Unsolved: 'Mr. Cruel' (Victoria, Australia)
22 August, 1987, approximately 4am, a home in Lower Plenty, Victoria - approximately 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) north east of Melbourne, the State's capital - falls victim to a criminal in the early stages of becoming a serial offender.
"Be quiet and don't move, or I'll hurt someone," he had said. The home's phone lines had been cut, and the man was armed with a knife and a gun, in addition to concealing his face beneath a balaclava ski mask. He tied the hands and feet of both parents, and locked them in a wardrobe.
"Get into the wardrobe and sit down. Get into the closet and kneel down," the man had said, "All I want is money, food and clothes. How much money is in the house?"
But the offender had lied. His real target had been the eleven year old girl, tying her brother to a bed, and turning his attention on her, "What's your name? How old are you?"
"Clean your teeth."
And when it was done, "I'm going out now so count to 100 slowly, then you can free your parents."
The attacker, later dubbed "Mr Cruel" by a subsequent newspaper headline, would strike again three more times that police are aware of. On December 27, 1988, he would kidnap ten year old Sharon Wills from her home in Ringwood, releasing her 18 hours later at nearby Bayswater.
"You're going to have a shower. You have to wash yourself really good," Mr Cruel had said to Sharon Wills, "Brush your teeth."
On July 3rd, 1990, Mr Cruel struck again, abducting thirteen year old Nicola Lynas from her home in Canterbury. He had disabled the phones in the home, searched for money and placed tape over Nicola Lynas' eyes. 50 hours later, Lynas was released in Kew, five kilometres (3.1 miles) west of her home.
"You've got to clean yourself thoroughly," Mr Cruel had told Nicola Lynas, "Clean your teeth thoroughly."
"You will get home. You will be home by late Thursday evening, early Friday morning. I'll drop you off at a place and [with a] change of clothes and you have to wait for ten minutes and then you can walk to a police station. I'll give you directions to the police station."
Less than a year later, April 13th 1991, police believe Mr Cruel struck again, abducting thirteen year old Karmein Chan (who attended the same school as Nicola Lynas, the attacker's previous victim) from her family's home in Templestowe. One year later, April 9th 1992, Chan's body was found in Thomastown, twenty kilometres (12.4 miles) northwest of Templestowe. She had been shot three times in the head, and her body was discovered in landfill, with police only able to recover portions of Chan's skull, her jaw and neck.
Victoria Police, with the assistance of the FBI, constructed a profile of Mr Cruel, describing him as highly intelligent, recognising a high level of planning and organisation, as well as an assuredness in his actions that suggested a confidence in his organisation. The FBI's analysis also stated, "He is a functional individual, one who has steady employment, is generally regarded as a good neighbour, polite, quiet, somewhat introverted, but may be involved in certain community-minded projects."
"In general the offender appears normal and above suspicion to those around him," the FBI analysis continues, describing the chameleon-like nature of the predator known as Mr Cruel which has enabled him to remain hidden, now, for decades.
In April 2016, 25 years after the 1991 abduction and subsequent murder of Karmein Chan, Victoria Police increased the reward for information that could lead to Mr Cruel's discovery and arrest from $100,000 to $1,000,000, in addition to releasing documents relating to the case and the Police's list of main suspects to Melbourne newspaper The Herald Sun.
Nonetheless, these cases remain unsolved, and Mr Cruel remains on the loose.
SPECULATION AND THEORY:
Victoria Police's Prime Suspect, as revealed to The Herald Sun, is reportedly a former Melbourne University lecturer, who had lived in Melbourne suburb Thornbury at the time of the Mr Cruel attacks. In the 1970s, he had been arrested and jailed for ten years after pleading guilty to a series of rapes and other offences, including attacks at knifepoint on young girls and young women in their homes.
While this suspect may appear as convenient thanks to his prior criminal history, which do appear similar to Mr Cruel's known crimes, I do not personally believe this prime suspect fits the profile of the true perpetrator. Indeed, the prime suspect himself has admitted to being aware that he is the prime suspect for the Mr Cruel crimes, but maintains that he is innocent of these crimes.
Not only do I believe this prime suspect does not fit the personality profile of Mr Cruel, but he does not fit the geographic profile either. In fact, I believe that none of the suspects revealed by Victoria Police to Melbourne newspaper The Herald Sun fit this geographic profile.
The FBI analysis of Mr Cruel itself states "in cases of serial sexual assault this type of clustering indicates an area of great significance to the offender. Usually it indicates the offender lives there while in other cases it reflects his employment."
Further, I believe the murder of Karmein Chan, if indeed perpetrated by Mr Cruel, was unplanned and accidental. Perhaps Karmein Chan had fought, and successfully gained ground on her attacker in attempting to flee him, and the attacker panicked and shot Karmein Chan, killing her. Again referring to the FBI's analysis of Mr Cruel, "In the offender's mind there is no intent to harm the children."
This may also explain why Mr Cruel's crimes appear to have stopped, at least for some time, as the unexpected murder of Karmein Chan spooked the offender and forced him to go underground. Likewise, geographically, this could easily explain the deviation from the offender's previous attack radius, with the offender intending to conceal the body of Chan further than his place of residence and/or employment so as to avoid suspicion honing in on his actual location.
If this is the case, while the true offender may well have popped up somewhere on Victoria Police's radar, I do not believe that the true offender is currently being considered by authorities as a 'main' suspect in these cases. What's interesting, also, is that there does not seem to be any real mention, in criminal profiles of Mr Cruel, of a particular obsession with cleanliness and hygiene. The repeated demands placed upon his victims to clean themselves, and to clean their teeth, could quite easily indicate the suspect may have an Obsessive Compulsive connection with cleanliness and hygiene that would be apparent in his routine lifestyle. In catching him, this may be an important detail that has, somewhat, previously been neglected.
Since his original offences, if the suspect known as Mr Cruel were to reoffend, it seems extraordinarily likely that his methodology would have changed. Given his intelligence and previous organisation, it would stand to reason that the suspect - in acknowledge advancements in forensic technology - would recognise a need to change if he desired to continue offending without capture.
Possible crimes that may fit the geographic profile of the Mr Cruel offender might include the December 12, 2000, disappearance of 15 year old Cherie Westell from Wantirna South (would fit with the previous known crime radius) and/or the June 2, 2011 disappearance of 13 year old Bung Siriboon from Boronia (just outside the known crime radius). Hebephiliac sexual assaults and abductions do not go under the radar, and crimes fitting Mr Cruel's previous known methodology would similarly not go unnoticed. Therefore, it stands to reason that Mr Cruel has either become more careful with his crimes, further spacing them out to greater avoid the chance of detection and linkage, or has gone completely underground, either by choice or otherwise (ie. death, old age).
Either way, Victoria, Australia's answer to the infamous EAR/ONS criminal from the United States, Mr Cruel, remains at large, and the murder of Karmein Chan remains unsolved.