The Chilling Story Of ‘Mr Cruel’, Who Preyed On Children And Was Never Caught

Mr Cruel Unsolved True Crime

When Joseph James DeAngelo was finally arrested in April last year, it was a satisfying conclusion to a frustratingly long search by Californian authorities to catch the notorious US serial killer and rapist known as the Golden State Killer, who had managed to evade capture for decades. For many Australians, it brought our own unsolved cases back to the forefront, especially the case of Mr Cruel, who at one point some investigators thought could have been the Golden State Killer operating on our own shores, due to some similarities in their behaviour.

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Once DeAngelo was apprehended, investigators were able to rule the California resident out as Mr Cruel, meaning our own long-running mystery remains tragically unsolved.

If you’re unfamiliar with the case, we cover it in this week’s episode of PEDESTRIAN.TV‘s unsolved mystery podcast, All Aussie Mystery Hour. But here’s a refresher anyway.

Mr Cruel is the name given to an unknown, masked assailant who police believe may be responsible for around a dozen attacks on children in the northeast suburbs of Melbourne, but only four crimes have been officially linked to him:

  • The August 1987 home invasion of a home in Lower Plenty in which he sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl on the premises (the identity of the family has never been disclosed).
  • The home invasion, abduction and assault of 10-year-old Sharon Wills, who was taken by Mr Cruel from her home in East Ringwood in December 1988 and returned to a nearby suburb 18 hours later. According to the Herald Sun, the Wills family had also featured in the local paper prior to the attack, as had the first family.
  • Another home invasion and abduction in July 1990, in which Mr Cruel took 13-year-old Nicola Lynas from her home in upmarket Canterbury and taking her to an unknown location, where he repeatedly assaulted her. She was released 50 hours later. He told Nicola he’d watched her walking home from school.
  • The home invasion, abduction and murder of Karmein Chan, a 13-year-old girl who lived in the well-to-do area of Templestowe. She was taken in April 1991 and her badly decomposed body was discovered almost exactly one year later in a landfill area of Coburg North.
Task Force lead David Sprague at a press conference holding a poster of the victims. Source: Herald Sun

No further attacks have been attributed to the suspect, who broke into the homes armed with a knife and handgun wearing a balaclava that concealed almost his entire face. Mr Cruel kept his victims blindfolded and they were unable to provide police with enough identifying features of the suspect or the property they were taken to.

A sketch of the offender provider by Nicola Lynas. Source: Herald Sun

However, according to a 2016 Herald Sun report by journalist Keith Moor, who has covered the case exhaustively, there are “seven suspects the Victoria Police Spectrum taskforce [were] unable to rule out as being Mr Cruel.” So will this horrific case ever be resolved?

Hear more in the latest episode of All Aussie Mystery Hour. You can listen or download below, or find it on iTunes HERE or Spotify HERE.

Want to see All Aussie Mystery Hour chat about all things true crime live and in person? We’ll be hosting a panel at P.TV’s Selfish Weekend, a festival dedicated to self-care on March 17 & 18. Head HERE to grab your tickets.