This Was Mr. Cruel's Biggest Crime

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Australia was terrified by the crimes of a man the press dubbed "Mr. Cruel." A serial child-rapist, he would break into seemingly random homes, incapacitate parents, abduct their prepubescent daughters, and rape them for hours at a time — and then return them. The girls were then dropped off in strange places, in strange clothes, but alive. Originally dubbed "Mr. Cool" (via the Daily Mail), his modus operandi betrayed a chilling meticulousness and intelligence: Mr. Cruel very carefully never revealed his face and never left behind any fingerprints or DNA evidence.

His first crime to grab national headlines occurred in 1987, when he gained access to a Melbourne-area family's home by removing the glass from one of their windows. He then bound the parents and their son (locking the parents in a wardrobe) and spent the next two hours raping their 11-year-old daughter, calmly stopping halfway through to make himself a meal (via Unsolved Casebook). From there, his crimes only got more heinous.

Mr. Cruel was surprisingly fastidious

For his next two crimes, Mr. Cruel took to fully abducting his victims, rather than raping them in their homes. In 1988, he broke into a Melbourne-area home through the back door, bound and gagged the parents, and took their 10-year-old daughter, Sharon Wills. Eighteen hours later, he dropped her off near a local high school, dressed in a man's shirt and some garbage bags. A year and a half later, in yet another Melbourne suburb, he abducted another victim, 13-year-old Nicola Lynas, whom he made pack a change of clothes; 50 hours later, she was found blindfolded and wrapped in a blanket near a power substation (via ABC).

In both cases, the girls' testimony was consistent: Mr. Cruel was meticulous about keeping his identity secret — never revealing his face to his victims — and also strikingly fastidious, insisting that his victims shower and brush their teeth frequently (no doubt motivated in part by his determination to eliminate DNA evidence). And despite his alias, he was about as thoughtful as a horrific kidnapper-slash-rapist could be, providing his victims both food and water. Despite extensively interviewing the victims, though, police had little to show for it other than some sketches of a nondescript home and the now-famous balaclava Mr. Cruel wore over his face at all times.

Then Mr. Cruel turned to murder

The final, and ugliest, crime attributed to Mr. Cruel took place in yet another Melbourne suburb nearly a year later. While 13-year-old Karmein Chan was babysitting her two younger sisters, a man in a balaclava broke into their house, barricaded the younger ones in a wardrobe, and made off with Karmein — but not before spray-painting a bizarre message on one of her parents' cars: "Payback, More to come, Asian drug deal" (via The Age).

Unlike the two girls before her, Chan was not returned alive, despite the police's attempts to find her. Her body was discovered nearly a year after her disappearance, discarded near a landfill with four bullets in the head (via Now to Love). And after that, Mr. Cruel went silent.

It's not clear why, exactly, Mr. Cruel ceased all activity. If he was responsible for Chan's abduction and murder (some police doubt he was, and with no fingerprints or DNA to go on, there's no real way to prove it one way or another), it's likely that the murder was unplanned, given his previous modus operandi. And if so, it's possible that it was enough to scare him out of attempting further crimes.

What we know for sure is that no further crimes were attributed to Mr. Cruel, and he was never caught. Which likely means he's still out there, somewhere.