in the house making a meal in the kitchen and making several phone calls”. Willox reported: “Before he left, probably through the front door, he picked up the broken glass on the lounge floor, ripped the telephone from the wall, and stole a box of classical records, a coat and some money. Police are especially interested in the coat, made by the ‘Ecuadorian Shirt Company’. It was bought in South America and may be the only one in Australia”. (NB: a Google search for this company brings up nothing, but there is a company called the Ecuadorian Clothing Company. It is unknown if this is the same company being referred to here).
Willox then went on to describe the attack on the 48 year old woman in Moonee Ponds 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”.
Willox then repeated the physical description of the man that he had written in the 10 May article, describing him as between 25 and 35, 168 to 183cm tall and of slim build.
The article included the same police artist’s rendition of the perpetrator as was published in earlier articles about the Lower Plenty attack and a photograph of Chief Commissioner Kel Glare.
“A vicious kidnapper known as “Mr Cruel””
When Sharon Wills was abducted from her Ringwood home in December 1988, press reports did not link it to the Lower Plenty attack. It was not until the abduction of Nicola Lynas in July 1990 that the 3 cases were linked in the media. This occurred when Brian Walsh, Andrew Mevissen and Mary Viscovich wrote an article for The Sun titled Alert on Mr Cruel. It was published on 6 July 1990, after Nicola Lynas had been released by the kidnapper.
The article went to press before it was realised Nicola Lynas had been found alive, so it was written as if she was still missing, even though she was discovered earlier that morning. In linking the Nicola Lynas abduction to the Lower Plenty attack in 1987, the moniker ‘Mr Cruel’ was resurrected – it had not been used in the media since Jim Tennison’s article in November of 1987. The police had linked the Nicola Lynas abduction with the Sharon Wills abduction as soon as the former kidnapping occurred over 2 days previously, but now they were linking the Lower Plenty case as well. It pointed out that in both the Lower Plenty attack and Nicola Lynas’ abduction the offender was wearing a balaclava and armed with a long knife and a handgun. This article described the Lower Plenty victim as 11 years old.
“Same offender…responsible for rape of a girl, 11, in her Lower Plenty home”
The Age published their own article the same day titled Letter imprint clue to missing girl, by Paul Conroy, Jacqui MacDonald and Peter Schwab. While the crux of the article was about a clue that might have been left by the abductor of Nicola Lynas, I will not go into those details now as I will save that discussion for a future in-depth post I do on the Nicola Lynas abduction. Notably, The Age article did not refer to the perpetrator as ‘Mr Cruel’, choosing to ignore the moniker used previously by The Sun, however, it did link the same man who abducted Nicola with the man who had abducted Sharon and the perpetrator who had committed the Lower Plenty attack, describing the victim in the latter as 11 years old.
“”Mr Cruel” who was responsible for the rape of a 12 year old girl “
The same day, 6 July 1990, Louise Talbot and Phillip Hudson published an article in The Herald, an evening newspaper, titled ‘Dangerous’ fantasy the key to kidnap, say police. It also stated that police had linked Nicola Lynas’ abduction to the Sharon Wills abduction and the Lower Plenty attack, describing the Lower Plenty victim as 12 years old and her brother as 6 years old, a combination of ages that had not been used before in previous articles. It also stated: “This man may also be responsible for attacks in December 1985”, which obviously refers to the Donvale-Warrandyte-Bulleen sexual assaults mentioned previously.
Having resurrected the ‘Mr Cruel’ moniker, and associated it with the abductions of Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas, both of which had far more media coverage than the Lower Plenty attack, the name struck a chord and was used from then on by television, radio and the press in reference to this case.
When Karmein Chan was abducted on 13 April 1991, the Herald-Sun newspaper, a merger of the evening broadsheet The Herald and the morning tabloid The Sun News Pictorial, published an article by an unnamed author on 15 April describing the abduction as the work of ‘Mr Cruel’, the same man who had abducted Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas, but did not mention the Lower Plenty attack. The article published false information that all 3 girls were abducted on school holidays. Nicola Lynas was abducted during the final week of term, not on school holidays and this was made clear in a number of the newspaper articles that were published about her abduction in July 1990. I will come back to this topic in the future in-depth post about Nicola Lynas.
The article also falsely asserted that the moniker ‘Mr Cruel’ was one which was given to him by detectives, which was not the case. Rather, he was dubbed ‘Mr Cruel’ in the previously mentioned article by Jim Tennison, published by The Sun on 19 November 1987. There was no mention of the Lower Plenty attack in this article, but it was linked in an article in The Age on 16 April titled Police put together profile of kidnapper, by Bruce Tobin and Jacqui Macdonald.
The Lower Plenty attack did not occur on school holidays!(Thank you to the researcher Clinton Bailey for pointing this out to me)
Over the course of the last 30 years, numerous newspaper articles, books and even the FBI profiling report have erroneously stated that all 4 of the canonical Mr Cruel attacks occurred on school holidays. This is incorrect. In fact, neither the Lower Plenty attack, nor the Nicola Lynas abduction occurred during Victorian school holidays. The latter occurred in the final week of term and the former in mid term 3. Yet, this mistake is repeated by respectable mainstream media organisations en masse. There is a perfectly good explanation as to how this mistake was originally made. When the school terms for 1990 were first decided upon in 1989, they originally had term 2 as finishing on 29 June and term 3 beginning on 16 July. However, this was later amended, and term 2 actually finished on 6 July. Since Nicola Lynas was abducted on Tuesday 3 July, this was in fact, the last week of term. This can be proved by simply looking at the newspaper articles from the period that clearly illustrate that Nicola was to finish school on the Friday 6 July, before she and her family had planned to return to England the following day.
On 24 April 1991, having received a request from Victoria Police to create a profile of the unknown offender, the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, wrote a letter to the Victoria Police based on information the latter had provided to them about the four canonical attacks. At this stage, Victoria Police was under the mistaken belief that all four attacks had occurred during school holidays, so the FBI provided their profile based on this false information. Of note in this document, relevant to any discussion about the Lower Plenty attack, is that the FBI stated “We believe the offender may reside in the vicinity of the first assault (meaning the Lower Plenty attack). This is further strengthened by the fact that the offender has returned to that same general area in the fourth assault. In cases of serial sexual assault this type of clustering indicates an area of great significance to the offender. Usually it indicates that the offender lives there while in other cases it reflects his employment. In this case we believe that it is more probable that the offender resides in that area. In view of the fact that these incidents all occur during school holidays, coupled with the offender’s use of a school uniform in the third assault we suggest there is a high degree of probability that the offender is involved with a school. He may be employed there or connected with a school in some other capacity.“
The FBI profile continues in this vein and I will delve into it in more depth in a future post. What is startling here however, is the fact that the Victoria Police relied upon this profile which the FBI constructed based on false information! This is not to mention that the entire subject of the FBI method of profiling is an extremely controversial one and is considered to be a pseudoscience by many, with no peer-reviewed studies proving that it works, as is argued in this article. However, I will come back to the topic of the FBI method of profiling in a later post.
In a long article for The Age titled Brutal abductor breeds fear with cruelty, published 3 weeks after Karmein Chan’s abduction, Antony Catalano referred to the Lower Plenty attack. He gave the victim’s age as 11 and her brother’s as 7. He stated that the brother was tied up and locked in the wardrobe with his parents. Confusingly, he also 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. We will come back to this seeming contradiction later in the blog.
Catalano also gave a bizarre 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 victim 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. The problem with this claim is that there is no evidence it is true. 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.
A lack of mentions of the Lower Plenty attack
Operation Spectrum was the police taskforce set up to investigate the abduction of Karmein Chan. I will cover Operation Spectrum in more depth in a later post. Throughout the duration of this taskforce, from 1991-1994, the detectives on it asserted to the media that the abductor of Karmein Chan was probably the same person who had abducted both Nicola Lynas and Sharon Wills, and who had raped the girl in Lower Plenty. Despite this, a series of books were published in the following two decades which covered the Mr Cruel case which hardly mentioned the Lower Plenty attack. For example, Paul Anderson’s chapter on Mr Cruel from his 2003 book Dirty Dozen: Shocking Australian True-Crime Stories only included one sentence about the Lower Plenty attack. Larry Writer’s chapter on the Mr Cruel case in his 2008 book the Australian Book of True Crime, does not mention it at all. Colin McLaren, who was a detective on Operation Spectrum, included a chapter on the Mr Cruel case in his 2011 book Infiltration, but he also completely neglects to cover the Lower Plenty case.
“Her seven year old brother was forced to watch, tied to a bed”
In October 2007, the Police Life magazine published an article about Mr Cruel which included information about the Lower Plenty attack that had never been released previously. Indeed, it is unclear whether the information included was mistaken as I have not seen this information anywhere else. The article, by Sarah Campbell, included information based on an interview with Detective Senior Sergeant Chris O’Connor who had worked on Operation Spectrum. In describing Mr Cruel, the article stated “One of his victims, an 11 year old girl, was attacked as her seven year old brother was forced to watch, tied to a bed”. This is the only source which describes this detail of this attack, it does not even appear in Keith Moor’s extremely detailed summary of the attack in his 2016 article Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking child abductions for the Herald Sun.
“They believe the same man was responsible for attcks in Caulfield, Hawthorn, Brighton, Dingley and Donvale.”
John Silvester and Andrew Rule’s book Rats Crooks who Got Away with it : Tales of True Crime and Mystery from the Underbelly Archive, published in 2008, discusses the Lower Plenty case in a bit more detail. Their chapter on Mr Cruel makes the same uncorroborated claim that Antony Catalano made in his 1991 article that Mr Cruel was originally called Mr Cool. I suspect this was a mistake by Silvester and Rule that came from simply reading Catalano’s 1991 article and not checking the record to find other references in the media to this alleged moniker.
Silvester and Rule go on to link Mr Cruel to a series of crimes between 1985 and 1991 by an offender dubbed ‘the Hampton Rapist’. Silvester and Rule are the only authors known to have used this moniker. They wrote “There were several obvious similarities between Karmein Chan’s disappearance and other abductions attributed to the offender dubbed Mr Cruel. Mr Cruel would break into homes, sexually assault or abduct residents and go to extremes not to be identified. He often tied victims the same way and cut phone lines before leaving. 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 attcks 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.”
What is contradictory about this account by Silvester and Rule, is that, firstly, none of the contemporary newspaper articles from the time corroborate the idea that police in 1991 considered these earlier attacks by the ‘Hampton Rapist’ to be the same offender as Mr Cruel. Indeed, we know that the Victoria Police contacted the FBI in the week after the Karmein Chan abduction with information that the offender was only responsible for the four canonical attacks. Seconldy, another confusing point 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. 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.
“A man armed with a knife and a gun removed a pane of glass from the lounge room window and broke in to a family home about 4am.“
Silvester and Rule’s book goes on: “In that attack (the Lower Plenty one), a man armed with a knife and a gun removed a pane of glass from the lounge room window and broke in to a family home about 4am. He forced both parents onto their stomachs and tied their hands and feet before he locked them in a wardrobe. Their seven-year-old son was tied to a bed, and the eleven-year-old daughter was then attacked. he cut the phone lines and left after two hours in the house. He used knots favoured by truck drivers and farmers who need to secure loads. He also used sailing knots and others used by anglers for restringing musical instruments”.
This information about the Lower Plenty attack is striking for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the description of the entry to the household contradicted previous descriptions of the entry in which it was claimed the man had “smashed” the window to enter the property. Secondly, this description of the knots used to tie up the victims is unique and is not repeated even in the later in-depth articles by Keith Moor (although Moor does describe it as “expertly tied using knots commonly used by sailors and and those familiar with using rope to secure loads”).
Keith Moor’s Herald Sun article Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children
On 11 April 2012, to mark the 20th anniversary of the discovery of Karmein Chan’s remains, Keith Moor wrote an article for the Herald Sun titled Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children. The article was quite a comprehensive description of the attacks on the victims of the four canonical attacks. “The first victim police confirm was certainly attacked by Mr Cruel was an 11-year-old girl he raped in 1987. He removed a window pane in the lounge room her (sic) Lower Plenty home about 4am. Wearing a mask and carrying a small handgun and a large hunting knife, Mr Cruel woke the girl’s parents and forced them to lie on their stomachs while he expertly tied their hands and feet, using knots commonly tied by sailors and those familiar with securing loads. He then gagged them and put surgical tape over their eyes before locking them in their bedroom wardrobe. Their six-year-old son was blindfolded, gagged and tied to his bed.
“Mr Cruel then turned his attention to the real reason for the break-in – sexual gratification from the 11-year-old girl. He was in no hurry, spending about two hours in the house. So cool was he during the attack that he took a break from raping the girl to make himself a meal. He also searched the home and stole a box of classical records and a dark blue parka coat with a fake fur collar.
“The girl later told police he made a phone call from the house and threatened another family with physical violence. She said he warned the family to move their children or they would be in danger and that he had referred to the person he phoned as “Bozo”. A police check of telephone records revealed there was no such phone call. It was part of his modus operandi – setting up red herrings to distract police and make his capture less likely.”
This is the first time the telephone phone call has been described in this way – that the perpetrator did not actually make the call, but just pretended to. None of the newspaper reports from 1987 and 1988 mention this and this detail is also left out of Keith Moor’s next big article about the case for the Herald Sun in 2016. This is extremely confusing, and one might rightly ask why this is the case.
Keith Moor’s Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking child abductions
Perhaps the most comprehensive piece of writing on the Mr Cruel case was the article written by Keith Moor for the Herald Sun on 8 April 2016 Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking child abductions. It included a host of new information that had never been revealed previously, however, confusingly, it contradicted Moor’s own 2012 article, Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children, in regards to some key details.
“8 years old”
In regards to the Lower Plenty attack, it repeated the John Silvester and Andrew Rule description of Mr Cruel removing a window pane of the lounge room window to gain entry to the house. Moor gave the victim the pseudonym ‘Jill’ and said she was “11 years old”, before, describing her brother as “8 years old”. This boy has been described, in various sources, as being 6, 7 and 8 years old respectively, at the time of the attack.
“The parents were uncuffed and then restrained around the hands and ankles with nylon cord, which Mr Cruel expertly tied using knots commonly used by sailors and those familiar with using rope to secure loads.”
Moor stated that the perpetrator “was armed with a handgun, kitchen knife, handcuffs and nylon cord. He went to the main bedroom first, forced the parents onto their stomachs and handcuffed their hands and ankles. Mr Cruel then went to the children’s rooms, woke them up and took them to the parents’ bedroom. He told them he was going to rob them. The parents were uncuffed and then restrained around the hands and ankles with nylon cord, which Mr Cruel expertly tied using knots commonly used by sailors and those familiar with using rope to secure loads. Jill’s brother was tied to the bed and Jill’s hands were tied with the cord. All the victims were then gagged with electrical tape and the children were blindfolded with surgical tape. Mr Cruel asked Jill her name, was told it, but later wrongly and repeatedly referred to her as Kate (not her real name). He also asked the father’s clothes size, saying he was about the same size. He demanded cash and a first aid kit and said he needed some clothes, a shower, some food and wanted to shave. Mr Cruel then removed various items from the wardrobe and forced both parents inside it and put a bed blanket over them. He used the bedroom phone, but did not make a connection. Mr Cruel then went to other rooms in the house before returning to the main bedroom. He then made another call, this time connecting, and made threats into the phone. The word “bozo” was used. Mr Cruel then shut the wardrobe door and locked it. He left the room and returned soon after with a radio and turned it to 3KZ loudly to drown out the sounds of him assaulting Jill in the bathroom. He made Jill clean her teeth and bathe. Mr Cruel led Jill into the kitchen, where he ate some cold lamb, biscuits, milk and orange juice. With his hunger satisfied, Mr Cruel then led Jill to the lounge room, where he assaulted her again before dumping her in a lounge chair. He left the room for about 10 minutes, during which he checked on the welfare of the parents and Jill’s brother. Mr Cruel returned to the lounge and led the terrified Jill to a seat in the spare room. He left her there for a short time before returning and tying her ankles together with nylon cord. He told Jill he was leaving and that she should count to 100 before freeing herself and her family. Jill later told police she heard the front door close and she then released herself and then freed her parents and brother. It is possible Mr Cruel chose Jill as his victim after seeing her photograph in a local newspaper which carried an article about her and her family. Jill was attacked just a few days after the article was published.”
Moor then listed some quotes Mr Cruel had uttered during the attack. To the girl’s parents he had said: “Be quiet and don’t move or I’ll hurt someone” and “Get into the wardrobe and sit down. Get into the closet and kneel down.” and “All I want is money, food and clothes. How much money is in the house?”
To the victim he had said “What’s your name? How old are you?” and “Clean your teeth” and “I’m going out now so count to 100 slowly then you can free your parents.”
Moor then listed details of the description of the perpetrator as given by the victim’s family. “Australian. 178cm to 183cm tall, of slim to medium build with brown, greyish/white hair with white spots in it. (Note how this differs to the 173 to 175cm description that was given in the original 1987 press reports about the man. There was also no mention of greyish/white hair in the original press reports where he was described as “brown hair and slim build”). He possibly had dandruff and his hair was protruding from beneath his balaclava. Greyish/white bushy eyebrows. Aged in his mid 20s. (Again this is inconsistent with the original press reports where he was described as in his 30s.) Had a gruff voice, deepish/nervous/uneducated. Suffered from bad breath (musty smell). Was unshaven, with a couple of days growth. Oval face, soft hands, possibly right handed. Wearing blue denim jeans, good condition, close fitting, a brown tweed sports jacket, possibly rust coloured, a blue nylon waterproofed zip up jacket, blue runners with white flashes down the side, white soles in good condition and white cotton socks. His balaclava was navy blue with an open face and some type of material covering the eye area. His gloves were light in colour, possibly yellow and were of the dishwashing or surgical type.”
Moor then gave a description of items that were stolen by the perpetrator during the attack. “A tartan shirt, men’s size in red, black and yellow. $250 cash. A gold engagement ring of 18 carat yellow gold with a single white diamond. The diamond was on a gold mounting with four claws and had the number 4132 stamped inside and was worth $2500 in 1987. A gent’s dark blue cotton parka with a fake black fur collar. It was slightly padded with a distinctive zip in the left arm. The parka was made in Ecuador and was branded Ecuadorean (sic) Shirt Company. A pair of men’s trousers, 82cm-85cm, possibly Roger David brand. Light blue/grey with a small check and of straight leg design. A Gillette safety razor in a blue plastic box with a clear lid. A dark brown vinyl bag.”
Moor then gave a description of the weapons and equipment Mr Cruel used in the attack. “Small black handgun, pistol type. Knife, kitchen, black handle, silver blade about 20cm long. At least four sets of handcuffs. Nylon coated cord, white and red/white. Electrical tape, adhesive, roll of red, roll of green and roll of blue. Elastoplast. Material bag, dark bluish/grey or light grey colour, similar to school library bag.”
Why all the contradictions?
Without doubt Keith Moor’s 2016 article provided the public with more information about this attack than any other single document had done to date. It has clearly been the chief source that was relied on in the production of a number of notable podcast series about the case like Casefile and True Blue True Crime. However, some of the information in the article clearly contradicted information in Moor’s 2012 article Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children. Furthermore, these contradictions cannot simply be explained by Moor correcting the record as, in his 2019 book Mugshots 1, co-written with Geoff Wilkinson, his description of the Lower Plenty attack reverts back to the same one he had described in the 2012 Herald Sun article. For example, the boy is referred to as being 6 years old in his 2012 article, then 8 years old in his 2016 article, and then back to 6 years old in his 2019 book! Yes, the 2019 book is an update of a book that was originally published in 2003, but why does it contain the old description of the Lower Plenty attack? The 2012 article (and the 2019 book) also stated that the boy was tied to his own bed by the perpetrator. Whereas, in the 2016 article, Moor simply says the boy was “tied to the bed”. Since the description of the attack at this stage is occurring in the parents’ bedroom, the reader can only presume that the boy was tied to the parents’ bed. Why the incongruities?
Each of his descriptions also differ in key respects to the contemporary press reports and this raises the serious question of why this is the case. Moor did not reveal where he got his information. Yet his 2016 account raises a number of questions I feel should be answered. Why does his account state that the perpetrator was in his 20s when the original press reports said that the man was in his 30s? Why does Moor’s information state that the man was 178-183cm in height when the first press reports said that he was 173-175cm in height? Why does Moor’s account say that the perpetrator “connected” when he made his second call from the telephone, yet his 2012 article, and his 2019 book, and Xanthe Mallett’s account suggests this was a ruse and there was nobody on the other end. What was the actual age of the girl and her brother and why do we have so many contradictory accounts of it, with the girl’s age ranging from 11-12 and the boy’s ranging from 6 to 8? Why did Moor’s account say that the parents were not blindfolded with surgical tape, only the children were, yet the original press reports in 1987 stated the parents were also? Indeed why did the 2007 Police Life article state that the boy was “forced to watch” as the perpetrator attacked the girl, yet this account has not been repeated anywhere else (apart from a blog post by a woman who claims she was in the same grade 5 class as the victim)? Why do some accounts neglect to mention that the girl was assaulted in the bathroom, while other accounts state she was only assaulted in the lounge room (and Chris O’Connor’s account in Australian True Crime Stories seems to suggest the sexual assault only occurred in the bathroom, we will get to this below)? Was the lounge room window “smashed” or did the perpetrator “remove the window pane”. There is so much contradictory information surrounding this case I believe the Victoria Police should answer these questions once and for all so as to prevent the spread of incorrect information about it, which could in turn harm the chances of a breakthrough in the case.
Some misinformation about the exact location of the Lower Plenty attack.
The address of the house where the Lower Plenty attack occurred has never been revealed. When the Herald Sun published a series of articles to mark the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Karmein Chan in April 2016, one of the articles included an interactive map made with a mapmaking tool named Storymap. It showed the exact locations of houses from which the three abducted girls were taken. It also included a location for the Lower Plenty attack, but this was only ever intended to be an approximate location, and the marker was placed on a random spot in Lower Plenty. This had the inadvertent effect of causing some internet users to mistakenly believe that the attack occurred on or off Para Road in Lower Plenty. In fact, the American blogger who goes by the name Gian J. Quasar who runs the blog Questersite, claimed in July 2017 in his own series of blog posts on the Mr Cruel crimes that the Lower Plenty attack occurred in a house “off Para Road”. However, this is not correct. As a result of this misinformation, I have encountered a number of individuals who are interested in this case who falsely believe this is where the attack occurred. Furthermore, there are a number of other factual errors in this blog, which is essentially just a rehash of Keith Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun articles, but the author editorialises for entertainment value throughout the series. This blog is not a credible source for information about this case.
The fact of the matter is we know the Lower Plenty attack occurred in the part of Lower Plenty near the border with Eltham since some newspaper articles described it as occurring in the “Lower Plenty-Eltham” or “Eltham-Lower Plenty” region. I will not reveal the exact location as this is not something the police have ever released publicly. I have marked it on the map at a random location in the part of Lower Plenty near the border of Eltham. Below is a Melway map from 1987 of the area in question. Take note of the SEC transmission lines which cut across this area, and the old SEC site on the left-hand side of the map. SEC sites and transmission lines feature prominently throughout the Mr Cruel story, and I will do a future post on this unexpected correlation. Also, take note of ‘Tennis City’ in the upper right of this image, as tennis also features strongly in this story. The area in the bottom left in yellow is a Christian Brothers ‘Youth Training Centre’.
Cold Case Investigations by Xanthe Mallett2019
In August 2019, criminologist Xanthe Mallett published a book which included a chapter on the Mr Cruel series. In describing the Lower Plenty attack Mallett repeated the assertion that the perpetrator in the Lower Plenty attack “removed a window pane in the lounge”. She wrote that he “forced the parents at gunpoint to lie on their stomachs” and “he also had a small knife”. Remember, this differs to the original press reports of the period which described the knife as “large”. She states that “surgical tape was put over their eyes”, which differs from Moor’s account that it was only put over the eyes of the children. She refers to the age of the boy as “6 years old”, and that he was “tied to his bed”. She refers to the girl as “11 years old”. Mallett does not mention the attack on the girl that others said had occurred in the bathroom before she was told to “clean her teeth”. Rather she states that the perpetrator “assaulted her” after he told her to clean her teeth. She states that the perpetrator “cut the phone lines”, which is different to the Innes Willox 12 May 1988 article which states that “he ripped the telephone from the wall”. Mallett stated the attacker “pretended to make a phone call, using the term ‘Bozo’ to the person on the other end, saying that the other person needed to move their children, otherwise they would be in danger”, which is a direct copy of Bruce Tobin’s 4 September 1987 article from The Sun. In regards to the phone calls made from the house Mallett stated: “Later the police checked and no call had been made”. She goes on: “The conclusion drawn was that this was an attempt to hide his true motives. As was the theft of the personal items, a ruse to distract and confuse the police”. As stated earlier, this account contains the same information included in the 2012 Keith Moor article and the 2019 Wilkinson/Moor book, but differs to Moor’s 2016 article. It also differs to the accounts of the attack in the newspaper articles that were published in 1987 and 1988.
Later in the chapter, Mallett speculated on the likely location of Mr Cruel’s residence remarking on the relevance of the “geographic spread”of the attacks and concludes that “the first and fourth attacks (meaning the Lower Plenty attack and the Karmein Chan abduction) were so close together that it is likely the offender lived close to where these incidents happened.” This is possibly information she took directly from the FBI profile report which, as we saw earlier, was based on incorrect information provided by Victoria Police.
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. Did you notice the other 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. The amount of contradictory information out there in this case is truly staggering! (NB: I discovered in June 2021 that this attack on the 48-year-old woman in Moonee Ponds was actually ruled out as being the work of Mr Cruel and Christopher Clarence Hall was charged with the attack in 1994).
One clear mistake in Mallett’s work is that the audio version of Mallett’s book pronounces Karmein Chan’s name incorrectly, pronouncing the name “Karmine” throughout. Additionally, Karmein’s sister Karly’s is spelt incorrectly as “Karlie” throughout the book.
Mysteriously, Mallett also quoted Watson-Munro as saying: “There were a number of other crimes involving the detention and rape of adult women”, but then does not say which attacks these are, so it is unclear if what are being referred to here, is the Warrandyte, Donvale, Bulleen and Greensborough attacks.
Dancing with Demons Tim Watson-Munro 2017
I was only recently notified by a fellow researcher who takes an interest in this case that Tim Watson-Munro published his own book called Dancing with Demons in 2017. There is one sentence about the Moonee Ponds attack in that book: “Police asked me to profile this bloke [Mr Cruel], long before he became famous. The police were concerned after a number of break-ins and rapes in the inner Melbourne suburbs. One involved the rape of an elderly nun.” One can only speculate that Mr Watson-Munro has simply remembered this case incorrectly in referring to the victim as “an elderly nun”. She was certainly not reported as being “elderly” as it was reported at the time of the crime that she was 48 years old, and this was stated in numerous contemporary sources. Whether the woman was a nun or a former nun however, I do not feel like I can speculate on. Xanthe Mallett may have come across Tim Watson-Munro’s book in researching her own book and interviewed him about the case and, it being 30 years ago, perhaps Mr Watson-Munro has simply misremembered the details? Or did the police intentionally give the wrong age of the woman so that she could not easily be identified? Regardless, as mentioned previously, Christopher Clarence Hall was charged with the attack on the Moonee Ponds victim in 1994.
In 2019, the Nine Network released a documentary about the Mr Cruel series of crimes. It was written and directed by Adam Shand and showed some interesting archival news footage which could not be found previously on the internet and included interviews with retired detective Chris O’Connor and journalist Keith Moor.
Looking at the facts presented about the Lower Plenty case, Shand gave the victim’s age as 11. Chris O’Connor said the attacker “went to the children’s bedroom and there were two children in there, one was the victim and one was her sibling. The sibling was harnessed to the bed and the 11 year old was taken out of the bedroom to the bathroom. At the completion of the sexual assault he ate some food, had some drink. He stole a quantity of money and some jewellery and clothing from the family and he left via the front door.” What is notable about this is that firstly, this account seems to suggest that the children slept in the same bedroom, whereas other accounts had previously stated the attacker went and got them from their “rooms” plural. Also, it seems to indicate that the boy was tied to his bed in this bedroom and not, as is suggested elsewhere, in the parents’ master bedroom. It also indicates that the girl was sexually assaulted in the bathroom, but at no point does it mention she was assaulted in the lounge room as is suggested in all other accounts. So, yet again we have an account which seems to raise more questions than answers.
During the account given by Chris O’Connor a visual dramatisaton is shown of the attacker invading the home. Only, the man is shown wearing a full balaclava with no opening for the face, which is different to the actual one that was used in the attack. It seems the producers of the program erred here, as in the dramatisation they play for the Sharon Wills attack, the offender is depicted with an open-faced balaclava and wearing a brown tweed coat over a raincoat which is what the attacker was wearing in the Lower Plenty attack, and they also show the police sketch of the intruder as he appeared in the Lower Plenty attack. This means they mixed up the appearance of the intruder from the two attacks.
The program also repeats the mistake that Nicola Lynas was abducted during school holidays which we will delve into more in the future post about Nicola. What is interesting about this program is that it provides some original information about the 14 year old female Hampton attack victim from 1985, but I will discuss that also, in a future post.
Interview with Retired Detective Valentine Simpson
In February 2021 I visited retired detective Valentine Simpson and his wife Mary at their home to interview Val about his involvement in the taskforce that was set up to investigate the Lower Plenty attack. Now, 80 years old, and 95% blind, Mr Simpson had in recent years suffered a stroke that had also slightly affected his speech. What was immediately clear however, was that his mind was sound and he still had a strong attachment to this case. “I didn’t catch the bugger and that’s the worst part of it”, he told me.
Val and his wife Mary were kind, welcoming people and Val was happy to discuss his experience of the case as long as it did not involve a discussion of any of the confidential details of it, such as the identity of the family concerned, the address of where it occurred, or any of the confidential crime scene information.
I started off by reading Val the 4 September 1987 The Sun article by Bruce Tobin, which mentions the phone calls that the offender was said to have made, to remind him of the case. He told me that he decided to release the information about the threatening phone call that was made by the offender because he had used the word ‘Bozo’, and because this was such an unusual word there was a good chance it might “jog someone’s memory” who knew someone who used that word.
Val also told me that he always felt that, whoever the offender was, it was someone who was very analytical and someone with a great deal of forensic knowledge because he did not leave a trace of evidence. Val described it as “the perfect unperfect crime scene” and that he had not seen anything like it in all his years of police work. Val told me that there were a few things he could not tell me about the crime scene which had not been released to the public.
I then asked him whether this had ever led him to suspect that the perpetrator might have been someone involved with the police and he replied “of course. Police, medical, forensics, we went through all those things”. When I suggested the perpetrator might have been someone who had been in prison before and so was determined to cover up their tracks to avoid a return to jail, Val replied: “Maybe, but I think it was someone who had a greater knowledge than that, but that’s just my opinion.” He repeated that it was highly unusual for an offender not to leave a trace in all his years of investigating.
I referred to the point that was made in the 12 May 1988 Innes Willox article which stated that the rope used in the Moonee Ponds attack was not a rope that was found in Australia and Val said: “No, I went to all the rope factories and they all said ‘it’s not made in Australia, it’s from overseas'”.
Even 34 years after the attack one of the things that struck me about Val was that he still had a deep concern about the victims of crime and particularly this one. Mary said Val would regularly stay up to 3am working on the case and then get up at 5am. Val said “when you’ve met the parents and girl, you become attached to them sort of. When you investigate, you put everything into your victim”, he said. “When you don’t catch the bloke you feel like you’ve failed your victim”.
Val described to me how when he was on the taskforce he worked about 12 hours a day 7 days a week reading up on every Australian rape case he could in an attempt to make a link. Val said at the time he had decided that this attacker was a “serial rapist” as he was confident the Lower Plenty attack had such strong similarities to the Donvale rape of 1985 and one other that he could not remember, but he could not remember making any links to the 1987 Greensborough attempted rapes.
Interestingly, when I brought up the Moonee Ponds attack of the 48 year old “nun” or “former nun”, Val said he “thought they had caught the bloke for that”. This was news to me, so I questioned Val as to whether he was sure and he said: “I think he was caught…I may be wrong on that”. Val said he was definitely called to the crime scene for the Moonee Ponds attack, but he was not sure if it was linked to the Lower Plenty attack. I informed Val of Xanthe Mallett’s 2019 book and how she had stated that Mr Cruel was responsible for the Moonee Ponds attack as recently as 2019. When I informed Val of the discrepancy between Innes Willox’s article of 12 May 1988 and Xanthe Mallett’s book of 2019, in that the former claimed the perpetrator walked to the bank and the latter stated he used the woman’s car, Val said he couldn’t remember which the offender had done, but felt like it might have been the latter.
Val did mention however, how, like in the Lower Plenty attack, he could not find the maker of the rope that was used in the Moonee Ponds crime. In fact, he said he could not find the maker of the rope that was used in any of these crimes.
I asked Val if he had any involvement in the investigations of the Warrandyte and Bulleen attacks and he replied: “I examined them very closely because when we were doing our initial investigations into all the rapes, I examined the reports of those crimes very closely.”
Val’s wife Mary at this point said “When you get to Karmein Chan, Val has a theory about that”. I said that I’d love to hear it and Val stated confidently: “In my opinion, Karmein Chan was not Mr Cruel”. When I asked why he thought that, Val responded: “For one, it’s a completely different MO. For starters, the spray-painting on the car, a completely different MO. He (meaning the Lower Plenty attacker), left nothing. Everything was just too different from his normal process.”
Mary also pointed out that retired police wear their hearts on their sleeves and, in any case where the crime goes unsolved, they beat themselves up about it. She recalled that when Karmein Chan was found to have been murdered in 1992, Val had told a colleague how guilty he felt because he had failed to catch Mr Cruel since they had said the offender was responsible for Karmein Chan’s death. Val had said “I didn’t catch him and now look at what’s happened”, Val’s colleague replied: “the operative word Val is ‘we’. ‘We’ didn’t catch him.” But, later, Mary said, Val had decided: “It’s not him” because, he said, “to me the MO was completely different”.
Getting back to the topic of the identity of Mr Cruel, Val said that “it was probably someone who had a very good knowledge of forensic investigation”. On the question of whether Mr Cruel was still alive, Val said he wasn’t sure. “If he’s still alive, why’s he gone so quiet?”, he asked.
It struck me that Val still took his responsibility very seriously, he remained very professional throughout the interview and did not disclose any confidential information about this crime.
There are a number of contradictions in the reporting of facts about the Lower Plenty attack. Therefore, it is important to consider all sources before overly relying on any one source. Highlighted below is a list of these contradictions as have been established in this blog post.
Girl victim’s age: variously 11 or 12 years old.
Brother’s age: variously 6, 7 or 8 years old.
The location and circumstances of the sexual assault on the girl. Variously, brother was harnessed to bed in bedroom she shared with her brother; the brother was tied to the parents’ bed in the master bedroom; the girl was sexually assaulted in the bathroom; or in the bathroom and the lounge room; or only in the lounge room; the boy was forced to watch the sexual assault (unclear how latter could occur if boy was blindfolded with surgical tape).
Circumstances surrounding the blindfolding of the victims: variously, the parents and children were blindfolded with surgical tape; only the children were blindfolded with surgical tape.
The circumstances of the entry into the home: variously, the window was smashed; smashed with a brick; or the window pane was removed.
The circumstances of the phone calls that were made: variously, a number of phone calls were made; a connection was made on the second call and the perpetrator threatened someone who answered on the other end; two calls were made, both of which were the attacker just pretending he was speaking to someone.
The circumstances surrounding the cutting of the phone line: variously, no mention of it; the perpetrator pulled the phone from the wall; the perpetrator cut the line.
The knife used in the attack: variously described as large; or small.
The physical characteristics of the intruder: variously, 173-175 cm tall; about 175 cm tall; 178-183 cm tall.
The age of the offender: variously, in his 20s; or in his 30s.
Whether the Moonee Ponds attack is linked to the Lower Plenty attack at all (unlikely given Christopher Clarence Hall was convicted of this attack in 1994).
The age and information of the Moonee Ponds victim: variously, a 48 year old woman; a 48 year old former nun; an elderly nun.
Circumstances of the attack on the Moonee Ponds victim: variously, the intruder walked to the bank to steal the woman’s money; or the intruder drove the woman’s car to the bank.
I call on detectives who have worked on this case to set the record straight about the above contradictions in order to prevent misinformation about the case circulating in society.
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.
Mr Cruel is the moniker for a serial rapist, and most probably murderer, who terrorised Melbourne in the late 80s and early 90s. He was never caught and punished for his crimes. There continues to be some debate as to exactly which crimes were his, but it seems that most detectives who worked on the Mr Cruel case agree that he was responsible for at least four attacks in the eastern suburbs on girls aged between 10 and 13 between 1987 and 1991. The first attack involved a rape of an 11 or 12 year old girl, while the second and third attacks involved abductions and assaults. The last attack ended in the infamous murder of Karmein Chan.
However, more attacks have been attributed to him during investigations over the years, with a total of ten attacks having been attributed to him by journalists who have interviewed detectives about the case. These ten attacks stretch back to 1985 and involve home invasions and rapes of adults and children from the age of 14 and up.
This overview will first look at the 4 cases that are considered the canonical Mr Cruel attacks, which, it seems, most detectives agree were the work of Mr Cruel, before then looking at the lesser known attacks that have at some point been attributed to Mr Cruel in the media.
The Canonical Attacks
The first case of the canonical Mr Cruel attacks was that which occurred on 22 August 1987 in Lower Plenty. In this case the perpetrator wearing an open-faced balaclava and armed with a handgun, a knife and carrying a rape kit, broke into a house at an unknown address and tied up the parents in the household and their 6 or 7 year old son (sources differ on the ages here), before raping the 11 or 12 year old daughter over a period of 2 hours. The location of this house has never been revealed publicly, nor has the identity of the family in question. (1) (2)
The second canonical attack occurred in the early hours of 27 December 1988. This time the attack occurred in the home of the Wills family at 11 Hillcrest Avenue, Ringwood. The perpetrator broke into the house and tied up the parents before abducting a 10-year-old girl – Sharon Wills – from her bedroom and taking her to a waiting vehicle. He drove Sharon to his lair at an unidentified location where she was assaulted. He then dumped her 18 hours later at Bayswater High School, Bayswater.
The third of the canonical attacks occurred on 3 July 1990, when Mr Cruel broke into the expensive rented home of the Lynas family, at 10 Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury. This time the parents were not home, but Nicola Lynas (13) and her sister Fiona (15) were sleeping in their bedrooms. Mr Cruel woke them up before tying Fiona to her bed and abducting Nicola. He took the family’s rented car keys and stole their car before driving Nicola to Chaucer Avenue, just a few streets away. From here he bundled Nicola into his own car and drove her back to his lair. Here he assaulted her, and held her captive for a period of 50 hours, before dumping her in the early hours of her 14th birthday at an electricity substation in Kew.
Lastly, the fourth of the canonical attacks. This time the attack occurred on 13 April 1991 in the wealthy suburb of Templestowe at 111 Serpells Road where Karmein Chan (13) and her two sisters, Karly (9) and Karen (7) were at home alone watching television. A masked man broke into the house before bundling Karly and Karen into a wardrobe and pushing a bed up against it to block their exit. He then abducted Karmein and she was never seen alive again.
Almost one year to the day later, a man was walking his dogs along Edgars Creek in Thomastown when his dogs were attracted to something protruding from the earth in a landfill site at that location. It was a human skull, that of a young female. Police were confident it was Karmein’s and lab tests later confirmed that it was indeed hers.
The Karmein Chan murder was the last crime that has been attributed to Mr Cruel. However, some people believe there is not enough evidence to link the Karmein Chan case to the first three canonical attacks because, unlike in the first three canonical attacks, police could not interview her about her attacker. Adding to this confusion, police maintain that Mr Cruel was almost certainly responsible for a number of other attacks besides the four canonical ones, but have kept their lips tight about these cases. Nevertheless, a scouring of the contemporary newspaper articles reveals a number of other attacks which were attributed to Mr Cruel in the late 1980s. On top of this, research by other journalists has revealed information about some of the other attacks some detectives believe to be the work of Mr Cruel.
Other attacks attributed to Mr Cruel
The first of these occurred on an unknown date in February 1985, when, at 9pm at night, a man abducted a 14 year old girl from her Hampton home at an unknown address. He then drove the girl to a vacant building site and sexually assaulted her, before dumping her at Moorabbin Bowl, a ten-pin bowling business on Nepean Highway.
Then, on an unknown date in July 1985, a 14 year old boy was abducted from his Hampton home at an unknown address at 8:25pm. He was taken to an unknown residence and imprisoned for just over 3 hours and was sexually assaulted. He was then released in Caulfield South at 11:45pm.
Both of these Hampton attacks were revealed by Keith Moor in an article (3)he wrote for the Herald Sun in 2016 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Karmein Chan abduction. It is not clear why detectives believe these attacks may be the work of Mr Cruel other than that they seem to have borne many of the same hallmarks that the canonical attacks featured.
Other attacks that have been attributed to Mr Cruel are three attacks that occurred in December of 1985. The first of these occurred on 4 December, when a 30 year old woman was raped in her home in Warrandyte at an unknown address by a man wearing a balaclava and armed with a sawn off shotgun. Then, on 6 December, a 30 or 35 year old woman (depending on source) was raped in her home in Donvale at an unknown address by a man armed with a rusty revolver or a long-barrelled handgun (depending on source). Finally, on 7 December, a 34 year old woman was asleep in bed with her 6 year old daughter at her Bulleen home at an unknown address when she was awoken by a man at about 11:30pm and raped. (4) He was armed with a silver pistol or sawn off shotgun. In all three of these cases the attacker wore a balaclava or hood, and blindfolded, bound and gagged his victims, (2)which is a very similar modus operandi to the later attacks.
The last attack that has been attributed to Mr Cruel in the media is the Moonee Ponds rape of a 48 year-old woman which occurred on 11 November 1988. The attacker entered the woman’s home before binding, gagging raping her. He then left her bound up, stole the woman’s ATM card and drove to a bank before stealing $300 from her bank account. He then returned to her house and raped her again. (2)(I discovered in June 2021 that the Ascot Vale Rapist Christopher Clarence Hall was found to have been responsible for the Moonee Ponds attack in 1994. That same year he was jailed for 29 years for this and other attacks).
In November 1987, the Warrandyte-Donvale-Bulleen attacks of December 1985 were linked with the Lower Plenty attack and the Moonee Ponds attack. A taskforce was then set up to try to establish any connection between them. By May 1988 the taskforce were convinced the Donvale, Lower Plenty and Moonee Ponds attacks were linked whereas at least 17 other attacks were deemed to be possibly linked, but it is unknown which attacks were being referred to here. It is unknown if the Warrandyte, Donvale and Bulleen attacks were ever ruled out as being the work of Mr Cruel. (5)
So, this has been an overview of the case. In the future I will be giving an in-depth analysis of each of the canonical cases and then I will write some posts about some possible theories I have in this case.
In the meantime here is a detailed map I made of the case which helps you navigate the important locations. Zoom in on the eastern suburbs of Melbourne to see the tagged areas where the important events in this case occurred. Each tag is clickable and contains more information on each event.
Here is a Youtube video that explains how to use the map.