How masked child killer ‘Mr Cruel’ snatched kids in Australia’s most terrifying cold case as cops hunt him 40 years on

How masked child killer ‘Mr Cruel’ snatched kids in Australia’s most terrifying cold case as cops hunt him 40 years...

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FOR five years, a masked child killer dubbed “Mr Cruel” terrorised the suburbs of Melbourne.

Mr Cruel, whose identity is still unknown 40 years later, assaulted at least four young girls in the late 1980s and early 1990s – abducting three and killing one.  

Victoria Police

Mr Cruel – who wore a trademark black balaclava – abducted at least three girls and killed one[/caption]

A sketch of Mr Cruel – who has never been identified
Police Handout
Karmein Chan, 13, was found dead one year after she was snatched by Mr Cruel
9 News

Karmein’s devstated family sweep at her grave[/caption]

During his reign of terror, Mr Cruel broke into homes in Melbourne at night armed with a knife and handgun.

The mask-clad killer tied up parents and siblings – and snatched girls as young as 11, who he held for up to 50 hours.

He allegedly forced his victims to wash and carefully brush their teeth and fed them meals – even while they were being abused.  

And Mr Cruel is the prime suspect in the brutal murder of 13-year-old schoolgirl Karmein Chan who was snatched from her home after her sisters were forced into a wardrobe.

The 13-year-old was shot three times in the head. 

Mr Cruel’s violent crime spree started on August 22, 1987 when he broke into a home at 4am.

He tied up the parents and locked them in a wardrobe before tying the son to a bed and raping the 11-year-old daughter.

He struck again on December 27, 1988 when he smashed his way into another home.

He bound and gagged the parents, demanded money, and grabbed their 10-year-old daughter.

He put tape over her eyes, a ball gag in her mouth and abducted her.

She was released eighteen hours later on the grounds of a school – wearing a man’s shirt and green garbage bags. 

The terrified youngster said cops that her attacker made her shower and brush and floss her teeth, and kept her blindfolded the entire time.

“We can only dread what the man would have done if the girl had pulled off the blindfold and seen his face,’ Detective Chief Inspector Des Johnson said at the time.

“It is that close to being a homicide.”

Then on July 3, 1990 – 18 months later – Mr Cruel broke into a home and snatched a 13-year-old girl.

He drove her to another house and sexually assaulted her for fifty hours before dumping her at a power station while blindfolded and wrapped in a blanket.

Similarly, she told police that she was made to brush her teeth and wash herself thoroughly.

By this point, cops had a clear description of the attacker as white, aged between 30 ad 50, from 173 to 180 centimetres tall, of medium build with a small pot belly.  

Nine months later, Mr Cruel struck again on April 13, 1991.

John and Phyllis Chan were working at their Chinese restaurant and left daughters Karmein, 13, Karlie, nine, and Karen, seven, at home.

Armed with a knife, Mr Cruel forced Karlie and Karen into a wardrobe and snatched Karmein.

A year later, on April 9, 1992 a dog walker found Karmein’s remains near a landfill site.

She had been shot in the head three times.

Detectives believe Karmein may have seen Mr Cruel’s face – leading to him to kill her.

Despite the horrifying rampage, Mr Cruel has never been identified – and his three attacks and brutal killing remain unsolved cold cases.

No forensic evidence – including fingerprints or DNA – was ever found at the crime scenes, leaving cops baffled for more than 40 years.

In 2016, Victoria Police announced a $1million reward for information leading to the conviction of Karmein’s killer. 

Mr Cruel is believed to have videotaped, or taken still photos, of his attacks – raising the prospect of potential evidence.


Earlier this year, a woman claimed to know detailed information on the abduction of Karmein – and suggested the killer is still alive and living in Melbourne.

Speaking out in April, she said she had fought for three years to be formally interviewed by cops – who have allegedly refused to speak to her.

She told Daily Mail Australia: “I can’t sleep knowing what I know and not being able to tell Karmein’s family.

“This has really impacted me mentally and I think the police have been pretty cold in not even offering me any kind of support.

“They’ve spent 10 or 12 hours over the years writing letters and making excuses about why they won’t talk to me when they could have interviewed me in an hour.

“I just want to tell them what I know and they can make up their own minds on how to act upon it.”

Although Mr Cruel is thought to now be an elderly man, the woman fears he could still pose a threat.

Last year, Channel Nine’s Under Investigation published an image of a man believed to be Mr Cruel.

It suggested the child killer may have worked or posed as a power station employee, or lived close by.

Most of his victims lived near an electricity substation, investigators said.

Senior law enforcement investigator, Mike King, told presenter Liz Hayes: “The fact that it’s all in about a 20 minute drive from each other, in that area the offender has to feel comfortable in order to function.

“From a geographic perspective we just have to keep thinking, why is he comfortable in this area?

“Why is he selecting the victims where he is? And why is he disposing of them where he is?”

Mr King said there was a reason behind Mr Cruel’s movements. 

“There are reasons why he selected those locations to drop off those victims, there are absolute reasons why he selected the victims he did,” he said.

In the years following Mr Cruel’s reign of terror, cops scoured 30,000 houses and eliminated 27,000 persons of interest.

And a poster featuring the faces of Sharon, Nicola and Karmein and the details of their abductions was distributed to 1.4million homes.

From 2010 to 2013, officers re-examined the crimes attributed to Mr Cruel – but his identity was never uncovered.

Police Handout

It was found that Karmein was shot three times[/caption]

Her remains were found near a landfill site one year after she was abducted
9 News

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