|Years active||1987–1990 (3 attacks) in Melbourne|
Absence of forensic evidence
|Criminal charge||Home invasion, abduction, child rape, armed robbery|
"Mr. Cruel" is an Australian serial child rapist, who attacked three girls in the northern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and is the prime suspect in the abduction and murder of a fourth girl, Karmein Chan.
He has never been identified and his three confirmed attacks and suspected murder remain unsolved cold cases. There is a reward of A$200,000 for the two abductions. In April 2016, 25 years after the 1991 abduction and murder of Karmein Chan, Victoria Police increased the reward for information that leads to Mr Cruel's arrest and conviction from $100,000 to $1,000,000. A newspaper gave him the moniker of "Mr Cruel".
Police describe him as highly intelligent. He meticulously planned each attack, conducting surveillance on the victims and their family, ensured he left no forensic traces, protected his identity by covering his face at all times, and left red herrings to divert family and/or police attention. He was soft-spoken, and his behaviour was unhurried, as he took a break during an attack in a victim's house to eat a meal. He threatened to kill his victims with a large hunting knife or a handgun.
- On 22 August 1987 in Lower Plenty, a man broke into a family home at 4:00 a.m. armed with a knife and a gun. He tied the hands and feet of both parents and locked them in a wardrobe. He tied the son to a bed and raped the 11-year-old daughter. He also cut the phone lines.
- On 27 December 1988 in Ringwood, he broke into the back door of a house at 5:30 a.m., armed with a knife and a small handgun. He bound and gagged the parents, and demanded money. He grabbed their 10-year-old daughter, put tape over her eyes, a ball gag in her mouth and abducted her. She was released eighteen hours later on the grounds of Bayswater High School.
- On 3 July 1990 in Canterbury, he broke into a house at 11:30 p.m. and tied and gagged a 13-year-old girl. He placed tape over her eyes, disabled the phones and searched for money. He then drove her to another house and molested her for fifty hours before releasing her at a power sub-station in the suburb of Kew.
- On 13 April 1991 in Templestowe, a male assailant armed with a knife abducted 13-year-old Karmein Chan (who went to the same school as the Ringwood victim). Her body, with three gunshot wounds to the head, was found a year later. It has been reported that a few detectives had doubts whether this crime was by Mr Cruel. Detective Chris O'Connor answered a journalist's question in 2013 about whether Mr Cruel was responsible: "we just don't know if it was Mr Cruel who murdered Karmein ... we just can't be sure because there isn't enough evidence to make a value judgement about whether it was or wasn't him in the Karmein case."
Mr Cruel is believed to have videotaped or perhaps taken still photographs of his attacks. 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. He plans his crimes – for example, in one case he abducted a girl and told her he would release her in exactly 50 hours, and he did. He bathed his victims carefully, with one victim describing the act as "like a mother washing a baby". In one case, he took a second set of clothes from the girl's home to dress her before she was freed. In another, he dumped the girl dressed in garbage bags so police could not test her original clothes. The modus operandi was the same in the home invasions/abductions in the three attacks and victim statements provided confirmation to police it was the same offender.
Two of his victims were able to provide police with details of the house where they were kept. Both were shackled to a bed with a rough neck brace. One told detectives she heard planes landing, leading police to believe the house was on one of the flight paths to Melbourne Airport.
The police established the Spectrum Task Force in May 1991 dedicated to catching Mr Cruel. The Task Force searched 30,000 homes and interviewed 27,000 suspects over the attacks, at a cost of $3.8 million. There was a $300,000 reward for information provided to the Task Force which led to the arrest of Mr Cruel. The Spectrum Task Force was disbanded in January 1994. Police have admitted that some evidence retrieved from the crime scenes at the time has gone missing. One missing item is the tape used to bind one of the victims, which could have provided DNA samples of Mr Cruel using new forensic technologies.
On 14 December 2010 Victoria Police announced that a new taskforce had been established about eight months earlier following substantial new intelligence. The new taskforce has been reviewing both the Spectrum Task Force investigation and some new leads that have come in the last year or so.
In April 2016, in the lead up to the 25th anniversary of Karmein's murder, Victoria Police released a 1994 dossier (nicknamed the "Sierra files") to the Herald Sun newspaper containing intimate details of the case that had previously not been released to the public. The dossier, which had been prepared with the assistance of the FBI, contained information about seven possible suspects. The newspaper stated that they had obtained the names of these suspects and also attempted to contact them for information, to varying degrees of success. Victoria Police subsequently increased the reward for information to $1 million.
There had been varying reports by the media of suspected attacks prior to 1987. The police have never released specific details of suspected attacks. Detective Stephen Fontana answered a journalist question in 2001 on earlier attacks "that there just wasn't enough known about him and he didn't want to speculate". In a 2019 television documentary, retired Detective Chris O'Connor said that there was "broadly speaking perhaps up to a dozen" victims for the investigation. The first documented victim was in 1985. During her assault the attacker told her that "My liberty, my freedom, is more important than your life".
The Sun newspaper gave the perpetrator the moniker of "Mr Cruel", which was adopted by the rest of the media, after police described a serial home invasion rapist in November 1987 as "super cool and super cruel". At the time, police believed the same perpetrator was responsible for three rapes: the first in 1985 of a woman, the second in 1987 of a girl and the third in 1987 of a woman.
- Moor, Keith (4 May 2016). "Mr Cruel: Unsolved child abduction and murder case". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
- Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana media briefing Karmein Chan reward. Victoria Police Media Unit (Television production). Victoria Police. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
- "$1 MILLION REWARD ANNOUNCED ON 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF ABDUCTION AND MURDER OF KARMEIN CHAN". Victoria Police. 13 April 2016. Archived from the original on 16 April 2016.
- Koubaridis, Andrew (13 April 2016). "Child abducting murderer Mr Cruel could still 'be alive'". News.com.au. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
- "Australian police to offer almost HK$6 million for information in case of HK couple's daughter who was abducted from their home in 1991". South China Morning Post. 10 April 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
- "Police hunt for Mr. "Cruel"". The Sun. 19 November 1987.
- "Case 41: Mr Cruel - Casefile: True Crime Podcast". Casefile: True Crime Podcast. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
- Moor, Keith (11 April 2012). "Mr Cruel stalked his victims". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corporation. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
- O'Donnell, Philippa (14 December 2010). "New suspect in decades old Mr Cruel investigation". ABC Radio Melbourne. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Daley, Paul; Catalano, Antony (21 April 1991). "A man in dark shatters a happy family". The Sunday Age. Melbourne, Australia: Fairfax Media. p. 5. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Moor, Keith (2 April 2001). "A cruel time on manhunt". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corporation.
- Moor, Keith (7 November 2013). "Retiring veteran detective Chris O'Connor says the unsolved Mr Cruel case still haunts him". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corp Australia. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
- Moor, Keith (4 August 2003). "Monster's trail of fear". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corporation.
- Silvester, John (8 April 2006). "'Mr Cruel' filmed his victims, say police". The Age. Melbourne, Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- Silvester, John (15 December 2010). "The hunt for Mr Cruel". The Age. Melbourne, Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Moor, Keith (10 April 2012). "Mr Cruel was a meticulous, intelligent predator, say police". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 11 May 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
- "Karmein Chan" (Press release). Victoria Police. Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Moor, Keith; Hunt, Elissa (10 April 2012). "'Unlikely Mr Cruel took Bung,' say police 20 years after child predator's last known attack". Herald Sun. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Moor, Keith (10 April 2012). "Mr Cruel was a meticulous, intelligent predator, say police". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corporation. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- "Police reopen Mr Cruel investigation". PM. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Roberts, Greg; Scott, Edwina (14 December 2010). "New clues in police hunt for 'Mr Cruel'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia: Fairfax Media. AAP. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
- Moor, Keith (8 April 2016). "Victoria Police and FBI dossier on shocking Mr Cruel child attacks". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corp Australia. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- Moore, Keith (9 April 2016). "Victoria Police unable to eliminate seven Mr Cruel suspects". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corp Australia. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- "Delayed $1m Mr Cruel reward regretted". Special Broadcasting Service. 9 April 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- Moor, Keith (11 April 2012). "Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children". Herald Sun. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
- "The killing of Karmein". The Age. 1 April 2001.
- Daley, Paul; Wilson, Caroline (17 May 1992). "Child porn network linked to Mr Cruel". The Sunday Age. p. 1. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
- "Unmasking Mr Cruel". Herald Sun. 6 February 1993.
- "Mr Cruel Alert". Herald Sun. 30 August 1991.
- Adam Shand (Presenter); The Full Box (Production company) (14 April 2019). Mr Cruel. Australian Crime Stories (Television production). Nine Network Australia. Series 3 Episode 7.
- Casefile True Crime Podcast - Case 41: Mr Cruel - 7 January 2017