How could one describe an attacker who would abduct a child from their home in the dead of night in any other way than cruel? Even if one could look past the heinous actions demonstrated towards the child victim, imagine the anguish the parents would experience in their inability protect their child or fear of never seeing them again. A profiler would suggest dubbing this man as a cruel individual may be counter-productive to the investigation, but a human being may find it perfectly fitting.
In the 1980’s, what is considered today as the world’s most livable city of Melbourne, fell victim to a notorious pedophile that would later become known as “Mr. Cruel.” He would strike in the still of night, abducting children to commit his twisted fantasies before abandoning them in obscure locations. Using military like precision, he would enter the home and steal a child right from their bed. Today however, this series is remembered for its horrifying and tragic conclusion.
All one can do now is wonder. Wonder who he was? Where is he now? How has he been able to get away with such crimes? Perhaps we will never know. But like the age-old saying goes “anything is possible” and like the X-Files slogan – “The Truth is out there.” All we have to do is find it. Finding the truth provide closure to the numerous victims and an identity to a notorious child killer.
The Victorian Police have withheld much of the information of the information about this case, including the number of offences this man is believed to be responsible for. So all one can do is use the information at hand to develop their own beliefs about the case of Mr. Cruel and where he might be now.
August 22nd, 1987
In the outer Melbourne suburb of Lower Plenty, a family was fast asleep in the early hours of Saturday morning. The serenity and safety of their home was about to be shattered by the intrusion of a balaclava-wearing burglar. Entering through a lounge room window, the man entered the parent’s bedroom. Brandishing a small handgun and a large hunting knife he bound the parents using a specialist style knot before gagging them and making his way into the children’s room.
Upon his arrival in the children’s bedroom he bound, gagged and blindfolded the six-year-old boy who lay peacefully on his bed. Now he could finally turn his attention to his true motive for entering the home, the eleven-year-old girl who lay innocently on the bed adjacent to her brother. Despite his future moniker he remained calm, cool and collected through out the entire event in claiming sexual gratification from the young girl.
His degree of self control reached such limits that he took the time to steal food from the cupboards and prepare himself a meal while the family lay helpless in the presumed sanctuary of their own home. In what would later become part of the offenders established modus operandi that would link all of these crimes together was the offender establishing false leads in his offences. In this particular event, the offender took the time to place what would later be established as a fake phone call where he threatened another family with similar violence.
This particular aspect of the offender’s behavior would become part of the behavior that police used to identify the fact they were dealing with a serial offender. This offence would serve as the only confirmed beginning of the series of crimes committed by this offender. Despite speculation to the contrary, this served as documented beginning of Mr. Cruel’s reign of fear as Victoria Police have kept information regarding many of the offences a closely guarded secret.
December 27th, 1988
Over a year had passed since the suspect had last been heard from albeit unbeknownst to investigators at the time. A man entered a property in the suburb of Ringwood and abducted ten year old, Sharon Wills straight out of her bed. First entering the parent’s room and placing a small firearm to her father’s head and steadfastly warning him with the words “Don’t be a hero!”…
He bound her parents in the same manner as his previous assault, using specialist knots and gagging them with surgical tape. Upon completion of his restraint of the parents, he indulged in his signature of creating a false lead as he stole approximately thirty-five dollars from their beside table in an attempt to give the impression that this was simply a routine burglary.
Then proceeding into the children’s bedroom, he woke the young victim using her name. Police would later speculated he may have seen her photo in the newspaper some months prior in a story about their home catching fire. After restraining the young girl, he lifted her straight out of her bed and into the night. When the parents eventually managed to struggle free, they became confronted with the cruel reality of what would be any parent’s worst nightmare.
Their daughter had been carried off by what was apparently a simple burglar. Distraught and overcome with panic, the father attempted to call the police only to discover the intruder had cut the phone line. Forced to run to their neighbors to contact police before running around the neighborhood looking for their daughter,
The Wills family underwent an excruciating 18-hour wait before their daughter was found abandoned walking along the side of the road not far from her home. Dressed in garbage bags, a passing motorist took her back to their home so she could contact her parents to let them know she was safe and sound. Despite undergoing a torturous ordeal, she appeared to show remarkable resiliency for a girl here age and gave Police a good portion of information about her abductor.
However only one type of information was unable to ever be found. The offender appeared to have an intimate knowledge of forensic science in that he was meticulous in eliminating any potential material that could have lead investigators back to him. Brushing and flossing their teeth, hand washing his victims, and even clipping finger and toenails to remove any potential DNA he may have left on his victims.
Being blindfolded for the entire eighteen-hour ordeal prevented Sharon from being able to ascertain a physical description of her attacker. Still she managed to describe his actions in great detail. Despite his notorious moniker, Mr. Cruel appeared to care for his victims by feeding them and was often a gentle and quite spoken individual.
After this assault, Mr. Cruel became somewhat of a modern day boogey man as a climate of fear began to dawn upon the city of Melbourne. Children and Parents a like were afraid that any one of them could be next and unbeknownst to the public and law enforcement at the time, this was only the beginning…
July 3rd, 1990
On what is one of the most prestigious and exclusive stretches of property in Monomeath Avenue in Canterbury lay a predator who had been dormant for almost two years. Lurking in the shadows of the Lynas family home was the man who made headlines almost two years prior for his abduction of Sharon Wills. All the while thirteen-year-old Nicola Lynas and her sister lay unsuspectingly asleep in the apparent sanctuary of their home.
Near the stroke of midnight they awoke to find a masked intruder standing over them and barking instructions at them. Whilst restraining her sister, the suspect ordered Nicole to return to her room and collect her school uniform. A peculiar request one might think but this act would later give Police a link to a possible suspect. Still brandishing a hunting knife and a hand gun, the suspect whispered to Nicola’s bound sister that it would cost her father twenty five thousand dollars if he ever wanted to lay his eyes on his daughter alive again.
But like the Wills case, one can only assume this was simply another false lead planted to keep police off his trail. If this were a real ransom, the suspect failed to leave behind the most important detail of all in how it would be collected. Despite the father’s apparent willingness to pay the amount demanded, he had no instructions to follow for the return in his daughter.
Escaping in the family car, the suspect took Nicola and drove approximately one kilometer away from the house where it can only be surmised that he had his own vehicle waiting. From there on he vanished into night like a ghost. A ghost may be the best way to describe this man as just like in the Wills case, not a single witness was ever found by the police.
Almost half an hour later, Nicola’s parents returned home. Shocked by the front door being wide open and the empty driveway, they hesitantly entered their home to find one daughter still laying bound and gagged on her bed and the other missing. Originally from England, the Lynas family moved to Melbourne through the fathers business as they felt it to be the safest place to raise children. That picture of a tranquil and safe environment was shattered in less than half an hour.
Some may say it was sheer luck that the police gained almost no evidence from their later examination of the crime scene, but to others it simply served to further the reality of how difficult it would be for Police to capture this offender. During a press conference, Nicola’s father declared his willingness to negotiate the ransom for his daughter’s release. But again like the Wills case, it was simply a ruse.
The only information investigators managed to gather on the case was that which was given to them by Nicola herself who left an impression on these skilled professionals. She was found abandoned in the suburb of Kew next to an electricity substation approximately fifty hours after she was taken. She managed to make her way to a nearby house and called her father to relieve him with the news her family had being praying for. That she was safe and alive.
During her later interviews with the detectives of Operation Spectrum, the taskforce established to identify and catch Mr. Cruel she would provide some of the only known information about where Mr. Cruel would keep his victims and various mannerisms that would help identify a suspect. Unfortunately however, to this day he still remains unidentified.
Once investigators were certain they were dealing with the same man responsible for the abduction of Sharon Wills and the assault of the eleven-year-old girl in Lower Plenty year’s prior, they were certain of one thing – there was a serial offender on their hands. But one of the few things they could be sure about was that his offences were escalating. He never attempted to abduct the eleven-year-old girl and Sharon Wills was taken for only eighteen hours. Now Nicola Lynas had been taken for approximately fifty hours.
Not only did he appear to be perfecting his craft but he was also losing the battle to control his sinister and vile urges. The time between each offence was decreasing and the time each young girl was held in a torturous confine by this man was only getting longer. It was considered to be only a matter of time when this man would return and strike again. But when he does it will result in one of the biggest and most remembered tragedies in the history of Melbourne crime…
April 13th, 1991
Success in life does not come easy in any aspect you wish to find it. The case of the Chan family was no exception. John and Phyllis Chan worked long hours in their popular Eltham restaurant, which happened to be one of three that they owned along with property investments that were acquired through countless hours of hard work and dedication. Starting at seven o’clock in the morning and finishing at midnight had almost become part of their daily routine.
But despite the long hours they were able to provide a comfortable life for their three daughters. They lived in a secluded luxury home in the suburb of Templestowe in the northeastern area of Melbourne. One would think that this would provide the family with an escape from their busy lives on the far side of the high fences of their home. However on a fateful autumn night while their eldest daughter Karmein would be engaging in her regular habit of looking after her two younger siblings, the same tragedy that befell the Wills and Lynas families in years prior would strike again for a third and final horrific time.
In the early hours of a Saturday night the masked predator who had been haunting the city of Melbourne for many years now engaged in what is considered the last of his heinous crimes. Little did we know at the time that this single event would end as one of the saddest tales to befall the city of Melbourne. Disturbing the young girls as they walked down the hall towards the kitchen, Mr. Cruel forced the sisters back into the bedroom where they had been watching television.
Forcing Karmein’s two younger siblings into the closet and placing their bed up against it to trap them inside, he then turned his attention to Karmein. After telling her sisters trapped in the closet that he only wanted money and they would all be left unharmed he took her at knife point from the home approximately two hundred meters down a suburban street unnoticed to where one can only conclude he had a getaway vehicle parked.
Not long after their sister taken, the two girls who were trapped in the wardrobe managed to free themselves and contact their parents who were still unsuspectingly working hard at their restaurant in Eltham. When Police would later arrive they were greeted with the signature of the Mr. Cruel. Spray Painted on the side of the family car in big white letters read “Payback Asian Drug Dealer, More and More to come!”
But of course like any investigation, the detectives had to follow this lead just incase their was a drugs involvement in the crime. That avenue of course proved fruitless as Mr. Chan turned out to be as clean as any upstanding member of the community could be. This left no doubt in their minds as Mr. Cruel had returned. When members of Operation Spectrum arrived at the scene, they were greeted with any investigators worst nightmare.
The original officers who were first on the scene failed to secure the home and establish it as a crime scene for forensic examination. So in those crucial first hours there had been countless individuals walking through the home and potentially contaminating and destroying evidence that may have been able to finally identify a suspect.
Still despite all the horror surrounding Karmein’s abduction there was a slight glimmer of hope. Knowing Mr. Cruel had released all of his previous victims, the Chan family was hopeful their daughter would eventually come back to them despite her traumatic ordeal. They even gave a highly emotional press conference pleading for the return of their beloved daughter that could move even the most stoic of personalities.
Since the beginning of his reign of terror, the taskforce and its investigators had worked with the previous victims in Sharon and Nicola to develop some solid evidence about their abductor. Both told detectives hearing what they assumed were planes land which lead to police investigating approximately three thousand homes under the flight paths leading to Tullamarine Airport in suburbs as far east as Lower Plenty.
One of the most chilling details of all occurred however when it was realized that Karmein Chan attended the same school as Nicola Lynas in the form of Presbyterian Ladies College. An all-girls school located in the suburb of Burwood was thrust into the public eye as many began to speculate the offender might currently be employed within the Victorian school system. Despite all of these leads however, they were unable to put a name to the phantom that has holding a city captive through fear.
Time continued to pass without a single sign that their daughter was coming home. Karmein’s desperate mother even offered a reward to the kidnapped for the return of her child but she was still greeted with nothing. Hours turned into days, days to weeks, and weeks into months without any communication from the kidnapper or any indication of Karmein’s whereabouts despite one of the most extensive manhunts in the history of Australian Crime.
April 9th, 1992
Answers would finally be found however when four days short of a year after the abduction, Karmein was finally found. A man walking his dog stumbled across a skull in the suburb of Thomastown whilst out walking his dog. Upon closer inspection he discovered a completely decomposed body amongst the long grass adjacent to Edgars Creek. The man quickly returned home to notify police of his horrific discovery.
Upon their arrival all that could be determined was that the victim had died from gunshot wounds to the head. The coroner would later make the determination that there were three individual gunshot wounds to the skull. But that’s not all a forensic examination would ascertain. The answer the Chan family desperately sought was about to arrive but in the most tragic form anyone could possible imagine.
Further analyses of the remains lead investigators to discover that they had found Karmein Chan. The remains found by the creek in Thomastown were that of the young girl abducted almost a year prior from her family home. Although the family finally had a resolution in what happened to their daughter and the pain of not knowing could now subside. They were left with another series of questions perhaps even more painful.
Why did he kill her? That might just be the most prevalent of all questions raised by this tragedy. He returned all of his other victims, what made her so different. One can only wonder until the day he is finally unmasked and brought forward to face the justice he so rightfully deserves. To this day investigators still work this case today and Victoria Police have promised the city of Melbourne that this case will only be deactivated when the man dubbed Mr. Cruel is finally identified and convicted…