Who Are The Biggest Suspects In The Mr. Cruel Case?

Mr. Cruel is the boogeyman-esque tale of an Australian criminal committing heinous crimes who has still never been caught, according to GQ. He's mainly known by his police sketch, where he is wearing a black balaclava over his face, and since he blindfolded his victims, it's clear that Mr. Cruel took great pains to never be discovered. After searching for decades, police received a brand new lead in 2022 among a huge array of other suspects (per the Herald Sun).

The chase to find Mr. Cruel is the biggest investigation in Australia's history, costing police upward of $4 million, and yet he has still never been caught, according to Nine Now. Per "Written on the Skin," roughly 27,000 people were interviewed by detectives during "Operation Spectrum." Police narrowed down that search to about 20 people, and the latest reporting by the Herald Sun has helped narrow the list of Mr. Cruel suspects even further.

Kidnapping and spying on kids

Mr. Cruel most likely began his horrific crime spree in 1987, GQ reports. That August, he targeted an 11-year-old, sexually assaulting her at her home in Melbourne, Australia. Per Daily Mail, she was blindfolded the entire time and never saw his face. Then, Mr. Cruel struck again in December 1988, according to ABC Local. In the early hours of the morning, he broke into a home where two parents and their 10-year-old daughter were living. Mr. Cruel targeted Sharon Wills, taking her from the house. She was found the next day wearing only garbage bags. During her 18 hours in captivity, she had been gagged with a ball and had her eyes covered with tape to avoid seeing Mr. Cruel's identity.

According to 9Now's show "Under Investigation," an anonymous person who was friends with Wills spoke out in 2022. She said she tried to tell police that she saw a masked man who climbed up a high-voltage electric tower and spied on neighborhood kids. Per news.com.au, this information is pertinent because numerous victims of Mr. Cruel were either taken near or dropped off at electrical power substations.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

An escalation in the crimes

In July 1990, Mr. Cruel waited until 13-year-old Nicola Lynas and her 15-year-old sibling were home alone (per the Daily Mail). Brandishing a knife and gun, he kidnapped Lynas, bringing her school uniform along with him. He held her captive for just over two days, where he assaulted her for hours (per GQ). Lynas was later found cloaked in a blanket at an electrical station.

It's believed that Mr. Cruel's final victim was 13-year-old Karmein Chan, according to the Daily Mail. Her case unfortunately represents an escalation in Mr. Cruel's crimes. In April 1991, Mr. Cruel broke into the Chan household, where the kids — ages 7, 9, and 13 — were home alone. Per YouTube, he abducted 13-year-old Karmein Chan and shot her in the back of the head three times; her remains were discovered a year after she went missing. It's possible that she was murdered because she saw Mr. Cruel's identity.

Mr. Cruel's personality

Per YouTube, Mr. Cruel seemed to be addicted to committing these crimes. But since there hasn't been a Mr. Cruel attack in years, it's possible that he has been imprisoned, died, or moved somewhere new (via The Age). So who are the main suspects for these horrible crimes?

Criminologist Dr. Xanthe Millett that believes Mr. Cruel's personality traits are "intelligent, meticulous, and callous" (via Daily Mail). But she thinks he would have appeared to be a nice and normal person to those in his social circle, and investigators believe Mr. Cruel was, as his name suggests, sadistic and perverted. As his crimes escalated, he was becoming desensitized to the pain he was putting his victims through. After talking with numerous victims, police have described Mr. Cruel as a white, middle-aged man with a potbelly with a height between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 9 inches.

Two main suspects

One of men suspected of being Mr. Cruel is Dr. Brian Alan Elkner, according to an interview on "A Current Affair" (via YouTube). During the 1970s, Dr. Brian Alan Elkner was sentenced to a decade in prison. During a two-year period, Elkner had reportedly attacked young girls, tying them up and threatening them with knives and raping at least one of the victims. Mr. Cruel's crimes occurred after Elkner was released from prison — and police suspected Elkner because, in addition to his criminal background, they found a knife and a balaclava stashed in his home. However, Elkner denies any criminal involvement in the Mr. Cruel case.

According to the Herald Sun, another prime suspect was Robert Keith Knight. The 62-year-old was alleged to have committed two child sex offenses in 1980 and 1996 that had a similar pattern to Mr. Cruel's crimes. In later years, he was found with thousands of child sexual abuse images in his possession. Although he could not be definitively ruled out, detectives who worked the case don't believe Knight is actually Mr. Cruel since Knight's crimes were spread over such a long time period. Knight died by suicide in jail in 2013.

Anonymous suspects and new leads

The Herald Sun named seven anonymous primary suspects who match Mr. Cruel's description, the first of which appears to reference Dr. Brian Alan Elkner. Suspect No. 2 is a business owner who lived in the right area but has since relocated to Canada, while suspect No. 3 remains in Musk and has changed his name twice. The fourth suspect splits his time between Melbourne and Harcourt, and suspect No. 5 was a Knoxfield resident who died in 2015. The sixth suspect, who lived in both Balwyn and Mount Waverly, admitted to being questioned about the case and denied any guilt. The whereabouts of suspect No.7 from Glen Iris are unknown.

The Herald Sun caught a new lead on Mr. Cruel in 2022. Importantly, Alf Gay, a terminally ill criminal who claimed to work with Mr. Cruel, wants to share what he allegedly knows about the crimes. Gay claimed that sex criminal Norman Leung Lee told him about a schoolgirl fetish he had and apparently confessed to Karmein Chan's murder. Gay also told police that he'd been to the scene of one of Mr. Cruel's kidnappings. Lee died in 1992. 

According to ABC Local, even though Mr. Cruel hasn't officially been caught, the search efforts resulted in 70 other sex offenders being arrested.