Mr Cruel is the moniker for an unidentified Australian serial child rapist who attacked three girls in the northern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is also the prime suspect in the 1991 abduction and murder of a fourth girl, Karmein Chan. His moniker came from a headline in the Melbourne newspaper The Sun.

Mr. Cruel
Tailored balaclava worn in Nicola Lynas attack sketch by Victoria Police.[1]
Years active
  • 1987–1990 (3 attacks)
  • 1991: suspected abduction and murder
Known forBeing an unidentified serial child rapist and suspected murderer
Reward amount
  • A$200,000 for 2 attacks
  • A$1,000,000 for suspected abduction and murder
Capture status
Not captured
Wanted since1987
WeaponsKnife and firearm

Mr Cruel has never been identified, and his three confirmed attacks and the suspected murder remain unsolved cold cases. There is a reward of A$200,000 for the two abductions. In April 2016, twenty-five years after the death of Karmein Chan, Victoria Police increased the reward for information that leads to the perpetrator's arrest and conviction, from A$100,000 to A$1,000,000.[2][3][4]

Police describe Mr Cruel as highly intelligent. He meticulously planned each attack, conducted surveillance on the victims and their families, 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; in one attack he took a break during the attack in a victim's house to eat a meal. He threatened to injure his victims or their family members with a knife or a handgun.



On 22 August 1987 in Lower Plenty, a man wearing a balaclava broke into a family home at 4:00 am, armed with a knife and a handgun.[5] He tied the hands and feet of both parents, and locked them in a wardrobe. He then tied the son to a bed, and raped the 11-year-old daughter. He had cut the phone lines.[6]

On 27 December 1988 in Ringwood, he broke into a family home via the back door at about 5:20 am, wearing a balaclava and armed with a handgun.[5][7] He bound and gagged the parents, and demanded money. He then grabbed their 10-year-old daughter, put tape over her eyes and a ball gag in her mouth, and abducted her. She was released eighteen hours later on the grounds of Bayswater High School.[6]

On 3 July 1990 in Canterbury, he broke into a family home at 11:30 pm, armed with a knife and a gun, and wearing a balaclava.[5] He tied and gagged a 13-year-old girl, 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.[6]



On 13 April 1991 in Templestowe, a man wearing a balaclava broke into a family home at about 8:40 pm, armed with a knife. He abducted 13-year-old Karmein Chan, who went to the same school as the Canterbury victim.[5][8] Chan's decomposed body, with three gunshot wounds to the head, was found a year later. It has been reported that some detectives had doubts about whether this crime was committed by Mr Cruel.[9] Detective Chris O'Connor answered a journalist's question in 2013 about whether Mr Cruel was responsible, saying "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."[10]


Spectrum Task Force reward poster for the abductions distributed in 1991.[11]

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.[12] Mr Cruel meticulously planned his crimes; for example, in one case, he abducted a girl and told her he would release her in exactly fifty hours, which he did.[13] He bathed his victims carefully, with one victim describing the act as "like a mother washing a baby".[12] In two cases, he took a second set of clothes from the girls' homes to dress them before they were freed. The modus operandi was the same in each of the three attacks, and victim statements provided confirmation to police that it was the same offender.[10]

Two of Mr Cruel's victims were able to provide police with details of the house where they had been kept. Both had been leashed to a bed. The same two victims told detectives that they had heard planes landing, leading police to believe the house was on one of the flight paths to Melbourne Airport.[13]

Police established the Spectrum Task Force in May 1991, dedicated to catching Mr Cruel.[14][15] The task force searched 30,000 homes and interviewed 27,000 suspects over the attacks, at a cost of A$3.8 million.[14][15] There was a A$300,000 reward offered by the police for information that led to the conviction of Mr Cruel. A reward poster for the abductions was distributed in 1991 to all Victorian homes, and in certain areas in South Australia and New South Wales. Huge posters were placed in public places.[11] The task force was disbanded in January 1994.[14]

The task force investigated earlier sexual crimes from 1985 to 1987 with similar modus operandi, but could not locate some witness statements and crime scene exhibits, including a tape used to tie up a victim and also a rope used to tie a victim.[14][16] The head of the Spectrum Task Force, David Sprague, said that some exhibits had not ever been examined by forensics, and had either been lost or thrown out.[14] The police established a Rape Squad in April 1989, with nine detectives dedicated to investigating serial rapists throughout Victoria, particularly in Melbourne.[17] The police established the unit after a review into the effectiveness of their rape investigations, by the Rape Investigation and Evaluation Group, found they needed a more coordinated and professional approach to investigations.[17][18]

On 14 December 2010, police announced that the Apollo Task Force had been established about eight months earlier, following substantial new intelligence. The new task force had been reviewing both the Spectrum Task Force investigation and some new leads that had surfaced in the last year or so.[19][20] The Apollo Task Force closed in June 2013 after finding the intelligence was not credible, ruling out the suspect.[10]

Earlier in 2013, the Herald Sun reported that convicted serial child rapist Robert Keith Knight, who died in 2013, had been a person of interest.[21] In Detective Chris O'Connor's opinion, Knight wasn't Mr Cruel.[21]

On 9 April 2016, the Herald Sun newspaper published details of the Spectrum Task Force's dossiers on seven suspects, known as the Sierra Files, that were produced with the assistance of the US FBI. The newspaper also published details of police witness statements from the victims and their families.[5][22][23][24]

On 13 April 2016, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Karmein Chan's murder, the police increased the reward for information on her death to A$1 million.[25]

Earlier crimes


There had been varying reports by the media of suspected attacks prior to 1987.[26][27][28][29][30] The police have never released specific details of suspected attacks. Detective Stephen Fontana answered a journalist's question in 2001 on earlier attacks, saying "that there just wasn't enough known about him and he didn't want to speculate".[9]

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.[16] The first victim was a 14-year-old girl who was abducted from her home in Hampton in February 1985.[26][31] During her assault, the attacker told her, "My liberty, my freedom, is more important than your life".[16][5] An intimate swab was taken from the victim.[16]



The Sun newspaper gave the perpetrator the moniker of "Mr Cruel" after police described a serial home invasion rapist in November 1987 as "super cool and super cruel".[32] The name was adopted by the rest of the media. 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.[32]

See also



  1. ^ Moor, Keith (4 May 2016). "Mr Cruel: Unsolved child abduction and murder case". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  2. ^ Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana media briefing Karmein Chan reward. Victoria Police Media Unit (Television production). Victoria Police. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  3. ^ Koubaridis, Andrew (13 April 2016). "Child abducting murderer Mr Cruel could still 'be alive'". Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Moor, Keith (9 April 2016). "'My freedom is worth more than your life'". Herald Sun. p. 6.
  6. ^ a b c O'Donnell, Philippa (14 December 2010). "New suspect in decades old Mr Cruel investigation". ABC Radio Melbourne. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  7. ^ Conroy, Paul. "The crime that stirs passions and is solved by cool logic". The Age. p. 2.
  8. ^ 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  
  9. ^ a b Moor, Keith (2 April 2001). "A cruel time on manhunt". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corp Australia.
  10. ^ a b c 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. Archived from the original on 21 March 2016.
  11. ^ a b Moor, Keith (4 August 2003). "Monster's trail of fear". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corporation. Archived from the original on 9 August 2003 – via The Mercury.
  12. ^ a b Silvester, John (8 April 2006). "'Mr Cruel' filmed his victims, say police". The Age. Melbourne, Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
  13. ^ a b Silvester, John (15 December 2010). "The hunt for Mr Cruel". The Age. Melbourne, Australia: Fairfax Media. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e Moor, Keith (10 April 2012). "Mr Cruel was a meticulous, intelligent predator, say police". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corp Australia. Archived from the original on 11 May 2014.
  15. ^ a b "Karmein Chan reward" (Press release). Victoria Police. Archived from the original on 9 April 2013.
  16. ^ a b c d 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.
  17. ^ a b Boreham, Gareth (27 April 1989). "New police squad set up to hunt for serial rapists". The Age. p. 19. Retrieved 22 January 2022 – via  
  18. ^ Fontana, Assistant Commissioner Stephen (7 August 2015). "Statement of Stephen Fontana" (PDF). Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 February 2019.
  19. ^ "Police reopen Mr Cruel investigation". PM. 14 December 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ a b Moor, Keith (4 May 2013). "Robert Keith Knight was behind sick abduction and sex attacks on young girls and cannot be ruled out as Mr Cruel suspect". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  22. ^ Moor, Keith (9 April 2016). "7 Mr Cruel suspects". Herald Sun. pp. 1, 4. Retrieved 21 January 2022.
  23. ^ Moor, Keith (9 April 2016). "Terrorised by Intruder". Herald Sun. p. 5.
  24. ^ Moore, Keith (8 April 2016). "Victoria Police unable to eliminate seven Mr Cruel suspects". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corp Australia. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  25. ^ "$1 Million reward announced on 25th anniversary of abduction and murder of Karmein Chan". Victoria Police (Press release). 13 April 2016. Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  26. ^ a b Moor, Keith (11 April 2012). "Mr Cruel suspected of at least a dozen attacks on children". Herald Sun. Melbourne, Australia: News Corp Australia. Archived from the original on 13 December 2016.
  27. ^ "The killing of Karmein". The Age. 1 April 2001.
  28. ^ Daley, Paul; Wilson, Caroline (17 May 1992). "Child porn network linked to Mr Cruel". The Sunday Age. p. 1. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  29. ^ "Unmasking Mr Cruel". Herald Sun. 6 February 1993.
  30. ^ "Mr Cruel Alert". Herald Sun. 30 August 1991.
  31. ^ Silvestor, John; Rule, Andrew (2008). Rats : crooks who got away with it : tails of true crime and mystery from the Underbelly archives. Camberwell: Floradale Productions : Sly Ink. ISBN 9780977544004.
  32. ^ a b "Police hunt for Mr. "Cruel"". The Sun. 19 November 1987.