Mr Cruel 1 – Overview of Case

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)

A police sketch of Mr Cruel in the Lower Plenty Attack 22 August 1987
‘Police warn that armed rapist might strike again’, Greg Burchall, The Age, 29 August 1987

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.

Police Sketch of how Mr Cruel looked during the Sharon Wills attack 27 December 1988
Sharon Wills before her abduction in 1988

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.

Police sketch of how Mr Cruel looked in Nicola Lynas abduction 3 July 1990
Nicola Lynas before her abduction in 1990

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.  

Karmein Chan before her abduction in 1991.

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.  

Landfill site where Karmein Chan’s remains were found in Thomastown 9 April 1992

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.  It is possible it is because they occurred in Hampton, which is where one of the main suspects in the Mr Cruel case, convicted rapist, Dr. Brian Alan Elkner, lived until March 1985 (more on him at a later date). 

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.

New silver gun terror in rapes’, Michael Reid, The Sun News Pictorial, 9 December 1985

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).

‘Police hunt for Mr ‘Cruel”, Jim Tennison, The Sun News Pictorial, 19 November 1987

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)

‘Police ask for help in tracking rapist linked to 20 attacks’ Innes Willox, The Age, 10 May 1988

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.

Eamonn Gunning
Melbourne Marvels 26/01/2020

Sources:

  1. Burchall, Greg Police warn that armed rapist might strike again, The Age, 29 August 1987.
  2. Tennison, Jim Police hunt for Mr ‘Cruel’, The Sun News Pictorial, 19 November 1987.
  3.  Moor, Keith Victoira Police and FBI Dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks, The Herald Sun, 8 April 2016 (paywalled).
  4. Reid, Michael, New silver gun terror in rapes, The Sun News Pictorial, 9 December 1985.
  5. Willox, Innes, Police ask public for help in tracking rapist linked to 20 attacks, The Age, 11 November 1988.