A note on the name of the victim.
Throughout the years, the victim of this abduction has variously been referred to as Nicola, Nicole, Nicky, Nicki and Nikki in a variety of media publications. Since Nicola is her birth name I will use this name in this blog.
The Mr Cruel crimes remain unsolved, and my hope is that by keeping the spotlight on this series of crimes that it may contribute in some way to answers for the victims of the offender. The majority of the information about this case in the public forum comes from a series of newspaper articles written by the award-winning journalist Keith Moor for the Herald-Sun in 2016 to mark the 25 year anniversary of the abduction of Karmein Chan. Moor’s articles were based on files he had received, not through official channels, but from an unnamed source. However, in researching the case, by reading all of the contemporary newspaper articles and watching archival footage on it, I couldn’t help but notice a number of contradictions between the information that was presented to the public at the time of the crimes and the information about the case that Moor presented in his 2016 Herald Sun article. Therefore, this blog post is to be a presentation of the original reports and a presentation of the facts as written in a number of books about the case. It will then compare these details with Moor’s 2016 article and highlights some of the contradications.
Lastly, I conduct an analysis of all we know about Nicola’s abduction in an attempt to offer some insights about the profile of the offender. Hopefully, having presented all of the information that is on the public record in this case I will be able to offer something constructive about the type of offender we are looking for.
The first time any media reported on Nicola’s abduction was on the afternoon of 4 July 1990 when the police held a press conference. The ABC reported on the crime in their evening news that day, but used footage of the wrong house. They said that the intruder entered the house when he “forced his way in through a rear window”. It also stated that Nicola was known as “Nicki” and that she was the daughter of a chartered accountant. “Nicola and her sister had been alone in the house while her parents were out having dinner with friends.” Journalist Cheryl Hall stated “police say the man was armed with a knife and a handgun and used the weapons to threaten the girls. They say it appears he had been watching the home and knew the teenagers were alone”.
The offender had then tied up her older sister and told her to inform their father that he would safely return Nicola if he paid a ransom of $25,000. The police also said the girls had been “petrified, but Nicola left with the man in her father’s rented car without a struggle. She was wearing turquoise pajama pants, a light-coloured t-shirt and a maroon sweatshirt.” It went on to state that she was also wearing a “navy-blue baseball cap” and that the family were from England where they were planning to return to soon, something which Nicola was happy about.
The news piece then showed footage of a female journalist asking an unnamed police detective (later established to be Ron Blackshaw) at the press conference, “how much danger do you think she’s in?” The detective replied: “You draw your own conclusions with a 13-year old girl, a naive 13-year old girl in the hands of a kidnapper. The mind absolutely boggles with what could happen.” The news piece then went on to state that the vehicle that had been stolen from the Lynas home had been discovered that afternoon a short distance away in Chaucer Crescent. The report continued by stating that the man police wanted to question was “approximately 30-years old, softly spoken with an Australian accent. He was last seen wearing dark jeans and a dark skivvy.”
On 5 July 1990 The Sun News Pictorial published the first newspaper article on the Nicola Lynas abduction, an article by Brian Walsh, titled Girl kidnap fears. It stated that police thought the kidnapper might be the same man who had taken Sharon Wills. Nicola had been taken at 11:40pm on 3 July, a Tuesday night. Both she and her sister Fiona, 15, had been asleep when the intruder broke in. Police said they thought he had “forced a window at the back of the house.” The girl’s parents had been attending a farewell party at another house. Detective Inspector Ron Blackshaw said that the man had threatened the two girls with a handgun and a knife.
Blacksaw had said the two girls were extremely frightened and so had not resisted the intruder. He tied up Fiona and left her on her bed before taking Nicola to another room where he made her get her “Presbyterian Ladies College blazer, tunic, and runners.” He then told Fiona that he would only release her sister if their father paid a ransom of $25,000. He had then forced Nicola to get into the family’s Holden Berlina, which was later found dumped “less than a kilometre away in Chaucer Crescent.”
The abductor had not told Fiona how her father could pay the ransom and he had failed to contact the Lynas family since. Inspector Blacksaw said that it appeared the kidnapper had been watching the family home, and he seemed to know the parents were not at home. The family had been living in Melbourne for about 4 years, but were originally from England, where they were due to return later that week. Nicola had been looking forward to returning to England where she was due to go to a private school.
Mr Lynas and his wife had arrived home just after midnight where they discovered the front door wide open and their car missing. On entering the home they found Fiona with her hands and feet tied lying on her bed. The article also stated “the major crime squad are investigating links between Nicola’s disappearance and other child abductions – particularly the Sharon Wills case.”
The article continued on page 2 under the title Grave fears for Nicola where it gave a summary of the Sharon Wills abduction 17 months previously. Nicola’s parents, it said, would not speak to journalists waiting outside their single-storey house. Nicola was described as being “162cm (5ft 4in) tall, slim, with a fair complexion, braces on her teeth, brown eyes, and medium shoulder-length brown hair. She was wearing a light colored (sic) T-shirt, a blue Presbyterian Ladies College blazer, a light turquoise pair of pyjama pants and a baseball cap.”
The article concluded by highlighting the exclusiveness of the street in which the family lived, Monomeath Avenue. It stated that many of the people who lived in the street were “wealthy people living in large homes with servants.”
On page 4 of the same newspaper, an article titled Street in shock and subtitled Kidnap baffles families by Andrew Mevissen and Brian Walsh, gave interviews with neighbours in Monomeath Avenue. It also contained a map of the house and the local area. A neighbour was quoted as saying “They’ve been renting the house for only a few months and we never saw them much. I knew they were going back to England this week but that’s about all. This is the first time something like this has happened in this street. It’s usually very quiet. I didn’t see or hear anything unusual at all”. Former Premier of Victoria, Sir Rupert Hamer, who lived at the opposite end of Monomeath Avenue, was quoted as stating: “I know they weren’t living there very long but I know nothing about what happened. It’s always sad when children are involved in things like this and it must be a terrible thing for the family to go through. I only hope the police are successful in finding the girl”.
The Vice Principal of Presbyterian Ladies College, was interviewed and expressed the concern staff and students at the school had for Nicola.
Below this article, also on page 4, there was an article by journalist Serena Williams about Sharon’s abduction 17 months previously. Interestingly, the offender was described as having a “young” voice, something that wasn’t reported at the time of that earlier abduction.
The Age reported on the same story that morning with an article by Paul Conroy, Peter Schwab and Jacqui MacDonald titled Girl, 13, abducted from home. We will pay $25,000. The article stated that the parents of Nicola Lynas had told police that they were prepared to pay the kidnapper’s ransom demand in order to secure their daughter’s release, something that had not been reported in The Sun earlier that day. In reporting on what clothes the kidnapper had taken from Nicola’s room, it listed the same clothes that were said to have been taken as in The Sun article, but added that underwear was also taken in a bag. The article named Nicola’s father as Brian Lynas “a partner with Price Waterhouse in London”. It added that “two police officers kept guard inside the house and monitored incoming telephone calls”. It also quoted Detective Inspector Ron Blackshaw as pleading with the kidnapper to contact him: “We are prepared to discuss any time, anywhere. Anything he wants to talk about”.
The article paraphrased the head of the police crime department, Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday, as earlier stating that policed had initially believed that the abduction may have been “staged because Nicola had not wanted to return to England”, but that police had since changed their minds on this and had visited Nicola’s school, Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood, and spoken to some of her classmates. It added that results of fingerprint tests on the family car that had been dumped at Chaucer Crescent were expected that day.
The article continued on page 7 where it described the vehicle that had been taken from the Lynas house and dumped in Chaucer Crescent as a “leased blue Holden Berlina, registered number DPG266, with a Waterford Soccer Club sticker on the rear windscreen”. (It is unclear if this refers to the League of Ireland football club Waterford F.C. and what association, if any, the family may have had with it). Interestingly, while the description given of the offender was largely the same as that given on the ABC News the previous day, they described the balaclava he was wearing as “black”, which would contradict the information that would emerge in the coming days when it was described as dark green, but we shall come back to this point later.
An article on page 7 of that day’s The Age, by Enrica Longo and Jacqui MacDonald titled Abducted girl was reluctant to leave Australia, stated that the family were “due to return to London later this week.” They had previously lived in Margaret Street, Canterbury, but moved in March to their new rented home on a dual occupancy site.” Brian Lynas “had been seconded to work in Australia at Price Waterhouse’s Melbourne headquarters in Spring Street.” Fifteen-year-old Fiona, and 13 year old Nicola were due to attend their last day at school at Presbyterian Ladies College on Friday 6 July. (Note, this is important information since, one year later when Karmein Chan was abducted, the media widely (and erroneously) reported the claim that all of the victims of Mr Cruel had been attacked or abducted during school holidays. However, this was clearly not the case with Nicola Lynas).
Vice Principal of Presybeterian Ladies’ College Mrs Mary Hutchings was quoted as describing Nicola, whose name was spelt “Nicky”, by saying “She was hard working, very balanced and stable girl (sic)…one of our best students.” The article stated that none of Nicola’s friends wanted to talk when questioned by journalists at the school. Mrs Hutchings said the girls were “obviously upset, but they’re not panicking. It’s early days yet.” Fiona was described as being in Year 11. Mrs Hutchings said the girls’ parents “were not greatly involved in school activities but attended the annual parent-teacher nights.”
The Lynases were described by neighbours as people who “kept to themselves” and they said that the house had been sold nine months previously. The article also claimed that police said that Nicola, a year nine student, was “not keen to leave”. It may be that this was false information as later, Brian Lynas disputed this claim.
Also on page seven of The Age that morning was an article by Jacqui MacDonald and Paul Conroy titled Abudctions are rare in Victoria. It described how a computer was being utilised to search for similar crimes to Nicola’s abduction and sifting through “dozens of previous crimes against children”. It continued: “Police from at least four squads worked into the early hours of the morning assessing the details of Nicola’s abduction and comparing them with crimes across Australia.” These types of crimes were rare in Victoria, it claimed, especially ones with ransom demands. It noted how in the cases of Sharon Wills, 10, and Eloise Worledge, eight, the abductors were never found. It then gave a description of what happened in the cases of both of these abductions. The article also went on to describe the exploits of Edwin John Eastwood who had participated in two high profile abductions of teachers and their pupils in the 1970s.
Interestingly, the article claimed that Australia’s first reported child abduction was the case of Graeme Thorne in Sydney in 1960, who was kidnapped with a ransom demand for 25,000 pounds five weeks after his parents had won a lottery prize of 100,000 pounds. This amount being the same as the amount demanded by Nicola’s abductor, albeit in a different currency, may have raised some eyebrows. Stephen Bradley had been convicted of kidnapping and murdering Graeme Thorne and sentenced to life imprisonment before dying in prison in 1968.
The last article that appeared in The Age on 5 July was titled Quiet street unlikely crime setting, by Kevin Childs, Enrica Longo and Tim Graham. It included a map of the local area. Note this map appeared to depict the location of where the family car was dumped as in the eastern section of Chaucer Crescent, however, I believe this is incorrect as it appears from later television news reports that the car was dumped on the western section of Chaucer Crescent, possibly close to Marlowe Street before the offender transferred Nicola to a different vehicle that was parked in a car park right near the corner of Canterbury Road and Chaucer Crescent (we will come back to this later). The article was largely about how exclusive the area was and how many of the properties on Monomeath Avenue were valued at over $1 million. The article largely mused on the type of exclusive cars that were being driven around the area – BMWs, Mercedeses, and Jaguars, and commented on the people who were walking past and visiting the Lynas residence as journalists watched from outside. A woman who was waiting for a friend who was visiting the Lynas residence spoke of how people in Italy constantly feared abduction and that her friends carried guns with them to protect against it. She now wondered whether Australia was becoming like this.
The Canberra Times reported in an article the same day mostly the same details as had been reported in The Age and The Sun. However, it added a quote by Ron Blackshaw: “It’s certain to me that he had been watching the house. The way he broke into the house would indicate that he knew the girls were alone”. It also added a time for when the girls’ parents arrived home, stating this occurred at 12.30am (note this will be contradicted later by both other newspaper accounts and Keith Moor’s 2016 account).
Numerous other newspaper articles were published around the country on 5 July about the kidnapping. While the details were mostly the same as has already been established some had slight differences. For example, in an article in The Adelaide Advertiser by Andrew Ramsey titled Kidnapper may have schoolgirl fetish, it was stated that police feared that the perpetrator “may have a schoolgirl fetish because he instructed Nicola to collect her Presbyterian Ladies College school uniform before they left the house”. However, it also stated that Fiona had been tied up and left on the floor, when every other paper suggested she was left on her bed.
The Ballarat Courier described the knife the offender carried as “a kitchen knife”. The Bendigo Advertiser ran with the headline Hooded man abducts girl, demands $25,000. The West Australian claimed “Police fear she has been taken by a sex pervert”. It also quoted Brian Lynas as stating: “She didn’t refuse to return home but we don’t know if she had any reservations about going back to England”.
The ABC News reported once again on 5 July 1990 on a police press conference that had occurred that evening at about 8:30pm. Daytime footage of the front entrance to 10 Monomeath Avenue was also shown in this report where reporter Cheryl Hall stated: “the evening Nicola was kidnapped was to be the last night in this home before returning to England on Sunday.” She also stated that Brian Lynas felt no anger towards the kidnapper and he was quoted as saying: “We have no remorse at all towards him, why he’s doing it or understand why he’s doing it…our real concern is with the child and if she’s listening to this as well we’re all there waiting to see her again and can’t wait to have her back with us.” The report also showed an interview with Judy Nicholls, a student coordinator of Presbyterian Ladies’ College who was quoted as saying “Some of (Nicola’s) close friends spent some time with one of our counsellors just going through how they felt and what they could do to help”.
The report also stated, whilst showing the released image of Nicola in her school uniform, “Nicki and Fiona, who share the same birthday, would have been celebrating at a friend’s house tomorrow”. Brian Lynas was also shown as the reporter stated “Nicola’s father dismissed speculation that his daughter’s disappearance may be a hoax” and he was displayed saying “No, no it’s genuine in my view”. It stated that Brian Lynas made an emotional plea to the kidnapper and he is shown saying “…he’ll understand that what we want as parents is to have Nicki back”.
Melbourne newspaper The Herald also reported on the abduction in an article by Mike Edmonds titled Nicola cash ready – kidnap plea. This was an edition of The Herald that went out at noon. It included an illustration of the offender dragging Nicola from a bedroom in which her sister Fiona is depicted lying on a bed. The article stated that the $25,000 ransom demanded by the abductor would be available “at a moment’s notice”. It claimed police “said they wanted to assure the abductor of the 13-year-old Canterbury schoolgirl he could speak directly to her parents if he wanted”. Ron Blackshaw was quoted as stating about the Sharon Wills abduction: “there are certainly similarities between the two crimes but we are not hanging our hat on the possibility that the same man is involved”. Blackshaw was also paraphrased as stating that the kidnapper could discuss the ransom demand with Brian Lynas if he did not want to talk with police.
Another article on the front page, by Campbell Fuller, titled Abduction revives the fear included a photo of Sharon Wills and her mother from 1988 after she had been abducted. The article was about an interview with Sharon Wills’ parents John and Julie, who gave words of encouragement to the parents of Nicola Lynas. Julie Wills was quoted as saying “We really feel for those people…we didn’t want it to happen to another girl” and that their ordeal had been “worse than a death in the family”. She added: “it’s just a totally numb feeling of disbelief…nothing helps you through until the police knock on the door with the news”. John Wills was quoted as saying: “I am really feeling for the girl. I hope she doesn’t go through what Sharon went through”. The article stated “Sharon’s parents believe Nicola’s abductor could be the same man who took their daughter and was believed to have attacked another girl more than three years ago”.
The evening edition of The Herald went to press with the benefit of being able to report on the police press conference that was held that afternoon. It’s front cover went with an article titled Kidnap dad’s plea, subtitled $25,000 ransom ready – police, by Mike Edmonds. It stated that “Brian Lynas faced a packed news conference at St Kilda Rd police complex to beg for (Nicola’s) safe return”. He was also quoted as stating “She’s a normal 13-year-old, slightly quieter and more reserved than her older sister. The family just has to wait and hold its nerve. In fact, her older sister is probably the one holding the family together”. The article stated that Nicola’s mother was not present at the press conference, stating that she was at the family’s home in Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury in case the kidnapper rang with “further demands or instructions”.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday was quoted as saying: “Her parents are naturally very distressed”. Detective Inspector Ron Blackshaw was quoted as stating: “Fears for Nicola’s safety are growing. Thirty-six hours is a long time for a girl of 13 to be in the hands of an abductor. We now hold incredibly grave fears”
Another article was also published on page 1 of The Herald by Derek Ballantine titled Tragic tale of misplaced trust. It stated that Brian Lynas had been due to take his family back to England on Sunday 8 July that weekend and that the night Nicola was abducted was to be the family’s last in the house. He also expressed his view that one of the elements that had attracted him about life in Australia had been how safe it was for children. He also stated that both girls were to have birthdays the following day, Nicola was to turn 14 and Fiona was to turn 16. On Brian Lynas’ demeanour the article stated “in casual clothes – his appearance that of a man who had gone without sleep – Mr Lynas held his nerve with light-hearted banter with the media. But it was clear he was hurting beneath his bravery.” He was also quoted as stating about Nicola: “she’s just a normal 13-year-old girl who has always been a happy girl”. He also stated” When you see one of your family taken away from you like that you’re under huge stress. It’s hard for everybody. Hopefully she’s being properly looked after. There’s no feeling of anger at all. Just a feeling of confusion.”
The morning of the 6 July 1990 started with The Sun News Pictorial running an article by Brian Walsh, Andrew Mevissen and Mary Viscovich titled Alert on Mr Cruel. It was the first time the term “Mr Cruel” had been used in the media since November 1987 when the rape of a 48-year-old woman in Moonee Ponds that month was linked to the August 1987 rape of an 11-year-old girl in Lower Plenty and the December 1985 rape of a 30-year-old woman in Donvale. However, years later, in 1994 Christopher Clarence Hall was convicted of the rape of the 48-year-old woman in Moonee Ponds and this crime was ruled out as being connected to any of the other attacks. The Sun running with the moniker “Mr Cruel” then, in relation to the abduction of Nicola Lynas, began a new era of fear in Melbourne as it was associated with the abductions of both Nicola Lynas and Sharon Wills, and the attack on the 11-old-girl in Lower Plenty.
The Sun article detailed how a taskforce had been set up to catch this offender in November 1987 and again in December 1988 after the Sharon Wills abduction. It also stated that the offender in Nicola’s abduction was “wearing a balaclava and was armed with a long knife and hand gun – the same weapons used in the Lower Plenty attack”. The article also described how “leading Melbourne psychologist” Tim Watson-Munro had said “he would be happy to speak with the kidnapper”.
Page 2 of The Sun included an article by Antony Catalano under the title Family relives kidnap agony. John Wills was quoted as saying: “The fact that your daughter is somewhere with someone and that you have no control of the situation is something you can’t explain. You just don’t know until you’ve been there – it’s like it was only yesterday”. Julie Wills was quoted: “It’s 18 months since it happened, but we can remember every minute of the time he (Sharon’s abductor) was there. We can’t remember much from then until the time Sharon was found. John Wills was quoted: “it was the longest 18 hours of our lives, but we were very fortunate in that we got Sharon back, that is all we can hope for for these people. We got Sharon back alive and that’s all that really matters and we pray to God that that is what happens them”. Julie Wills also added: “I don’t know why but I suddenly thought it was the same person who took Sharon.”
Also on page 2 of The Sun was an article titled Grief grips schoolmates by Andrew Mevissen. The article stated how “grief, disbelief and anxiety” had taken hold at Presbyterian Ladies College in Burwood “where kidnap victim Nicola Lynas, gained straight As in a special class of gifted children”. Friends of Nicola’s from class 9T had “sought help from school counsellors”. Student coordinator Judy Nicholls was quoted as saying “Nicola is very intelligent, very perceptive and totally reliable. But she and Fiona are not sophisticated – they are very straight kids who couldn’t be described as streetwise”. The article went on to say that Nicola had been enrolled in a “girl’s school near Winchester in southern England” once the family returned to England. Nicola had already attended a number of private farewell parties organised by her classmates in recent weeks.
There was also an article titled Gran waits and hopes by an unknown author which described how Nicola’s grandmother, Mrs Sonia Lynas, 66 of Esher, Surrey was waiting to speak to her son Brian Lynas, but had not been able to reach him.
The Age ran that morning with an article titled Letter imprint clue on missing girl by Paul Conroy, Jacqui Macdonald and Peter Schwab. The article claimed “forensic experts yesterday examined an imprint on a pad which police believe may help identify the masked and armed man who took 14-year-old Nicola Lynas from her Canterbury home on Tuesday night”. Apparently, the letter was an innocent one written by Nicola to her father about a recent shopping trip she had made, but police were hoping an imprint on the pad “may provide the vital breakthrough in the case”. The article went on to state that “about 20 detectives assigned to the case had been ordered by senior police not to reveal the existence of the letter. Several officers contacted last night confirmed its contents, but stressed it was not a ransom note”. Apparently a document expert from the Forensic Science Laboratory at MacLeod had attended a meeting at William Street police headquarters on 5 July. Note, it is not known what happened to this lead in regards to the investigation of this case. However, I would suggest there is a good chance that nothing ever came of it because we do not hear anything about the imprint again from the media. This article also included a paragraph which claimed a spokesperson for the Police Minister, Mr Sandon, said that he was prepared to offer a reward for information.
The Age also included on an article on page four of that morning’s newspaper an article titled Joke breaks tension of real world drama by Kevin Childs. It stated “Brian Lynas joked about his nation, England, being knocked out of the World Cup yesterday. At the end of the news conference the father of the kidnap victim Nicola Lynas seemed to be trying to cope with the inconceivable”. Mr Lynas had asked the media crowded into the St Kilda Road police press conference “Maybe you can tell us why England lost the World Cup?”. England had been eliminated that morning by their old enemy West Germany in a penalty shootout in the most important game the nation had played since the World Cup final in 1966. Mr Lynas though, would not have been able to enjoy the game considering the extreme amount of stress he had been placed under since his daughter had been abducted. Mr Lynas was also quoted as saying: “We’ve loved the safety of the children on the streets, trams and other public transport”.
Also on page four of the newspaper was an article by Sally Heath titled “Psychologist puzzled by abductor’s motive”. It paraphrased forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro as stating that it was difficult to tell whether the abduction of Nicola Lynas was planned or done on the spur of the moment. But, Watson-Munro said that the amount demanded as a ransom, $25,0000, seemed unusually small. He did however, believe that the offender was “a disturbed individual”. He was quoted as saying: “it is someone who can’t empathise with the family or the victim and is very directed to his own demands. But he seems to be in touch with reality. There is no indication he is suffering from a psychotic influence”. Watson-Munro said he believed this was a good thing because “if he’s in touch with reality, he will probably calm down and release the child”. Also in this article, a senior lecturer in psychiatry at Monash University, Dr Nick Keks was paraphrased as saying that “kidnappers were generally psychopaths, without conscience or guilt, often with a paranoid persecuting attitude towards society. They could infringe the rights of others without inhibition”. He was quoted as saying: “this sounded like something less than planned. He risked being seen, risked his voice being identified, risked leaving clues. Either it was impulsive or he is very, very angry. It appears less than straightforward, rather to do with a disturbance or wreaking revenge or havoc”.
Numerous other newspaper articles were published around the country on 5 July about the kidnapping. The Ballarat Courier’s article Father pleads for kidnapped daughter’s safe return stated “the family was to have returned to Cobham, London, and Nicola was to have gone to school at St Swithums, Winchester”. The Bendigo Advertiser stated in its article Dad’s plea to kidnapper: let Nicky (sic) come home quoted principal of Presbyterian Ladies’ College, William MacKay as saying that Nicola’s classmates were “in a profound state of shock”. The Sydney Morning Herald named Nicola’s mother as Rosemary in an article by Mark Skulley. It quoted Brian Lynas as saying “she’s not a worldly sort of kid. She’s not street-wise. But resourceful in a situation like this…who knows?” (note this was the same quote attributed to student co-ordinator Judy Nicholls the day previously). It also stated that he and his wife had always used babysitters in England but that “their elder daughter had insisted, during the family’s first week in Australia, that here they no longer needed one. It was fantastic. It gave the children a freedom which, certainly at their age and as girls, we would never have let them have in London”. The West Australian in an article titled ‘Cruel’ fears in girl’s kidnap by Gary Adshead stated that “police refused to speculate last night, but they were said to be concerned the abduction was the work of “Mr Cruel”, a vicious rapist who two years ago abducted a 10-year-old girl from her home in outer suburban Ringwood after tying up her parents”.
The first newspaper to report on the fact that Nicola had been found was The Herald with their 6 July afternoon edition headline Nikki’s (sic) safe subtitled Bound, gagged 50 hours, an article by Mike Edmonds, Philip Armstrong and Louise Talbot. It reported that the schoolgirl had been “thrown out of” a car in Tennyson Street, Kew just before 2am that morning. She had then knocked on the door of a family living in the street where a couple called the police. Nicola had told police that she was bound and gagged for most of the time. Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Holliday was later quoted as saying “at the moment she is being medically examined, but is in not too bad a state”. He also added that police would interview her later that day. The article also said that police had cordoned off an electricity substation in Tennyson Street, Kew where Nicola had been dumped. An unnamed resident in Tennyson Street told a reporter that she had heard a car pulling away from the substation during the night. Mr Holliday also stated that, after being released, Nicola walked the streets for five to seven minutes before going into number 8 Tennyson Street. He was quoted as saying: “she’s been masked and bound 95 per cent of the time. She cannot identify the offender in this matter. She was not treated in a violent manner, that is, she was not knocked about.”
Mr Holliday also said that Nicola had been transferred to another vehicle after the offender had driven her family’s rented car to Chaucer Avenue (sic). He went on: “she received food and drink. In that regard she was treated well. We believe only one offender is involved”. He said that the family were “exhausted and extremely tired. All things considered, she is not too bad at all. She has told us a certain amount which we are not going into. The family are prepared to stay here as long as we require them”. The article also stated that the family would delay their return to England at the request of police and that the abductor had not received any ransom before dumping Nicola.
The article continued under the subtitle She’s not too bad – police. Mr Holliday was quoted as saying “certainly the person made some comment regarding her father’s appeal”. He said they had no suspects in the abduction, but that there was a danger he could strike again. He requested help from the public in Kew who may have seen a man and a young girl covered in a light brown blanket. He also said that Nicola was blindfolded until just a few seconds before her release. When she was released she was made “sit with her head between her legs” before the offender left the scene. When the police were contacted a divisional van arrived on the scene within minutes. Constables Tony Schlitz and Constable Dean Leaumont were the officers who arrived on the scene in divisional van 311. Schlitz was quoted as saying: “I asked her how she was, and she said OK. I then just made sure she was comfortable and warm enough. It was one of those calls we were glad to get on the night shift. It’s good to see her safe and well”. He also was paraphrased saying that “Nicola was wearing the clothes she had on at the time she was abducted”.
The article also stated that the site in Kew where Nicola was dumped was about 5km from her Canterbury home, but that it was not known where she had been held for 50 hours. It added that the teenager was taken to the Austin Hospital “for medical checks, and once cleared by the doctors she was being questioned by police”. The article added that Nicola’s grandmother, Sonia Lynas, 66, “wept with joy” on hearing of Nicola’s release. The article then mistakenly stated that 10-year-old Sharon Wills had been abducted from her “Bayswater” home 18 months previously, it was actually in Ringwood. John Wills was quoted as saying “we are delighted” on hearing of Nicola’s release. The latest edition of that evening’s The Herald also included a fascinating map of how the offender broke into the house at 10 Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury. He was depicted entering the house by breaking a window at the back leftside of the house. This was presumably the parents’ bedroom because the other two bedrooms at the back-centre and back right side of the house were described as being the sisters’ bedrooms. After entering the parents’ bedroom the offender walked along a hallway just below the sisters’ bedroom before entering them. He was then depicted as having walked through the living room to the front door of the home where he dragged Nicola before abducting her at 11:40pm.
While I was unable to find footage of any ABC news reports for 6 July 1990, I did find access to some outtakes from the crime scene where Nicola had been dumped in Tennyson Street, Kew. Images from this footage are fascinating as they show two detectives examining the scene at the electricity substation and examining what appears to be a footprint at the scene. They also show the detectives interviewing a neighbour.
On page five of the late edition of The Herald the story from the front page continued under the heading Cold comfort for parents. Here Mr Holliday was quoted as saying “he certainly knew who he was looking for. He knew where he was going and what he was about”. The article also stated that the offender had never revealed his face to Nicola, and that he had been “calculating and cold in her release, just as he had been in the execution of the outrage in the first place”. The following snippet of information contradicted what the earlier version of The Herald said when it stated “He drove her to Kew about 2am, then walked with her for five, six, or seven minutes, a fawn blanket shielding her from the wind”. This was different to the earlier edition which had said that Nicola had walked around by herself for five to seven minutes after the man had left. Nicola “had her eyes taped” it went on “at the end when she was forced to sit with her head between her legs. The kidnapper was gone when the frightened schoolgirl found the courage to remove the blindfold.” On hearing the news that his daughter was alive Brian Lynas “broke down in a release of nervous tension”. The family were then reunited at the Austin Hospital and Nicola was said to be exhausted. Mr Holliday also said that the kidnapper might have struck before, and warned he might strike again.
Another article titled ‘Dangerous’ fantasy the key to kidnap, say police, by Louise Talbot and Phillip Johnson was on page five. In this article, consultant forensic psychologist, Tim Watson-Munro was quoted as saying: “We are dealing with a very dangerous person who is in need of help. There is a possibility his fantasies may become more bizarre”. It paraphrased Watson-Munro as saying that he had counselled the Wills family after Sharon Wills’ abduction in Ringwood in 1988 and he believed that there were similarities between the two abductions. “Both girls were taken from their homes after dark, taken by car to an unknown location nearby and both returned to their families hours later”. Watson-Munro was also paraphrased as stating “He said he wanted to abduct a young girl and probably had fantasies about it”. The article also stated “police believe he could be the elusive and vicious kidnapper known as “Mr Cruel” who was responsible for the rape of a 12-year-old girl in August 1987 after tying up her parents and six-year-old brother in Lower Plenty”. It also stated: “This man may also be responsible for attacks in December 1985”. This is clearly a reference to the rapes of women in Donvale, Warrandyte and Bulleen that all occurred within the space of 5 days. Mr Watson-Munro also asked for the abductor to contact him and was quoted saying: “Next time he will leave more clues which could lead to his arrest so he may become more dangerous”.
7 July 1990 began with The Sun’s page three $100,000 fiend hunt by Andrew Mevissen and Marianne Bell. Nicola had celebrated her 14th birthday the previous day it stated. “He dragged Nicola, wrapped in her blanket (note I’m not sure if the blanket was taken from her house or if he provided it to her), along Tennyson St Kew, at 2am yesterday and forced her to the ground.” Brian Lynas said Nicola was “bearing up exceptionally well”. It also stated “Nicola’s schoolfriends at Presbyterian Ladies College hugged each other when told Nicola was safe and almost 1000 girls sang Happy Birthday for her at morning assembly.” (Note how this contradicts the false information the Victoria Police provided the FBI less than a year later when Karmein Chan was abducted. They told the FBI that all the Mr Cruel attacks had occurred on school holidays, however, this was clearly not the case).
Victorian Premier John Cain announced a $100,000 reward for information that might lead to the capture of the offender. Nicola had been “forced to walk, still blindfolded, for about seven minutes to an SEC substation in Tennyson St.” The man whose house Nicola had sought help from just after 2am said “she was not crying and wanted to ring her father”. Another neighbour was quoted as saying “whoever did this is obviously sick and I hope they catch him quickly. The only thing for him is a bullet between the eyes”. The newspaper also stated “dozens of police combed streets and parks in Kew yesterday and questioned hundreds of residents”. Chief Superintendent Mr Holliday was paraphrased that “police would have a caravan in Chaucer Cres., Canterbury, from 9am today where members of the public could go with any information they might have”.
Page 12 of The Sun included an article titled Nicola’s friends sing in joy, by an unnamed author. It said that schoolgirls at Presbyterian Ladies College “danced and sang for joy in the corridors”. Judy Nicholls was quoted as stating “there’s a great feeling of relief in the school. There are a lot of smiles and a lot of hugging but everyone knows Nicola is not 100 per cent OK. The girls are emotionally exhausted and fragile after this but they are still worried about Nicola and are anxious to see her. They need these school holidays to get over this”. The article also stated “Nicola and her Year 11 sister, Fiona, were to have spent their last day at the Burwood college yesterday farewelling friends and celebrating their double birthdays before leaving for England.”
There was also an article on the same page titled Nikki (sic) is bearing up well, says proud dad by Marianne Bell. Brian Lynas was quoted in this article as saying “We are very, very pleased at the moment as to how she has conducted herself over the last few days. I cannot thank the police enough for their magnificent efforts, long hours and the personal caring they have given us and to this case”.
The same ABC outtake footage mentioned previously also contained footage of an interview with Brian Lynas. While the footage is marked 7 July, it must have taken place the previous evening on 6 July as it is mentioned that the previous press conference was the day before and that was on 5 July. The footage is fascinating as it has not been edited for a news program. It starts out with Brian Lynas explaining to a journalist from Channel 9 by the name of Tom Worland that his daughter is known as Nicki, saying “Yes, she was christened Nicola, but she’s never been called Nicola”. Brian Lynas then reads a statement saying “We are obviously delighted to have Nicola back with us safe and well. I cannot thank the police enough for their magnificent efforts, long hours, and the personal caring they have given us, and to this case. The support we have received from our friends and from PLC has been overwhelming. I would also like to thank the manner in which the responsible media have handled the case, in particular yesterday’s media conference. I firmly believe the conference materially helped in bringing Nicola back to us. I hope that in the next few weeks we will still be able to thank the media. Only by leaving us alone can we begin to piece together our normal lives. This is the only statement that any of my family is prepared to make. I will not be speaking to any other media, including current affairs programs”
Brian Lynas is then thanked by the journalist Tom Worland who proceeds to ask Mr Lynas a few more questions. When asked how Nicola is bearing up, Mr Lynas answered “considering all the circumstances, she’s bearing up considerably well. We are very, very pleased at the moment as to how she has conducted herself over the last few days. I could say the same about all my family, Fiona and Rosemary have done exceedingly well in the circumstances. Worland then states: “Nicki turns 14 today as I understand sir, in one way it is rather a sad occasion, sad birthday?” Brian Lynas responded with “It is sad in that sense, but obviously we are delighted to be able to celebrate her birthday in her company today”. Worland then asked “So you will be having a celebration today?” Brian Lynas responded: “If we can stay awake that long, yes we will”.
Worland then states: “I understand sir that you were returning to England at the weekend, what are your plans now?” Brian Lynas responded: “You are correct, we were due to return on Sunday. Obviously, given what’s happened those plans are being put entirely into limbo and I’m sure will be changed. I’ve no idea when we will be physically returning, but certainly our previous plans will no longer be happening. When asked what his memories of Melbourne would be, Brian Lynas responded: “As I said yesterday, that we’ve had three magnificent years in Australia. We’ve loved the country and those memories will not change whatsoever in our eyes and certainly speaking for myself, I look forward to returning to Melbourne. I was actually planning on coming back at the end of September to watch the Demons win the Grand Final, but I’m not sure that in itself will happen, but we’ve certainly thoroughly enjoyed our three years here and will still regard them as three very happy and interesting years.
When asked if there was anything he would like to say to the offender, Brian Lynas simply responded: “No, I don’t believe there’s anything one can say to these people. I just hope that he can be helped really”.
The final article published in The Sun that day was a sensationalist piece, this time by Michael Cox titled Another attack on cards. It described the offender as a “sadistic psychopath”. It quoted forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro as saying “my main concern is that this person is still out there. We are dealing with a fairly callous psychopath whose only redeeming feature is that he released the girl. He is able to sit on his impulses, but as time goes on he will find it harder to control those urges. Cox also paraphrased Watson-Munro as saying that the offender may well appear normal to people who knew him and that he probably worked in a normal job. He described the ransom demand made in the Lynas case as probably a “red herring”. “The amount quoted was fairly small considering the wealthy area, so it is more likely that the abduction took place for other reasons. He seems to be a very cold and calculating character, who stalks his victims before he strikes. I think a lot of these people get addicted to the adrenaline. I don’t think he would feel any shame about what he has done.”
Another Melbourne psychologist, Ronald Conway, said he didn’t think the offender would ever be caught. “I don’t think he would ever kill because he would want to prolong the terror. He probably has never had a fulfilling relationship with a woman. That is probably the reason he chooses young girls as victims. Two offences is hardly a pattern, but there is no reason why there wouldn’t be a third. But it would be in a totally different part of the city.” It should be noted here that, like another psychologist that was consulted by the Herald Sun in 1991 when Karmein Chan was abducted, Paul Wilson, Ronald Conway, would later be accused of sexually abusing young children. However, Conway was never charged with any offence as the allegations only surfaced after his death. How bizarre, that two of the psychologists consulted by The Sun News Pictorial and its derivative The Herald-Sun about the abductions and sexual abuse of children would end up being accused of sex crimes themselves, but we will come back to this topic at a later date.
The Age published Kidnap girl: $100,000 reward offer by Paul Conroy and Peter Schwab on 7 July 1990. It stated “police said they had several pieces of forensic material that they believed might provide a breakthrough. The material, from the Lynas family house in Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury, and the family’s leased car…is being examined by scientists from the Forensic Science Laboratory at Macleod. This article was the first time The Age used the Sun News Pictorial moniker “Mr Cruel” in reference to the offender. The police were paraphrased as stating that the offender was believed to have been the same man who had attacked the 11-year-old Lower Plenty victim in 1987 and Sharon Wills in 1988.
Detectives were also paraphrased as stating that “because of concern about Nicola’s welfare, it would be several days before they got a full statement”. It also stated “she was taken to the Austin Hospital for an examination, which showed she had been assaulted”. Interestingly, the article also gave an alternative time for the abduction stating “senior police now believe that Nicola was abducted about 10.40 pm on Tuesday, an hour earlier than thought.” This is a significant detail as, later, the time given for the abduction reverts back to the originally stated time of 11:40pm. It is not clear to me which is the correct time, and which is the error. It seems quite a significant piece of information for the police to be giving contradicting statements about as it has the potential to confuse any potential witnesses. This is something I will come back to later on. The article continued: “today, police will set up an information caravan in Chaucer Crescent, where the leased car was dumped after being taken from the driveway of the family home.”
Difficult days ahead, say Sharon Wills’ parents by Peter Schwab on page four of The Age on 7 July included an interview with John and Julie Wills. John Wills was quoted as saying about Nicola’s abduction “the healing process is opened up when something like this happens. She wasn’t our girl, but we felt for them. We just knew what they were going through. I’m thrilled that they’ve got her back. We have days when it’s hard on everybody. We suffer our own anguish and problems. It hasn’t been an easy road, but we are an extremely close family and have been able to support each other. It is almost as hard on the rest of the family. I would tell Nicola to definitely open up and talk about it to the correct people. I believe they suffer the trauma a lot longer if they don’t talk about it.” Julie Wills was paraphrased as stating that she had told Sharon that “there were a lot of good men and she should not judge all men by one bad experience.”.
Also on page four was the article Genetic tests may help identify kidnapper by Paul Conroy. The article stated how “genetic fingerprinting is the type of forensic tool that police believe could help them identify the kidnapper of Nicola Lynas”. A team of forensic scientists working at the Forensic Science Laboroatory in MacLeod had been formed “to extract a DNA profile from forensic samples collected from Nicola’s home in Canterbury and the leased car stolen from the driveway.” It also stated “police last night refused to reveal what vital piece of forensic evidence they had, but said they were confident that it would help them solve this case.” The article went on to give a description of how genetic fingerprinting worked. It also described the first instance of obtaining a conviction using the technique in Australian courts when “in December last year…in the County Court, Judge McNab heard evidence that George Gerard Kaufman, 39, had raped 14 women between March 1982 and August 1986. Police tested blood from Kaufman’s first wife and their daughter to obtain his genetic fingerprint. Kaufman later agreed to a blood test.” Kaufman had been sentenced to a minimum term of 18 years before being eligible for parole.
Page 5 included an article titled Abductor needs help, too, says Nicola’s father by Kevin Childs. This article was largely about the interview Brian Lynas had done with Channel 9’s Tom Worland the previous evening. And the article served to highlight some of the tensions between the Victoria Police and the various media organisations. In the interview, Childs wrote “Channel 9 managed to become the vehicle and he (Brian Lynas) spoke with Tom Worland, a fire-and-flood reporter not previously noted for sensitivity”. The article went on “dressed in what appeared to be the shirt he wore in his Thursday meeting with reporters, the wealthy and chubby accountant was initially cautioned by Channel 9 not to call Mr Worland by his first name, the normal intimacy-attempting television practice. This was because the interview was fed to other television stations in what is known as a pooling arrangement, a step that was seen in the industry as proof of Channel 9’s cosy relationship with the police (a former police publicity chief works for the network). “I’d be offending other people eh?” said Mr Lynas in response to the directive.” A few days later, Geoff Wilkinson of Channel 9 wrote a letter to the editor criticising this article for airing the accusation about Channel 9’s cosy relationship with the police. The same man would later co-write Mugshots 1 with Keith Moor. The rest of Child’s article largely repeated what has already been described of this press conference.
On the same page another article titled Psychopath is likely to abduct again, says forensic psychologist by Sally Heath. It was another description of Tim Watson-Munro’s views on the abduction. It described him as “a forensic psychologist…to the Victorian Office of Corrections”. It quoted Watson-Munro as saying “he had thought out the modus operandi quite well. The parents were out – he may have been watching the house or that could have been a coincidence. He took the parents’ car and then used his own car. There has obviously been quite a lot of planning. He is obviously not psychotic, he is a psychopath. He returned the girl – if there is anything to say to his credit, it is that. So maybe he is ambivalent about what he is doing. It paraphrased him by stating “It was unlikely that the time between this and the next offence would be shorter…people who commit such abductions were more likely to do it again because it rewarded their deviate behaviour. They were also very hard to treat.” It went on “he said an American study had shown that serial offenders were of above-average intelligence, had very little remorse and often led very normal lives. They generally had very high thresholds for anxiety and showed no telltale signs before or after they offended. ‘Typically, they can blend very well into the community”’. Mr Watson-Munro went on to say that with each offence the propensity for hurting their victims increased and that they were likely to become less careful with each offence as they had not been caught previously. The article also cited a forensic psychiatrist named Dr Lester Walton as saying “it appeared that the man who abducted Nicola Lynas was not wildly psychotic…often a serial offender was caught up in a special delusion, with behaviour strangely linked to that delusion in an irrational way. Sometimes it was found that the man had been badly treated as a child, often sexually abused. He frequently had an intense hatred for his mother or another adult woman”.
A collection of interstate publications also published articles about Nicola’s abduction, among them The Adelaide Advertiseer which paraphrased Tim Watson-Munro as saying that the offender “ probably had a fetish for young girls and fantasised about them”. It also quoted Watson-Munro saying “we are dealing with a very dangerous person who is in need of help. There is a possibility his fantasies may become more bizarre.”
The Ballarat Courier stated “She (Nicola) told police he made her kneel in the street with her head down as he took off the tape”. The Daily Telegraph stated “she (Nicola) was thrown out of a car and the kidnapper told her to sit in a gutter with her head between her legs as he drove off”. It also stated that Nicola was “wearing the same clothes as when she was abducted and wrapped in a blanket”. The Australian stated “police believed only one person was involved”.
8 July started with The Sun News Pictorial publishing a police sketch of the balaclava the offender used in the attack on Nicola Lynas alongside an article titled Green balaclava key to Mr Cruel by Michael Cox. The police sketch was captioned “A police sketch of the dark green home-made balaclava used by Nicola’s kidnapper”. The article also included an image of a “35cm knife used by the abductor”. “Police yesterday released an artist’s drawings of a 35cm knife and a home-knitted balaclava they believe were used by the abductor”. Detective Inspector Greg Bowd of the major crime squad was paraphrased as saying “Nicola had described the balaclava as dark green with cream stitching around the eyes and mouth”. He was quoted as saying, “it is fairly distinctive and anyone who may have seen it before should come forward”. The article said that police had set up an information caravan the day before “in Chaucer Crescent, where the abductor dumped the Lynas’ family car’” Detective Sergeant Bowd was also quoted as saying “we have had hundreds of calls from people with information, as well as from people who are simply shocked by what has happened”.
The article also stated: “Nicola told detectives her abductor forced her to huddle under the dashboard of his car and covered her with a blanket while he drove for about 45 minutes”. Bowd was quoted as stating “the car had a blanket on the front seat, which Nicola was forced to pull over her, which indicates that the man had come well prepared”. The article also stated “Nicola has told police she was moved from room to room during her 50-hour ordeal, but she did not hear anyone else in the house.” Bowd was also paraphrased as saying that “police wanted to hear from anyone who saw a man and a girl in the area of Chaucer Crescent and Marlowe St between 11pm and midnight last Tuesday. Someone may have seen a man either on foot or in a car behaving suspiciously”, Bowd was quoted. The article went on to state “the knife used by the gunman was described as possibly a kitchen knife with a black plastic handle and serrated blade”.
Bowd was also quoted as stating that police had been “extremely impressed” with Nicola’s courage during questioning. The article also stated that police were to man an information caravan “in Tennyson St today, from 9am to 5pm” and that “about 50 people offered police information at a similar van in Chaucer Crescent, Canterbury yesterday.”
The article continued under the subtitle Chilling trail of child raider. This article made the claim that “the trail of the ruthless child abductor known as ‘Mr Cruel’ probably stretches back as far as 1985“. It claimed that there were “similar trademarks” between this abductor and a series of violent abductions dating back to that year. It also stated that “the crimes indicated a man who gained gratification from assaulting helpless girls.”
There was also another article by Michael Cox on the same page titled Another attack ‘on cards’. This article was largely about the interview with Tim Watson-Munro that had been published in the previous day’s The Sun. However, there were some interesting additions including the following quotes: “Mr Cruel probably gained satisfaction by watching the fear in his helpless victims”. Also, “he seems to be a very cold and calculating character who stalks his victims before he strikes”. Also, “he said the danger of being caught probably added extra excitement to Mr Cruel’s fantasies”.
The Age had a story by Toby Darvall about Nicola’s pending interview by police that day titled For Nikki, one terrible ordeal ends and another begins. The article was about how police were to interview Nicola in the company of her parents and psychologists. A police spokesman was quoted as saying “we don’t want to push her and have her run from end to end in only a few sessions. From what we know so far, it’s obviously going to take a long time before we know everything. She is making a statement rather than being questioned outright. We are taking her slowly through all the events.” An independent forensic psychologist, Mr Ian Joblin was paraphrased saying “it would be difficult to obtain evidence from Nicola during an interview without upsetting her”. He was quoted as saying: “If she relived what she was going through and became obviously distressed, then you are out of line and have to back off. You can’t cause this girl more distress than you have to, because she can’t be objective under those conditions. She will then become emotionally involved and subjective. You want to get a statement and have her be objective. That’s very, very important because she may eventually have to give evidence.”
That afternoon The Herald published Liberty is victory for the man they call Mr Cruel, by John Gillman. It included information gleaned from an interview with Tim Watson-Munro. It cited Watson-Munro as stating that the offender “is probably a reasonably well-adjusted individual. He could be a family man and hold a good job” and that he “is also possibly feeling a great sense of achievement even victory” It continued “it is almost certain this man will abduct again. Maybe next week, maybe next year. The risk will be greater and his precautions may threaten his victim’s life. But it is possible his bravado will undo him.” The article mentioned something that hadn’t been mentioned previously, when it stated the second vehicle that he transferred Nicola into from the family’s Holden Berlina in Chaucer Crescent was an “older vehicle’” It also contradicted previous reports of the length of the kitchen knife used by the offender as being 25 as opposed to 35cm long (however, we know this is incorrect as the image on the television footage clearly shows the police artwork and it says 35 cm).
The article continued on page two under the subtitle Kidnap: when ‘Mr Cruel’s’ fantasies became reality. It paraphrased Watson-Munro as saying that he didn’t think the attack was a copycat crime. Rather, he believed it was by the same person who had carried out the Sharon Wills abduction. It also paraphrased him as saying he believed the offender’s crimes “stemmed from an uncontrollable urge brought on by continual fantasies involving young girls”. He was quoted as stating “I think the urges just become too powerful, the fantasy itself is not sufficiently satisfying. Typically, what happens then is the person may go driving, aimlessly driving until he spies a child. Having become fixated with the victim, the next step is the planning that goes into the abduction which then follows. What usually happens is that he can sit on the urge, but often it can become too powerful. The way this offence has occurred tends to suggest it wasn’t a situation where he spied the girl that afternoon and then decided to abduct her. It’s purely speculative of course, but I would say he has gone home and incorporated her in his fantasies. He probably watched the house to see how many family members there were and then waited for the best time to break in. It may have been purely coincidental the parents were not home at the time. With the Wills case, both parents were in. He’s gone in well prepared. He’s armed, which I suspect was more to intimidate the victim. It’s just part of his repertoire, I believe.”
That afternoon the ABC television news published a story about the case. The first footage shown is of Chaucer Crescent where police had set up an information caravan near the corner with Canterbury Road, presumably at the location where the offender had parked his vehicle. Twenty people had already reported to the information caravan the report stated. Police had also put together an artist’s impression of Nicola’s assailant who was aged somewhere between 20 and 40, they said. Detectives had scoured the Kew area yesterday near where “Nicole” (sic) was dumped. Greg Bowd was heading the investigation and he “hadn’t dismissed possible links with similar abductions over the past few years” He was quoted as saying on this point “we are looking at that very closely, but once again it is pure speculation at this stage’” Footage was then shown of police members searching Eglinton Reserve in Kew.
Other newspapers which covered the story on 8 July included The Sunday Tasmanian which stated “leading psychiatrists say the man dubbed ‘Mr Cruel’ by Victoria Police, gained sexual satisfaction by subjecting his young victims to hours of torment”. It also claimed “forensic psychologist Tim Watson-Munro said Mr Cruel was a callous psychopath whose paedophilliac impulses would force him to strike again”.
On 9 July 1990, The Sun published ‘Mr Cruel’ covered his tracks – police, by Greg Thom and Natalie Sikora. Detective Sergeant Chris O’Connor of the Major Crime Squad was quoted in the article saying “he is a person who has put preparation into the crime, obviously, and he is a person who has taken as little risk in the circumstances as possible”. The article said that detectives had worked long hours at the weekend to try to work out who the perpetrator might be, and said that there were several strong leads after the information caravan set up in Chaucer Crescent attracted more than 60 enquiries. There had also been hundreds of calls to Crimestoppers.
Despite previous claims, Nicola had not been interviewed by police the previous day. Describing Nicola, Chris O’Connor said “she has a particular mettle or fibre which is quite unique to a child so young. She is a very intelligent young girl. She is a girl I believe who is capable of telling us as much as could be possible by any child in the circumstances”. The article repeated the fact that the perpetrator had driven Nicola around for 45 minutes once she had been transferred to the second vehicle but added an interesting detail “possibly in circles to confuse Nicola”. It also added, “during this time there was a lot of conversation between Nicola and the kidnapper”.
The Age also published an article about Chris O’Connor’s interview that morning in an article by Jacqui MacDonald. But, this article also included information about a mysterious phone call to a doctor who was reportedly helping police with investigations. The caller had apparently given the doctor details of the kidnapping which had not been made public. He had indicated that he might have known “where Nicola, 14, was kept and how she was treated during her 50-hour ordeal”. The article continued “the caller spoke about a house and made suggestions about the type of suburb and street it was in. He also gave details about the food Nicola ate while she was held. The man also gave at least one unrelated specific detail about what may have happened to Nicola”. Detective Sergeant Chris O’Connor had said that it was unclear if the information had been provided by a crank caller or not. The article continued “‘The Age’ is aware of what was said during the conversations but has agreed with police to withhold details in the interest of the investigation”.
The Sydney Morning Herald that morning also discussed the telephone caller. However, it added “the caller spoke of a house and gave suggestions about the atmosphere of the street and suburb it may have been located in”.
The 10 July The Sun article titled Mystery man plea by Malcolm Elder and Greg Thom also explored the mystery caller. The article gave more information though, saying that there had been three calls to the home of forensic psychologist Ian Joblin. The man had phoned Joblin on Sunday and they had spoken for over 30 minutes about the abduction. Apparently Joblin had received the first of the three calls the previous Friday night after having appeared on the Hinch current affair program on Channel 7. Joblin had said “the man spoke in great detail about the area from which Nikki was taken and the house she was kept in by her masked abductor”. It continued “the caller indicated he knew of two other similar offences”. The article added that the caller had warned Mr Joblin not to inform the police. Joblin had appeared on the Hinch program again the previous night (Monday) where he requested that the caller call him back. The caller spoke “in great detail about the area from where Nikki was taken, the house where she was kept, what she ate and even what she did when she went to the toilet”. The article added “Mr Joblin said that it was safe for the caller to telephone him again, as he had given only some of the details and nature of the calls to the police.” Detective Inspector Dannye Moloney, who was heading the investigation, said “the man revealed details about the ordeal known only to the victim and police”.
That day’s The Age had an article by Paul Conroy and Jacqui MacDonald titled Kidnapper may have kept watch on school, police believe. The article claimed that police had said that the kidnapper may have been one of a number of suspicious men who was regularly seen loitering around schools in the eastern suburbs. The article also stated how Detective Inspector Dannye Moloney had said that the investigation was focusing on where the offender had exchanged cars in Chaucer Crescent and where Nicola was dumped in Tennyson Street.
An article Police pull drivers over for help by Paul Conroy appeared in The Age on 11 July 1990. It focused on a police operation which pulled over thousands of drivers in Canterbury the previous night, exactly one week after the abduction.
Police house kidnap family by Paul Conroy appeared in The Age on 12 July 1990. The article mentioned how the Lynas family were being held in a police safe house at a secret location. Dannye Moloney was quoted in the article as stating that the road block two nights previously had brought forward valuable information regarding the investigation. The article also stated that senior police had dismissed the possibility that the offender might be a policeman. A quote from Moloney stated “However, it could even be someone who has read a lot of detective books and knows something about police procedures”.
On 4 September 1990 The Age ran an article titled FBI to help in Lynas case. The article explained how Victoria Police had sought the help of the FBI in the Mr Cruel investigation. “The head of the investigation, Detective Inspector Dannye Moloney, said police were building a profile of the man, who they believe has been responsible for at least five other attacks since 1984”. Regarding the help the Victoria Police were to receive from the FBI, it stated “the FBI have been pioneers in a profiling technique that enables police to assess a suspect’s personality to see if it matches that of the likely offender. Police already have clues to the man’s marital status, intelligence, likely occupation, movements before an attack and other identifying features.”
Drawings of the inside of the detention premises 1993
On 27 January 1993, the Spectrum Taskforce investigating the Mr Cruel series of child abductions decided to release previously secret information about the lair where both Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas were held. Head of the Spectrum Taskforce David Sprague spoke at a press conference about his frustration of not having come up with a result until that point in the investigation and expressed hope that they still might be successful. The police released drawings of the bedroom and bathroom of the building the two girls were held in. The illustration of the bedroom was based on the recollection of Sharon Wills, who had lifted up her blindfold to take a peek at the bedroom she was being held in whilst leashed to a bed. She had taken the opportunity to spy the room after the offender had appeared to leave the building temporarily.
Paul Anderson’s 2003 book Shocking Australian True Crime Stories
Paul Anderson’s 2003 book Shocking Australian True Crime Stories also briefly covered the Nicola Lynas abduction in his chapter of the Mr Cruel story. Anderson stated that the abduction occurred at 11.30pm. He starts out the description of the abduction with a definite mistake though when he says that the offender gave Fiona a ransom note. In fact, the offender told Fiona verbally to pass on the ransom demand to her father. Anderson quoted a detective who had dealt closely with Nicola saying: “In his own way he loved her. There was no gratuitous violence. He even snuggled with her. He said to her, “Do what I tell you and I will let you go. Unfortunately my freedom is more important than your life.” [The victim] said to me she was sure for some reason he was going to put her body in the bay. She pleaded with him to let her mum and dad have her body. He continually told her ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing and I will let you go.’” One point I would like to make here is that the quote “my freedom is more important than your life” has also been attributed to the offender known as Mr Cruel by both Keith Moor and Adam Shand. However, these journalists stated the offender said it to a 14-year-old female rape victim who was attacked in Hampton in 1985 in an attack which is not considered one of the canonical Mr Cruel crimes. If he said the same thing to Nicola Lynas then this would surely make the 1985 Hampton rape a strong candidate to be the same offender. However, there is also a possibility that there has been a misunderstanding here, and perhaps the detective being referred to mixed up the two attacks.
Anderson also wrote about how detectives had travelled to England two weeks before Christmas in 1991 to re-interview Nicola and Fiona Lynas. This occurred while Karmein Chan was still missing from her own abduction earlier that year. Anderson said that Nicola provided more information about the offender’s demeanour. “She said while he wanted to appear in control, his nerves belied his act. He pretended to be married to her and flattered her with compliments and used distinctive words like “missy” and “worry wart”. He was also an avid reader of newspaper stories focusing on his crimes. The victim told the detectives her abductor seemed to enjoy the stories and the parallels being drawn to other abductions.”. This last point probably refers to what Keith Moor referenced in his 2016 Herald Sun article when he mentioned that the abductor had a copy of The Sun, but didn’t go into more details. Also, it is interesting to note here that the writer makes the claim that the offender used the term “worry wart” in the Nicola Lynas abduction. We know from Keith Moor’s account that he used “missy”, but the journalist made no mention of the use of “worry wart”.
Larry Writer’s The Australian Book of True Crime 2003
Also in 2003 a chapter on the Mr Cruel story was written in Larry Writer’s book The Australian Book of True Crime. While mostly based on the contemporary newspaper articles, it contains some unique information not seen elsewhere, some of which I’m sure is mistaken, while other parts may well be true. Surprisingly, the chapter doesn’t touch on the Lower Plenty attack at all. Perhaps the most fascinating inclusion however, is a letter by Tim Watson-Munro to the offender. It is not stated where this letter was published, and I have never seen it in full in any of the contemporary newspaper articles. He simply states that it was published on 11 July 1990. Here it is in full.
“I am writing to you in the belief that you may be experiencing some remorse, ambivalence and confusion in relation to your recent outbreak. I am deeply troubled by your behaviour and feel that you need to seek appropriate treatment as soon as possible. You must know, within yourself, that your underlying urges to commit this type of offence are, as yet, unresolved, and it is clearly only a matter of time before you offend again. It may be at this time that you feel some repugnance in relation to your cruelty towards this child [Nicola Lynas}. You may well be wavering about making contact [with police] because you fear the consequences of your actions. This is quite understandable. However, in the absence of revealing yourself and receiving some assistance for your problems, you will no doubt re-offend, and I fear the frequency of your offending and the severity of your behaviour will both increase.
The fact that you have released this child and possibly others suggests that you have some insight into other people’s feelings and, associated with this, the magnitude of your disturbance. To your credit, it would appear that you are able to control your fantasies and impulses for lengthy periods before acting them out. This indicates that you may well be a good prospect for treatment.
Perhaps these fantasies have been brooding within you for many years and only recently they have become too much to contain. No doubt you realise the devastating impact that you have had upon the child, her family, and indeed our community. Perhaps this affords you some vicarious pleasure? Alternatively, strong labels that have been attached to your behaviour such as ‘pyschopath’ may, in the setting of your confusion, be causing you some distress. You may well have read widely on areas concerning this type of offending. The cunning manner in which this offence was executed and the associated absence of clues, suggests that you are an intelligent individual capable of considerable planning. If this is the case then you’ll be aware that the likelihood of your re-offending is very high. So too is the prospect of escalating violence with your offending.
It bothers me that you took considerably more time to release this child than your earlier victims. This suggests that the struggle within you was more protracted and that perhaps, at some point, you were considering not releasing this child at all. Reflect on this and be aware that next time the struggle may be even greater with you possibly panicking and acting in an even more dangerous manner.
Although you have acted in an abhorrent fashion with this offence and, I suspect, others, I nonetheless intuitively feel that you want to seek assistance. In your own interests as well as those of your potential victims and the community in general, I again urge you to make contact with a psychologist and/or Insp. Dannye Moloney who is handling this case. Certainly I am available at any time to speak with you, if you so desire. Be assured that in the absence of treatment your prospects and prognosis are extremely bleak. – Yours sincerely, Tim Watson-Munro.”
While we cannot say with certainty that the same offender who abducted Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas also abducted Karmein Chan, it certainly is eerie that many police believed that Watson-Munro’s predictions came to fruition when Karmein Chan was murdered.
Another interesting detail is that Writer claimed that the offender told “more than one of” his victims that he was sexually abused himself when he was a child. Writer doesn’t say which victims the offender said this to, but it must have been at least two of the Lower Plenty victim, Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas as nobody has any knowledge of what he told Karmein Chan. I cannot say what the implications of this comment are. It could have been another one of his red herrings, or it could well have been true, and could be an important clue about the kidnapper’s identity. The same claim is made by Geoff Wilkinson and Keith Moor in their chapter on Mr Cruel in the book Mugshots 1.
Writer also claimed in his book that the knots used by the offender were similar to ones used by sailors, truck drivers, farmers and to those used by musicians “restringing guitars and violins”. This is almost identical to a claim in John Silvester and Andrew Rule’s 2008 book Rats, which we shall analyse later.
Lastly, Writer claims Brian and Rosemary Lynas returned at 12.30am on the morning of the 4 July 1990 to find Fiona tied to a bed, a time that matched only one newspaper account, that of the Canberra Times 4 July 1990 edition. There is also a slight difference to the accepted account when he states that Nicola was abducted for 52 hours as opposed to the usual 50 hours.
John Silvester & Andrew Rule Rats: Crooks who got a way with it, 2008
In 2008 John Silvester & Andrew Rule co-wrote Rats which included a chapter on the Mr Cruel story. They also mentioned how Nicola was re-interviewed in 1991 “over five days…and her statement was to become one of the main struts in the massive investigation”. They reported that Nicola told the detectives that the offender was nervous saying “his hands shook when he tried to bind his victims”. Nicola had also told detectives: “He appeared to be acting out a fantasy like he was married to me. He showed this by the affection he showed me and how chummy he was to me.” The crime writers went on to say: “He flattered and flirted with her, seemingly oblivious to the fact he kept her manacled to a bed. He told her she was prettier than the photo released to the media. She was terrified, yet her captor treated the teenager as if the whole event was quite normal. This while he kept her chained by the neck to what police call ‘the detention bed’. He even chatted to her about the investigation and dwelled on media reports. ‘He told me hadn’t been in Victoria eighteen months ago and so he couldn’t have committed one of the abductions (this obviously refers to the Sharon Wills abduction). I don’t know whether he was genuine or not, but I do know he wanted me to believe it.’”
Regarding the jets Nicola had heard coming into land, she told detectives that the man didn’t mention the noise which led her to believe that he no longer noticed them because he had lived there for so long “in the way people who live next to railway tracks no longer hear the trains pass”. She also told investigators “the aircraft were not light planes, but commercial jets” and they were “coming into land, not taking off”. Furthermore, police “noted the girl had lived near another airport and concluded she knew what she was talking about”. Despite reportedly checking 30,000 houses around the Tullamarine Airport flight paths, police were never able to identify the detention premises.
John Silvester ‘Mr Cruel’ filmed his victims say police, The Age, 8 April 2008.
In preparation for the 15th anniversary of Karmein Chan’s abduction John Silvester wrote an article for The Age revealing previously secret information about the investigation. The article revealed that “Australia’s most notorious child sex offender, Mr Cruel, kept secret videotapes of his victims as trophies of his crimes, police have revealed before the 15th anniversary of his last known attack. Detectives believe the serial sexual predator set up a video camera in the house where he took his victims so he could later relive his attacks” Despite saying that it was a video camera that was set up Silvester then contradicted this information by stating “One of his victims has told police she saw a tripod and camera set up at the end of the bed where she was held prisoner after her abduction. She was unsure if it was a still or video camera. So, after saying that “Mr Cruel kept secret videotapes of his victims as trophies” Silvester then went on to state that the witness, Sharon Wills, wasn’t actually sure if it was a camera or video camera that was set up in the room.
Silvester’s article continued “investigators kept secret the information that Mr Cruel filmed his victims in the hope that when he was identified they would also find the irrefutable evidence. But after 15 years, they have agreed to release the last known lead in the hope of a belated breakthrough. Detectives believe that if he is still alive he will have kept the tapes and/or photos and will still collect, and possibly swap, child pornography. They say he almost certainly continues to collect pornography through the internet and may communicate with children using chat lines.”
An updated image of the detention premises bedroom was also released with this newspaper article. It featured the wooden tripod in question with a camera fixed to it. However, we should remember that Sharon wasn’t actually sure if it was a stills camera or a video camera.
Colin McLaren’s Infiltration: The True Story of the Man who Cracked the Mafia, 2011
Another book that looked at Nicola Lynas’ abduction was Infiltration: The True Story of the Man Who Cracked the Mafia, by Colin McLaren. McLaren was a detective who worked on Operation Spectrum after the 1991 abduction of Karmein Chan, but he had also worked on the Nicola Lynas abduction. It is a fascinating read because it is the only account which gives us an insight into the investigation by the Spectrum Taskforce. There are some understandable errors of fact which can occur when one is remembering an old case which occurred many years before, but interestingly the account gives us an insight into the investigation around attempting to locate the detention premises.
Before we look at the investigation McLaren was involved I must point out some minor errors McLaren made in the book. McLaren says he started working on the case when “Nicky (sic) had just turned thirteen”. She had in fact just turned fourteen, an easy error to make He also says “she was stolen from her wealthy family’s home where she had been watching television with her sister while both parents were out”. In fact, the two girls were sleeping in Fiona’s bedroom when the intruder woke them up. He probably confused this case with that of Karmein Chan who had been watching a documentary about Marilyn Monroe with her two sisters when she was abducted in April 1991. Later he says Nicola was “dumped in a large plastic bag in a small inner-suburban park”. She was neither dumped in a plastic bag, nor in a park. McLaren has obviously mixed her up with Sharon Wills here (although even she wasn’t actually dumped in the plastic bag, but rather the offender took it off her just before she was dumped in order to avoid leaving forensic evidence). Nicola was dumped at an electrical substation, not a park.
There are other pieces of information mentioned in the book which contradict other sources, but it’s not clear who is correct here. One major contradiction is that McLaren says that Nicola said the journey from Canterbury to the detention premises only took 10 to 15 minutes, which contradicts all the media reports at the time that said it took about 45 minutes. This is what McLaren says of the trip: “She remembered that they didn’t seem to drive far, although there were a few stops and starts, indicating traffic lights. She spoke of driving continuously (indicating that they had travelled on a freeway) and felt that the whole journey only took ten to fifteen minutes.”
On entering the property McLaren said “They took only ten steps in a straight line [note this contradicts Keith Moor’s 2016 article which stated five to seven steps]; they never stepped sideways or around anything (indicating that the car was parked down a driveway that was on the right-hand side of the house block). She was barefoot and could feel concrete underneath. At the end of her walk she stepped up three steps to a door (indicating a footpath coming off the driveway leading to two to four steps to the door)”.
McLaren next stated that Nicola: “was chained by her ankle to the foot of the bed”. This contradicts Keith Moor who stated she was leashed with some type of harness around her neck. McLaren says the clock radio was left on the entire time she was there and that she “heard the news updates and her name mentioned often”. Here McLaren says Nicola heard the 10 o’clock news on the first morning in the house which agrees with Keith Moor’s account. But, then he states she heard the news at 11am as well. Moor states that the offender only turned on the radio at 10am on both mornings, and that it was before this time that she heard the aircraft. Whereas with McLaren he says she heard the aircraft for the “hour in between” the 10 am and 11 am news. How can the two accounts be so contradictory of each other? It really is remarkable that there are so many differences between the two accounts.
Some other unique information in Mclaren’s book that is not found elsewhere is the following description: “Often she was led around the house by her captor, the bathroom and toilet in particular. Through her recollections we believe the toilet was separate from the bathroom”. He states the toilet door opened from left to right; the toilet roll holder was on the left-hand side if you were sitting on the toilet, and that it was dual flush. The bathroom had a bath tub, handbasin and cupboard and “all the taps had star-shaped handles”. Nicola was of the impression that it was an old-fashioned bathroom.
There is more original content that makes McLaren’s account worthy of discussion. For example, he says “the culprit was otherwise kind and gentle to his victims”. McLaren says he was chosen to head a group of four detectives during Operation Spectrum to try to identify the offender, no doubt his experience in having worked on the Lynas case was crucial to being assigned this senior role. During this time McLaren and his team researched police records of convicted paedophiles before going and paying them a visit, but the visits came to nothing as none of the paedophiles matched the person they were looking for.
The most interesting part of McLaren’s chapter on the case, Nicola’s account of the aircraft noise she heard while shackled to the bed, is quite compelling. McLaren said that Nicola lay on the bed between the 10am and 11am news and counted eleven aircraft flying overhead, nine of which she believed were jets and two of which she said were lighter aircraft. Apparently she had travelled quite a bit with her parents and took an interest in aircraft and so was able to tell the difference between the sounds they made. He goes on to say “She said the aircraft were all flying from the same direction, at varying times in the hour, descending, on a flight path that moved across her body. But the aircraft eventually changed course, banking ninety degrees, then flying in a line from her head to her toe, before fading away.” This is incredible detail about the aircraft that is not in any other source it should be noted that this description of the aircraft flight path seems to line up with the North-South runway flight path for landing aircraft coming into Tullamarine Airport at the point where the aircraft bank 90 degrees above the Keilor/Keilor Park/Keilor East area of Melbourne.
McLaren himself states that the information convinced the detectives that the detention premises weere near Tullamarine Airport. As a result, he states that they got in touch with the head air traffic controller at there. The air traffic controller took out a map of the flight paths into Tullamarine Airport and identified what McLaren refers to as “Laneway No. 2” which ran straight “approaching from the north-east” before banking hard left into Tullamarine. The north-south runway into Tullamarine Airport heads largely from east to west before making a 90 degree angle turn to the north to land at at the airport. If the chart that McLaren was viewing was positioned such that it appeared to “bank hard left” at the point where it heads north then this could well match.
According to McLaren, for the Wednesday morning in question, there were nine jets and two light aircraft which came in to land between 10 and 11am, and this convinced detectives that they had the correct area. Of the search, McLaren says a great amount of research was done to identify houses that might fit the description Nicola gave for the area in question. He goes on to say that their search “centred on the suburbs of Essendon and Keilor” which included an area of more than 10,000 houses. He said certain houses could be eliminated by performing a quick drive by of the property and checking whether they were a right-hand drive or not. Others were eliminated by using common sense “those built on steep blocks, or where there were many steps leading to a front door”.
McLaren then goes on to say that police officers posed as water sewerage employees under the pretence of needing to replace the pipes in the area. When a house could not be eliminated from being the detention premises they used this front to gain access to the property without a search warrant. He even admits it was extremely unlawful to do this. Once inside, detectives attempted to match Nicola’s description of the bathroom and toilet with the properties they were infiltrating. However, at the end of their search they came up with nothing. McLaren said about 20 houses matched the description well, but when they searched the backgrounds of their owners they were all ruled out.
In summing up his thoughts on Mr Cruel, McLaren says that he has a hunch that Mr Cruel might have “had connections to New Zealand, or a remote pocket of Australia, such as Tasmania”, but he doesn’t elaborate on this further. He also says: “he may have had a background in medicine, whether as a doctor, medico or paramedic. He had an uncanny awareness of forensics”.
Keith Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun article Victoria Police and FBI Dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks
Let us now analyse Keith Moor’s 2016 account of the attack on Nicola Lynas. This account was based on files he had received from an anonymous source and it presumably includes the police statements made by Nicola and Fiona Lynas. He states that the family were preparing to leave their rented house in Monomeath Avenue, Canterbury the day after the abduction 4 July. This is backed up by the contemporary newspaper articles. However, his account then makes the incorrect claim that the family were to stay in rented accommodation in the city until 4 August. We know this is incorrect because Brian Lynas states very clearly that the family were returning to England on Sunday 8 July.
According to Moor’s account, the offender entered the home through Brian and Rosemary’s bedroom window at “about 11.30 pm”. While this agrees with the early newspaper reports, it contradicts The Age’s 7 July article which revised the abduction time to 10.40pm, but more on this later. Moor states here that the offender “had almost certainly been stalking Nicola and was aware the family was preparing to leave Monomeath Ave”. However, Moor does not provide an explanation as to why it was almost certain that the offender was aware that it was the family’s last night in the home. Moor then states “he would also have been aware Mr and Mrs Lynas were attending regular farewell functions with different work and social groups”. Again it is not clear why Moor believes the offender would have known this. Perhaps Moor’s police contact conveyed this to him, but there is no other evidence in the public record that would confirm this.
Brian and Rosemary had left the house at 7.50pm when their friends picked them up from Monomeath Avenue. Fiona and Nicola had then ordered a pizza which was delivered quite late, at 10.05pm. The girls usually slept in separate bedrooms, but not wanting to be alone, Nicola dragged a mattress into her sister’s bedroom and slept there with Fiona going to bed at 10.45pm and Nicola at 11. Nicola was then woken up at 11.20pm by the offender tapping her on the head with a knife (a slight contradiction since Moor had previously stated the offender hadn’t entered the property until 11:30pm). The man was clad in a “balaclava, gloves and dark clothes” and was carrying a handgun and a knife.
The offender then demanded money, leading the sisters into Brian and Rosemary’s bedroom. Here he searched through Brian Lynas’ wallet, but did not take the $4000 in traveller’s cheques inside it.
The offender then forced the sisters to lie face down on their parents’ bed and Fiona was “hogtied with galvanised wire, identical to clothes line wire”. The offender then led Nicola into the kitchen where he rifled through her mother’s purse. Here he cut the telephone cord and took the car keys to the family’s rented Holden Berlina, which was still in the driveway of the house. He then took Nicola to her bedroom, going through her cupboards and drawers where he picked out different items of clothing. He then told her to “get dressed”. She kept on her turquoise pajama pants and “put on a white T-shirt with two rugby emblems on each side of the front, one was a rooster and the other a kangaroo, and slipped into her Presbyterian Ladies College school blazer”. The offender also took Nicola’s Ken Done bag and put the items of her clothing he had taken from her cupboards and drawers into it.
At this point he led Nicola back to her parents’ bedroom where her sister was still tied to the bed. Here he asked the teenagers about their father’s job and the company he worked for before telling Fiona that he was going to abduct her sister and that “he wanted a ransom of $25,000”. He informed Fiona that he would call her father the next morning to explain how he could pay the ransom (however, he never did make any attempt to call the family). As the offender was leaving the room with her sister, Fiona looked at the bedside clock and saw that it was exactly 11.47pm. Once again we should highlight the startling contradiction with this time and the time of 10.40pm given by that 7 July The Age article. In this article it was stated that “senior police now believe that Nicola was abducted about 10.40 pm on Tuesday, an hour earlier than thought.” I am at a loss to explain this discrepancy. Is it possible the bedside clock in the parents’ room was displaying the time an hour ahead of what it should have been? Perhaps they hadn’t turned back the clocks the previous daylight savings. The time of the abduction is quite crucial as it would be the difference between Brian and Rosemary Lynas arriving home less than 15 minutes after the abduction compared to 1 hour 15 minutes after it. This would considerably lengthen the window of time the offender had to carry out the abduction. We will come back to this point later in the analysis of the crime.
According to Moor, Brian and Rosemary apparently arrived home less than 15 minutes later where they discovered Fiona tied up and Nicola missing. Once outside, the offender put Nicola in the front seat of the family’s rented Holden Berlina where he ordered her to kneel down under the dashboard and to keep her head down, before pulling her Melbourne Football Club cap down to cover her eyes. From here Nicola believed he turned right out of the driveway onto Monomeath Avenue towards the north (the opposite direction of his destination in Chaucer Crescent). Nicola believed he then turned left onto Mont Albert Road towards the west. He then stopped the car and “put thick adhesive tape over Nicola’s eyes and then put a balaclava over her head before driving the car to Chaucer Avenue, Canterbury”. Here he got Nicola out of the car and walked her a short distance and put her inside another car where she was again ordered to “get under the dashboard”. He then drove Nicola to an unknown location. For some reason, Moor’s account does not go into any details here, such as how long the drive took and what the two talked about during the trip.
At the detention premises the offender led Nicola into the building where she would be kept for the next 50 hours. Moor says here that Nicola entered 4 rooms while she was detained, “a bedroom, a room Mr Cruel referred to as “the kitchen”, a toilet and a separate bathroom”. When the offender led her inside the premises at first he led her straight to the bedroom where Nicola could hear a radio playing. Here the offender removed the thick adhesive tape from her eyes and put “surgical-type cotton eye pads” over her eyes. Nicola was then led to the bathroom where she was made to brush her teeth and take a bath. The offender told Nicola she had to do this because “he didn’t want to leave any forensic evidence which could identify him”. The offender referred to her as “Nicky” during the abduction, which is the name all her family and friends called her.
She was then taken back to the bedroom where the offender “assaulted” her before he “leashed her to the bed with some type of harness around her neck”. The offender then fell asleep next to her. Nicola told police later that she didn’t sleep at all that night. The radio was not on throughout the night and she heard no sounds throughout the night. However, the following morning she “heard the loud sound of between seven and nine jet planes landing”. The offender did not wake up until 10am at which point he put the radio on. Nicola had heard the jets landing prior to this time. Nicola could tell the time based on the radio, and the offender assaulted her again about 11am after which he fell asleep next to her again. He unleashed Nicola at sometime between 12.30pm and 2pm and carried her to the bathroom where he assaulted her again. At this point he told Nicola that he had followed her home from school and “that he had a schoolgirl fantasy”.
The offender then took her to a room which he called the kitchen where he made her wear her school dress and he assaulted her again. He then gave the child a glass of water and took her back to the bedroom where he re-leashed her to the bed. Here “he told her he was going to dress her in her tennis skirt the following day” before falling asleep. Nicola went to sleep herself for some time before waking up the following morning to the sound of “more planes flying overhead”.
The offender woke up himself at 10am and put the radio on again, Nicola had heard the planes before this. The offender made Nicola have another bath at about noon before she was led to the kitchen again, where she was dressed in her tennis skirt and assaulted again. “He called Nicola ‘missy’ during the fantasy games he played with her”. The offender then took her back to the bedroom about 2pm where he re-leashed her to the bed, but told the girl that he would not assault her again. “Her legs were tied together with wire during some of the times she was left alone”. Between 2 and 4pm the offender came into the bedroom to check on Nicola and give her bread and water.
At about 5pm the offender told Nicola that “he and a friend had been looking for areas suitable to drop her off”. Moor also states at this point that he had a copy of The Sun with him, but gives no details as to whether he read her some of the articles about her abduction. Nicola was left leashed to the bed until 10pm when the offender checked on her and “asked her if she wanted any food as he was about to pack it away”.
At about 11.45pm the offender took Nicola to the bathroom again. This time she was made to stand on a sheet on the floor. The offender told her that he had the sheet down because he didn’t want to leave any forensic evidence. She was then ordered to have a shower. At this point the offender said something in front of Nicola to someone else in the premises, but Nicola herself never heard another person in the premises throughout her ordeal, so this may have been a red herring.
When Nicola finished her shower the offender took her back to the bedroom “to get dressed”, and he “removed her eye patches and replaced them with adhesive tape”. The offender then led Nicola“through the kitchen and outside to the driveway”. Nicola told police that the offender seemed nervous at this point and “hurried her along the five to seven steps down the driveway to the car”. The offender then wrapped Nicola in a sheet and made her get into the car on the floor under the dashboard on the passenger’s side. Moor says here “his nervousness was increased when the car wouldn’t start. As he was repeatedly trying to start it, he told Nicola the car had been stolen by his friend”. According to Nicola the offender stopped for petrol before “stopping a second time and getting her out of the car at an unknown location”. At this point the offender removed the sheet and “walked her for about five minutes on footpaths until they stopped at another location”. Here he took off the adhesive tape on her eyes and gave her a change of clothes, saying that he was going to leave her at that location. However, then he “walked about five metres, returned and told Nicola the location was no good”. He then took her for another walk of about 3 minutes. He then told Nicola to count for a while, before finding someone and ringing the police. Nicola had been dumped “in bushes in front of an SEC substation in Tennyson St, Kew”. It was just before 2am on the morning of her 14th birthday. Moor then says that “the Lynas family left Australia and returned to live in England six days after Nicola was released”. I’m not sure how accurate this is. We know the family were being kept in a police safe house until at least 12 July, so it is possibly true, but considering the earlier mistake about the family planning to leave on 4 August when it was actually 8 July, it is not clear how accurate this date is.
Nicola and Fiona gave separate statements to police and their description of the offender differed markedly, with Fiona saying he was between 182cm to 185cm tall, and Nicola giving him a height of less than 170cm. Police believed Nicola’s estimate to likely be more accurate as she had spent more time with him and had been marched out of the house next to him whilst walking alongside him. With she herself being 162cm tall, this means she must have gauged him to be not too much taller than herself, although she would not have had much time to see how tall he was because she was blindfolded for the majority of the time she spent with him. The fact that Fiona and Nicola gave such differing accounts of his height may be why there was no estimate of his height given in the contemporary newspaper reports at the time.
Both Fiona and Nicola said “he was well-built” while Nicola said he “had a slightly big stomach, like a beer belly”. The two sisters both said he had a deep or gruff Australian accent (although this contradicts media accounts from the time which stated that he was “softly spoken”). Fiona said he used the term “yous”. For example he said “lay down on the bed yous” and “get the cash yous” which perhaps would have stood out to these well-bred, English, private schoolgirls. Neither had seen his face because of the balaclava he was wearing. Fiona said he had his handgun tucked into either his trousers or his belt on the left side, but Nicola said that it was on the right side. Fiona also said that he carried the serrated carving knife in his left hand. Fiona said the gun had “a dull silver barrel with a brown wooden handle”, whereas Nicola described it as “shiny silver”. Nicola said he “didn’t smell of body odour, alcohol or cigarettes; that his hands felt sort of hairy with rough skin and shortish fingernails; that his arms were quite solid and stocky with fine hair; that he had fine hair on his chest and no hair on his back; that he swore a lot, but only at the Lynas house, in the car and about his friend and that he sounded “not really educated”. Fiona thought that he was probably aged in his 30s.
Keith Moor then listed a collection of the items that were taken by the offender. These included “a handmade pink and white striped sundress with a drop waist and gathered (belonging to Fiona); a pair of blue tracksuit pants of the brand endorsed by PLC, may have had Fiona Lynas label inside or F Lynas written in biro on the inside label; three pairs of white Marks and Spencer label girl’s underpants and two pairs of blue Dobson brand girl’s underpants; four pairs of white cotton Marks and Spencer brand socks; a Marks and Spencer brand green and white fine horizontally striped T-shirt, size small or 8; a Melbourne Football Club hat; a white tennis skirt, size 8, pleated with velcro and slip catch on the front, very fine knife pleats with red and blue ribbon around the bottom; PLC school jumper, size not known; a large Ken Done beach bag with green fish design and a string draw opening; a pair of blue and green knee high stockings, bought in England; a maroon ladies wallet; a Victorian driver’s licence in the name of Rosemary Lynas with the address of 16 Margaret St Canterbury (the Lynas family had lived at this address until March 1990) on it; a Medicare card in the names of Brian, Rosemary, Fiona and Nicola Lynas; an ANZ visa card in the name of Rosemary Lynas.”
Regarding the vehicle the offender used to abduct her in, Nicola thought it was “a four door vehicle with bucket seats; that it had a floor gear shift, probably manual; that the radio was tuned to KZFM; there were no odours in the car; that it sounded oldish and had carpet on the floor”.
Moor also listed things the offender said while carrying out the attack.
Firstly, to Nicola and Fiona he said “see this here, this is a really sharp knife.” And: “this is a real gun. It shoots real bullets.” And: “Blow your heads off.”
To just Nicola he said: “if you try to see it will be very dangerous for you.” And: “Keep your eyes shut if you want to stay alive.” And: “Crouch down on the floor. Get down low. Get your head right down.” And: “You’ve got to clean yourself thoroughly.” And: “Clean your teeth thoroughly.” And: “I’m just going to tie your feet up now”. And: “Think you’re worth $25,000?” And: “You will get home. You will be home by late Thursday evening, early Friday morning.” And: “I’ll drop you off at a place and change of clothes (sic) and you have to wait for about 10 minutes and then you can walk to a police station. I’ll give you directions to the police station.” And: “When you get back the police will ask you a lot of questions.”
Confusing Contradictions between Mugshots 1 and Keith Moor’s 2016 Herald Sun article Victoria Police and FBI Dossier on Shocking Mr Cruel Child Attacks
While researching this case I couldn’t help but notice some contradictions in the reporting of the case. Keith Moor and Geoff Wilkinson co-wrote Mugshots 1 in 2003. In this book they had a chapter on the Mr Cruel story which I presume was a summary of the events based on newspaper articles from 1990. However, then in 2016, Moor published his article in the Herald Sun titled Victoria Police and FBI Dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks. This article had previously unreleased information after Moor had received files from an unnamed source. Presumably he received some of the police statements made by the victims of the attack. Some of the details from these files clearly contradicted some of the ‘facts’ of the case that had been presented in Mugshots 1. The main point of difference between the two publications was that, in the book, the offender was described as being 175cm tall whereas in the 2016 Herald Sun article he was described as being less than 170cm tall. Despite this, Moor and Wilkinson did not correct the record when they republished Mugshots 1 in 2019 where the original description of the offender’s height of 175cm is retained. This has led to a lot of confusion in the public record. We know from a 5 July 1990 The Sun article by Brian Walsh that Nicola was only 162cm tall, yet Moor and Wilkinson stated in Mugshots 1 “Mr Cruel then walked Nicola out of the house. He had his arm around her shoulder, with his head very close to hers. She later told police he maintained this position for several minutes, enabling her to work out that he was the same size as her, making him about 175cms tall.” I don’t know where they are getting this information from since it is not in any of the contemporary newspaper reports, but we know The Sun had already said Nicola was 162cm tall when she went missing and this certainly seems to be a much more likely height for a 13 or 14 year old girl to be. Therefore, the claim in Mugshots 1 that Nicola was 175cm tall is most likely an error, and Wilkinson and Moor perhaps should have corrected this error when republishing Mugshots 1 in 2019. The public needs some clarity on the facts of the case if we are to stand any chance of identifying the perpetrator, but by putting out on the public record contradictory facts about the offender’s height, this is causing confusion.
|Contradiction||Mugshots 1||2016 Herald Sun article|
|Offender broke in||11.40pm||11.30pm (woke Nicola up at 11.20pm)|
|Fiona tied to which bed?||Her own bed||Her parents’ bed|
|Offender’s height||about 175cm||less than 170cm|
The facts are that, according to what we assume is Nicola Lynas’ police statement, she thought the offender was less than 170cm tall. However, this contrasted with her sister’s estimation, who stated he was between 182-185cm tall. This large range means we cannot say with any certainty how tall the offender actually was.
My analysis of the Nicola Lynas abduction.
Unfortunately we cannot say with any certainty what time the significant events occurred. The main contradiction that affects our analysis is the contradiction as to what time the abduction actually occurred and how soon afterwards the parents arrived home. While most sources state the abduction occurred at 11.40-11.47pm and that the parents arrived home 13 to 20 minutes later, the 7 July 1990 The Age article throws a massive spanner in the works by stating: “senior police now believe that Nicola was abducted about 10.40 pm on Tuesday, an hour earlier than thought.”
What caused Kevin Holliday to give this information to the press conference? Did they realise that the clock radio in the parents’ bedroom was an hour out? Does this affect the length of the window of opportunity the offender had in carrying out his attack? If we believe the police perception that the offender had chosen his victim carefully and was watching the house, he struck within a narrow window of opportunity with Brian and Rosemary Lynas arriving home less than 20 minutes after the abduction. He must have known that they were out and that the girls were vulnerable, alone by themselves. But, if we accept Kevin Holliday’s information that the abduction occurred at 10.40pm then, does this mean that Fiona was tied up for over an hour and the offender had a longer window of opportunity? I suspect the latter is unlikely, no matter the reason why senior police reevaluated the time of the abduction down to 10.40pm as it is unlikely Fiona would have mixed up the difference between 15 minutes and an hour and 15 minutes while lying, tied to a bed.
Therefore, we will conduct our analysis with the belief that the offender had only the narrower timeframe in which to carry out his abduction. Since the parents’ may have arrived home as early as midnight, the offender had probably less than 40 minutes in which to get Nicola to his vehicle in Chaucer Crescent, switch cars, and flee the scene.
What did he know?
So, let’s analyse the scene based on the likelihood that the 2016 Herald Sun article contains the most correct information, but leaving aside for a moment the time of the abduction. Doing this raises a number of questions. Firstly, did the offender know the parents’ return was imminent? Probably, but how imminent? Did his surveillance provide him with information that meant he knew exactly when they would return? Either way, you would have to say that his actions were extremely risky. The possibility that the parents would be dropped off by their friends as he was leaving their Canterbury home with their daughter makes the whole enterprise fraught with danger for him. Then again, perhaps this only elicited excitement in him.
The keys to the Holden Berlina
The offender took the family’s rented Holden Berlina and used it to smuggle Nicola to the general location of his getaway car in Chaucer Crescent. Therefore, surely he had planned this element of the abduction. His surveillance must have provided him with the information that the keys to the car were present in the house. This knowledge led him to factor in how he carried out the crime. I say this because otherwise he would have had to walk Nicola down Monomeath Avenue and across the busy Canterbury Road before passing residential properties on his way to Chaucer Crescent. This surely would have increased his risk of getting caught. It is far more likely, he knew he would have been able to take the keys from the hook in the kitchen and therefore planned to bundle Nicola away in the family vehicle. This indicates incredibly careful planning, despite the risk he took in carrying out the abduction not long before Brian and Rosemary returned.
Some might argue that we cannot say this for sure, and the fact that it was a late hour meant that he may not have been noticed walking Nicola back to his vehicle in Chaucer Crescent. They might point to the fact the offender seems to have walked Nicola, presumably whilst she was still wearing the balaclava he had put over her head, several hundred metres down Chaucer Crescent, a residential street, between the two vehicles. But, I’d suggest this was still less risky than marching her down her own street and across a main road would have been.
An experienced burglar?
Next, the offender displayed sophisticated burglary and abduction skills. He broke in through a window in the parents’ bedroom without waking up the girls sleeping in the adjacent bedrooms. This suggests someone who was skilled in the ways of breaking and entering. Similarly he had no trouble subduing the girls with his commands whilst armed with a kitchen knife and a gun. He displayed a confidence in how he spoke to them as well: “See this here, this is a really sharp knife…this is a real gun. It shoots real bullets…blows your heads off.” This was an offender who had committed similar crimes previously, he may well have had experience as an armed robber. Sure, we heard from John Silvester and Andrew Rule that he was “nervous” and that his hands shook as he tied up his victims, but in my opinion the offender was likely experienced at subduing victims. He used galvanised wire to tie up Fiona, and later used the same wire on Nicola at the detention premises and he displayed prowess in doing this which points to someone who had done this a number of times previously.
The fact that this was the Lynas family’s last night in the house before they flew back to England on 8 July is surely also significant. Did the offender know this? It certainly seems likely. If so, how? Had he followed the family? Did he hear them talking about their plans? Was he operating as a prowler in the days or weeks leading up to the attack? Perhaps observing the family through their windows from the backyard? This also raises another question, how did he gain access to the property without being seen? The sun would have set before 6pm in Melbourne in early July, so he may have used cover of dark and just walked into the property from the front driveway. He could access the back of the property by walking past the left side of the house. We know he then broke into the parents’ bedroom window at the back of the house. Did this occur after 6pm while the parents were still in the house? Had he planned to take on the parents and tie them up like he had the Wills’ parents until he saw them get picked up to be taken to their dinner party? If he did observe the parents leave perhaps this is how he knew the keys to the car would be in the house. If I were to guess, I’d say he knew the parents were going to leave beforehand and planned to attack once they had. Then, all he had to do was wait for the girls to go asleep before attacking.
No parents present
A notable difference between this offence and the offence against Sharon Wills was that the offender struck while the parents were not present. He may have seen his opportunity and decided to strike at the most opportune moment. It was to be the family’s last night in the house though, meaning it was his last chance to act. He may well have known for days beforehand that the parents would be going out and that this was when he would strike. A pizza was delivered just 40 minutes before Fiona went to bed. This may have delayed him striking. He may have observed the girls order the pizza and may have been forced into delaying his attack. He may have grown frustrated during this time as the pizza was delivered. He may have not been 100% sure that he was going to strike. Perhaps he thought he would only strike if the girls went to bed at the right time. When they did go to bed, he may have thought he could strike then. But, did he know he had the forty minute window before the parents would come home or did he just risk it? We can only speculate.
A home-knitted balaclava?
The other aspect to discuss here is what the offender was wearing. An early newspaper report stated he was wearing dark jeans and a dark skivvy. It was also during this attack that he was wearing the iconic balaclava that has become roundly associated with “Mr Cruel” over the decades. The balaclava often elicits an emotional reaction of extreme fear when it is displayed on internet messageboards. While it is usually depicted as black, it was actually described as “dark green” and “homemade” or “home-knitted” when it was published in newspapers on 8 July 1990. This may well be a vital clue in working out the identity of the offender.
In 1990 knitting was a largely gender-specific activity with women far more likely to be skilled in the production of such garments. Yet, over the decades, no woman has come forward with information relating to a similar balaclava she might have made for a lover or son. Can we then take a leap and suggest that perhaps the offender made the balaclava himself. Was the offender skilled in textiles? In 1990, what type of men may have had the skills necessary to make such a garment. Well, one such type of man may have been a former convict. Convicts often learnt textiles or knitting in prison. I know such classes were offered to inmates in Pentridge Prison in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the Pentridge Prison Mess Hall Players, an amateur theatre group for inmates in the 1970s and 1980s, made their own costumes for their plays. Is it possible the offender made his balaclavas himself having learnt his knitting skills in jail? Having a female companion create the garment for him would have run the risk of her informing on him. Perhaps, by creating the balaclava himself, the offender was able to skirt around this problem.
We should also ask at this point, whatever happened to the imprint clue that was written about in The Age on 6 July 1990? Forensic experts were examining an imprint on a writing pad on which Nicola had written an innocent account to her father of a recent shopping trip she had taken. We can only assume that the offender had touched the pad. Was he wearing gloves? This detail was never stated clearly in the media. However, it may simply be that they found an imprint on the pad that wasn’t the offender’s as this article appeared before Nicola was released. Fiona would have been tied up in her parents’ bedroom and so could not have seen him touch the pad in the kitchen. The fact that this lead was never again touched on in the media though, suggests that police didn’t have success in obtaining any crucial forensic evidence with it.
The route to Chaucer Crescent
Now let us analyse the route the offender took to reach his getaway vehicle in Chaucer Crescent. Despite the fact the getaway vehicle was located to the south of 10 Monomeath Avenue, the offender chose to turn right out of the driveway towards the north, perhaps to confuse the blindfolded Nicola. He then turned left onto Mont Albert Road before stopping the vehicle, putting thick adhesive tape over Nicola’s eyes and putting a balaclava over her head. It is not clear whether this was the iconic balaclava the offender was wearing when he was in 10 Monomeath Avenue. It may have been that he didn’t want to be seen driving around the streets of Canterbury whilst wearing a balaclava himself. Alternatively, he may have had a second balaclava which he put over her head.
We are not sure what route the offender took to get to Chaucer Crescent, or what part of Chaucer Crescent he parked the Lynas rented car on. He may have taken the next left south down Alexandra Avenue before turning left again on Canterbury Road before taking a right onto Marlowe Street and then a right onto Chaucer Crescent. I say this because the 8 July The Sun article by Michael Cox specifically mentioned a police request for the assistance of the public for anyone who saw a man and a girl in the area of Marlowe Street and Chaucer Crescent on the evening of the abduction.
Also, the information caravan that was set up in Chaucer Crescent was set up at the western tip of Chaucer Crescent near the corner of Canterbury Road in the location of some off-street car parking spaces near the shops there. I suspect this is where the offender parked his getaway vehicle after walking Nicola from near the corner of Marlowe Street and Chaucer Crescent, but this is not certain, and the location was never officially released. By walking a blindfolded girl several hundred metres down a residential street the offender ran a considerable risk of being seen.
What about the route the offender took to the detention premises? Contemporary newspaper reports and Mugshots 1 stated that the route from Chaucer Crescent to the detention premises took about 45 minutes. Coincidentally enough, a route north up Burke Road and then west on Banksia Street, which becomes Bell Street, to Keilor East would take between 30 to 45 minutes according to Google Maps today, if leaving at midnight on a weekday.
Alternatively, he could have reached Keilor East via the Eastern Freeway which may well have been faster late at night, and one report did say that both Nicola and Sharon thought they might have been travelling on a freeway at one point. I’ve used Keilor East as a destination as this suburb is roughly where the 90 degree angle change in the flight path occurs before aircraft come in to land on the north-south runway at Tullamarine Airport. This route avoids the use of any modern toll roads. Only Colin McLaren’s account disputes the 45 minute figure given for this journey. His account states that the route was 10 to 15 minutes, however, as mentioned previously, his chapter on Mr Cruel is filled with so many mistakes it is hard to trust this figure. The other problem is that some newspaper articles stated that the 45 minute figure may be misleading as Nicola had told police that she felt the offender may have been driving in circles to confuse her.
Another commonly cited location for the detention premises is in the area of Eltham near Mings, the Chan family restaurant. A route from Chaucer Crescent to Eltham would take about 30 minutes leaving about midnight today. Is it possible the detention premises were located in the Eltham area, (as was claimed by Ron Iddles recently), but the offender drove in circles to confuse Nicola before arriving at the destination?
Having arrived at the detention premises, the true reason for the abduction became apparent. He assaulted Nicola a total of five times in the 48 hour period she was held there. He told Nicola he had a schoolgirl fantasy and he dressed her in her school uniform, and her tennis skirt during two of the assaults. He had also stolen a number of pairs of her underpants and a pair of knee-high stockings. She was leashed to the bed with some type of harness for the majority of the time she was held there (or, according to a John Silvester The Age article from 15 December 2010 titled The hunt for Mr Cruel, Nicola and Sharon were shackled with a “rough neck brace”). It is unclear why this seeming contradiction between Silvester’s and Moor’s accounts exist.
All of this suggests an offender with an indecent motivation for the abduction. Silvester and Rule mentioned how he “flattered and flirted” with Nicola, telling her that she was better looking than the photo which was released to the media made her look. His interest in fantasy games in which he pretended to be married to Nicola and in which he dressed her as a schoolgirl, referring to her as “missy” could possibly reveal a clue about the offender to any former lovers of his. We also know from the Sharon Wills abduction that the offender kept a wooden tripod at the foot of the bed, perhaps to record the assaults he committed on the 10-year-old with a camera or video camera. While Nicola never peaked from her blindfold, it is possible the offender also recorded the assaults on her so that he could re-live the experience whenever he chose. However, his usage of a wooden tripod is interesting. I have been informed by interested parties that such devices were rare in the 1980s and were generally owned by professionals, perhaps professional photographers, surveyors or cinematographers. Is the wooden tripod a clue to the identity of the offender?
Nowhere to be
The offender slept in to 10am on the two mornings Nicola spent in the detention premises. He also went back to sleep at 11am, after one of the assaults. This suggests an individual who was not used to waking up early to go to work. It also suggests someone who was very relaxed despite the offences he was committing. Does it also suggest someone who was in their 30s or younger? That may be a reach, but certainly people tend to wake up earlier as they get older.
The same man
The offender was definitely the same person who abducted Sharon Wills. There are a number of features that the two crimes have in common. He made both girls wear eye pads while in the detention premises. Both Sharon and Nicola described the same features of the bathroom and separate toilet in the detention premises. Both heard aircraft noises in the mornings of their detention. Both were assaulted in different rooms in the premises. Both were made to wash themselves in a bath and clean their teeth thoroughly before and after they were assaulted. Both were finally made to shower themselves before he released them. He put a sheet down on the floor of the bathroom when he made them shower so as not to leave behind any forensic evidence. He told both of them that his vehicle was stolen (this is a good reason for believing that he may have been using his own car, and it is possible he used the same vehicle in both abductions, but by no means certain). He put the radio on in the bedroom for both girls while they were in there. He fed both girls. So, I am convinced it was the same offender in both cases, despite the fact that, according to Silvester and Rule, he told Nicola he could not have abducted Sharon Wills because he was in a different state at the time.
The location of the detention premises
Much has been made of the information Nicola Lynas provided to police about hearing landing aircraft, and that this must indicate Nicola was being held somewhere close to Tullamarine Airport. We have already seen however, how the most detailed account of this analysis comes from Colin McLaren’s book Infiltration. If the information about the plane banking at a 90 degree angle is true, there is realistically only one area of the two main flight paths which could be the location where the detention premises were. That is around the suburbs of Keilor East, Keilor, Keilor Park, Airport West and Niddrie. The problem is, these suburbs were thoroughly searched back in 1993 and, while according to Colin McLaren, a number of properties were found which matched the description, the owners were all checked and cleared. Is it possible Victoria Police were looking in the right area, but either missed a property or cleared the perpetrator himself? Or is it possible the offender was simply using a friend’s property in this area, and it was never linked to him?
A red herring?
The offender spoke to an apparent accomplice on the last day of Nicola’s detention and made it seem that this person was organising the procurement of a stolen vehicle in which to drop Nicola off in. However, Nicola never heard this person, and she was of the impression that the offender was misleading her as to his existence. This probable red herring is consistent with a number of other red herrings employed by the offender in this case and that of the Sharon Wills abduction, not to mention a number used by the offender in both the Lower Plenty attack case and the Karmein Chan abduction. This simply suggests that the offender was cunning and would go to great lengths to avoid leaving behind clues to his identity.
Nervous Mr Cruel
On exiting the detention premises, Nicola noted that the offender seemed nervous and hurried her along the five to seven steps to the vehicle. Does this suggest the offender was vulnerable at this point? Perhaps he could be seen at the front of the house. It would have been late, perhaps between 1 and 1.30am, but the abduction story was big news at the time. The description of the detention premises make it seem like the building was either a 1 or 2 bedroom unit. Perhaps the front of the property was in full view of other units where the offender was vulnerable to being seen.
A petrol stop?
During the drive to dump Nicola, the teenager believed the offender had stopped at a petrol station to refuel. Surely, this counts as another extreme risk given Nicola could easily have got out of the vehicle to raise the alarm while he was paying for the petrol. Perhaps he was confident that she was afraid enough not to do this, but still it does seem like a gamble. As Nicola was blindfolded and under the dashboard, perhaps the offender felt confident enough that Nicola didn’t know where she was, and he threatened her not to move while he was outside the vehicle. Or, perhaps she also had her hands tied behind her back making it impossible to exit the vehicle.
Walking the streets of Kew
The perpetrator then stopped at a second unknown location before removing the sheet and got Nicola out of the vehicle and walked her around the streets for several minutes. After initially telling Nicola he was going to leave her at a particular location, he changed his mind and took her somewhere 5 to 7 minutes’ walk away and left her at the electricity substation in Tennyson Street. These locations where he had Nicola prior to finally dumping her are unknown, but what is clear is that police searched Eglinton Reserve in Kew which is about a 5 minute walk from the electricity substation. Contemporary photographs show a number of police carefully searching this park. It may be that he parked his vehicle adjacent to this park to avoid being spotted before walking Nicola to the substation. Either way, the offender still ran somewhat of a risk in walking the girl around the streets, even though it was 2am. It would have been a strange sight indeed seeing a man walking in close quarters with a blindfolded teenage girl, especially considering the massive publicity the abduction had already generated.
A risky dump location
It still raises the question as to why he chose the electricity substation. There were still residential houses very close by. Would it not have been more discreet to have left the girl in the middle of Eglinton Reserve? And why did the offender become spooked and change his mind about dropping her in the first location? Did he see someone at a distance and suddenly change his mind about the location? Or was this another red herring? Did he plan to drop the girl at the electricity substation all along? Did he know that the substation was at this location and did he figure it could give him a couple of minutes to make his getaway?
I have mentioned previously about the seeming coincidence that electricity stations seem to play in the Mr Cruel saga. Was the offender a linesman or electricity worker who had previously worked at the substation in Kew and so knew of its existence as a location he could dump the girl. This is impossible to answer, but it wasn’t a great place to dump the girl to give him a great deal of time to make his getaway. He must have known that the girl was suitably fearful not to go and knock on a door as soon as he had left. One report said he told the girl to wait ten minutes before knocking on a door. Perhaps she did this and this gave him enough time to get back to his car. Perhaps sniffer dogs tracked him through the park, and this was why police were seen searching it.
It should be pointed out here that an unidentified detective was seen inspecting and measuring something at the crime scene at the electricity substation in Kew where Nicola Lynas was dumped at 2am on 6 July 1990. It may well be that the detectives identified a footprint in the grass here. I have spoken to someone who was one of the supposed 27,000 people interviewed by police after the Karmein Chan abduction. This person had been nominated as a person of interest because he had worked at Presbyterian Ladies’ College years previously. He told me how the first thing police did when they interviewed him was measure his foot. This leads me to believe that police have evidence of the size of the offender’s foot. It may be that, the crime scene at Kew is where they have this evidence from.
The Mystery Caller
Who was the mystery caller who called forensic psychologist Ian Joblin three times between Friday 6 July 1990 and Sunday 8 July 1990? This person was described by head of the investigation Dannye Moloney as having knowledge of Nicola’s ordeal that was only known to her and the police. He had told Joblin that he knew of two other similar offences to Nicola’s, which may well have been the abduction of Sharon Wills and the Lower Plenty attack. He had spoken in great detail about the area where Nicola was taken, what she had eaten and even what she did when she was on the toilet. This seems like an incredibly important lead in the investigation and yet, we heard nothing more about it after 9 July 1990. What on earth happened with this lead? Did police manage to identify it as a hoax? If so, why didn’t they tell the public about it? Or, did police realise it probably was the offender and so shut up shop on releasing any more public statements about it so as not to reveal any more information? It is still a mystery who this person was and whether it was the offender or not. If not, how did he know inside information about the case?
A final word on electricity stations.
As mentioned previously, electricity substations, terminal stations and overhead power lines seem to feature unusually prominently in the Mr Cruel story. We know that the police questioned linesmen because of the frequency of electricity related connections to a number of different crime scenes. It should also be mentioned that there was also an electricity substation located very close to the Lynas family home in Monomeath Avenue. This is an old railway substation located near East Camberwell Station. The location is only a few hundred metres from Chaucer Crescent. Once again we ask if there is any relevance to an electricity station sight located so close to a major crime scene.
Summary – Questions about the case that need to be clarified
In conclusion, I once again call on detectives working on the case to clear up the contradictions in this case. In the abduction of Nicola Lynas the most pressing contradiction to clarify is what time she was actually abducted at. Why did senior police revise the abduction time on 7 July 1990 after Nicola had been released?
How long did Nicola estimate the trip to the detention premises took? Was it 45 minutes as the majority of sources stated, or 10 to 15 minutes as described by Colin McLaren?
What happened to the lead regarding the mystery caller who called forensic psychologist Ian Joblin three times between 6 July 1990 and 8 July 1990 with inside knowledge about the abduction?
Was Nicola shackled to the bed “with a rough neck brace” as described by John Silvester in 2010, or was she “leashed to the bed with…a harness” as described by Keith Moor in 2016?
Clearing up these contradictions will go a long way to helping solve this case.
Here is a table of some other contradictions in the reporting on the case.
|Original newspaper reporting||2016 Keith Moor article||7 July The Age article||Mugshots 1|
|Height of offender||–||Nicola: less than 170cm Fiona: 182-185cm||–||175cm|
|Time of abduction||11.40pm||11.47pm||10.40pm||–|
|Time Brian and Rosemary Lynas returned home||Just after midnight / 12.30am||About midnight||–||20 mins after abduction|
|Offender wakes Nicola up||–||11.20pm||–||(Offender breaks into home) 11.40pm|
|Nicola goes to bed||11pm||–|
|Fiona goes to bed||10.45pm||–|
|Voice of offender||softly spoken||Gruff Australian|
I wouldn’t have been able to create this detailed post without the help of a Mr Cruel discussion group I am a member of with some other online sleuths. I would like to particularly thank Reddit users u/mjr_sherlock_holmes; u/pwurg; and u/Elocra for the valuable insights they regularly offer in relation to the Mr Cruel case. u/mjr_sherlock_holmes also runs his own excellent website on the Mr Cruel case at https://whoismrcruel.com/, so please check it out. I would also like to thank Clinton Bailey for his valuable insights and those of Reddit users u/HollywoodAnonymous, u/satansandwiches and u/int3rest3d.
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Melbourne Marvels 20 January 2022