Night 2 of “Mr. Cruel”– December 27, 1988

It was bold and highly premeditative. Mr. Cruel had meticulously planned the attack on Hillcrest Avenue in the Ringwood district of Melbourne, Australia. It was an enormous advance over what he had done in Lower Plenty on August 22, 1987. He had planned it for so long he knew that it would ruin this Christmas for his victim and perhaps many to come. But planning an attack to take place only a couple of days after Christmas ensured that his victim would be home.

Somehow he knew of the 10 year old girl, Sharon Wills. He knew her name. Some think it was because it had appeared in the newspaper about 6 months before, due to a report about a fire in their residence. But that can’t explain how he knew everything else. Somehow he had learned the routines of the household. He knew the father kept the front door key in the lock on the inside of the door. Mr. Cruel ingeniously figured out what to do. He brought paper and a device to gain entry, and he had prepared himself what to do inside.

For this attack was going to be very different from his first attack. He intended to kidnap the small, underage daughter and take her with him. His intent was to hide her in his home, in a specially prepared room, and there sexually assault her while filming it on camera.

Though Attack No. 2 was far quite different, Mr. Cruel was laying down a stalking pattern. Left, above, an overhead of Para and Main, Lower Plenty, Melbourne. The house is near a park and the main roads. Right, Hillcrest Avenue, Ringwood, Melbourne. The house was on a street next to a web of highways and their on- and off- ramps. Both areas were easy to access, surveille, and easy to escape.

Unlike other abductors who kidnapped kids and kept them stashed in a basement for months or even years in order to have one when they wanted to abuse them, he did not want the responsibility of feeding one and taking care of them for a long time. He wanted his own short thrill. Nothing more. He had to carefully work out how to make himself, the girl, and the surroundings so anodyne that no forensic evidence could be traced to him.  He intended to do his “thing” and then return her.

This is indeed a cold, calculating, arrogant and selfish mind. But one who had the self assurance and knowledge to get away with it.

In his first attack there was something about his outfit that seemed disposable. It was clothes that didn’t seem congruous– a sport blazer, tight denim jeans, basic running sneakers . . .and underneath a waterproof nylon windbreaker. Every bit of this outfit could simply have been recently purchased at a thrift store and then worn for the attack and then discarded.

For this night, Mr. Cruel selected blue overalls, gloves and a blue ski mask.

Mr Cruel--overalls

The attack had long been planned, but it must have almost seemed foiled. The night of December 26, 1988, the family returned home from shopping– the parents and their 4 daughters. They ate and went to bed. All 4 girls slept in the same room in a set of two bunk beds. Sharon Wills slept quietly with her sisters. But in the master bedroom the father, John, couldn’t sleep. He got up around 2 a.m. and started working on a jigsaw puzzle. About 10 minutes to 5 a.m. he finally turned off the light and went to bed.

Clad in his blue denim overalls, Mr. Cruel must have been watching, having waited who knows how long. Now he would have checked his watch and waited an appropriate period of time. In this case, about 30 minutes. He crept up to the house, to the front door. He slipped newspaper under the door and then pushed the key through the lock and it dropped onto the paper. He gently pulled the paper under the door. He wanted this kid badly. He unlocked the door and entered.

Mr. Cruel had no idea if one of the parents was still awake. The light had only been out about 30 minutes. Dawn was also coming soon. He wasted no time. He burst into the master bedroom. The parents bolted up. Julie, the mother, screamed, but Mr. Cruel put a gun to her head and told her to shut up. He then put the gun to John’s head: “You’re not going to be a hero, are you?” At his orders they rolled onto their stomachs.

The false clues began. As he viciously tied their wrists together with copper wire he demanded to know where John’s wallet was. John nodded to his pants. Greedily pulling out the cash, Mr. Cruel then he demanded the location of Julie’s purse. Curiously, he asked the location of the telephone. He left the room to go get the purse. He would then cut the phone wire. John and Julie were sure that they were only being robbed, but they worried over their 4 girls.

The house was silent for a while until they heard a scream from one of their daughters. This is what had happened:

Sharon had awakened when hearing her mother scream, but she had remained in bed. Now the door to their bedroom opened and man in a ski mask peaked in behind the blinding ray of a flashlight. She acted like she was asleep. He crept up to her and she could hear him breathing. He rolled her over and asked if she was awake. She continued to feign she was sleeping.

95d80289bd36cf80562ca0aa00ac09bb
Sharon was only 10 years old.

 

He left the room and quietly closed the door. What was up with this? He had called her by name?

Soon he quietly returned and shook her. “Wake up, get up.” She knew she had to awake. He called her by name again and made her get up. He went through her wardrobe and selected another complete set of clothes.

They went into  the living room. Mr. Cruel took one of her father’s shirts and wrapped her clothes in it. He also took his coat hanging nearby and made Sharon wear it over her nightie. They then took her to the back porch of the house. Here Sharon screamed, but he shoved a rubber ball in her mouth. He was quite prepared. He didn’t remove it until she agreed not to scream. He blindfolded her and put some kind of material over her head.

The predator was careful. From what Sharon could detect, the man picked her up and walked around to the driveway and then down a ways. He put her down, then he picked her up again and appeared to have changed directions. Soon they were at his car. He had been calming her by telling her that he wasn’t going to hurt her and he was going to send her parents a ransom note. As soon as the banks opened and he got the money, she would be released.

Hillcrest-overhead2

Hillcrest Avenue. The house is next to a corner lot. How did Mr. Cruel scope the area to begin with? He must have been lurking in the backyard. That power pylon corridor is interesting.  Where had he parked?

He set her down on the front passenger side and told her to get down. They traveled for some time and then he stopped. He asked Sharon if she could see, and she said yes.  He then used tape to blindfold her better and threw a blanket on top of her. They drove some more and she finally felt the car bounce up a driveway. Then it stopped. He got out, came around, opened the side door, and picked her up and led her one step up into a house.

The real nightmare was about to begin, but little Sharon was very brave and collected. She was making mental notes.

Continued in Part 2.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

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Night 1 of “Mr. Cruel”

An inaccurate title at best. The nights that this sadistic perpetrator struck his victims weere not the only night of his evil. He was a home invader. He was not a spontaneous home invader either. He had carefully assessed his victims beforehand. He violated their privacy for many nights. He was an arrogant mind with evil intent behind fogged windows, an eye peering from behind many bushes. He had learned their schedules and habits. One might say he knew the neighborhood as well. He had reconnoitered the property. He had rehearsed his actions prior to the attack. He had rehearsed his escape. He had planned carefully that he would leave no forensic trace.  Mr. Cruel unleashed his cruelty on a single night, at least on this his first attack.

It was a summer early morning August 22, 1987, in Lower Plenty, Melbourne, Australia’s, northeastern suburb. Para Road was a main road into the residential district, off Main Road itself. Near the intersection of these major roads, a man in a light blue balaclava ski mask crept through a house’s yard and up to the living room window. With his long, kitchen style carving knife he worked out a pane of glass in the window, reached in, and opened it. He put the knife away and set his small canvas carrying bag on the floor.  He drew a small, black automatic pistol, picked up his bag, and crept silently to the master bedroom.

Here he awoke the startled parents. The father’s eyes flashed with resistance. The intruder pointed the small pistol at him. “Do you feel brave?” he gruffly challenged. The parents acquiesced to his demands to roll over onto their stomachs. He handcuffed both of them, wrists and ankles.  “Be quiet and don’t move or I’ll hurt someone.”

The masked man then crept into the room of the 7 year old son and brought him to the master bedroom. He bound him to the bed.

Then he entered the room of the daughter, a mere 11 years old.  He took her to the master bedroom and bound her next to the others.

He calmed the family by telling them that he just wanted to rob them. “All I want is money, food and clothes. How much money is in the house?” The father said only a couple of hundred dollars. The intruder then asked the father his clothes size, saying they looked the same size as each other. He also wanted to shower and shave. He also wanted the first aid kit.

He uncuffed the parents and tied them with nylon cord, and put the handcuffs back into his bag. The children remained tied with nylon cord. He gagged them all with electrical tape. Then he blindfolded the children that way.

He then removed articles of clothes from the closet and then shoved the parents therein. “Get into the wardrobe and sit down.”  After they did, he covered them with a blanket.

He then tried to make a phone call with the master bedroom phone, but he got no answer.  He wandered the house. They could hear him in the other rooms. Then he returned and phoned again. He apparently got someone on the other end, for he started talking. He made threats and called the other person a ‘bozo.’

Finished with the call, he closed the closet door and locked it. He left the room and then soon returned with a radio. He turned it up so the parents and the son could not hear him raping the 11 year old daughter in the nearby bathroom.  They merely thought he was taking the shower he had needed.

After he was finished, he told her to bathe and “Clean your teeth.” He then led her into the kitchen where he helped himself to a morning meal of leftover lamb, biscuits, milk and orange juice.

Now refreshed, he took the daughter into the living room and sexually assaulted her on the couch. In what manner we do not know, but it obviously did not require she bathe afterward.

She heard him leave the room and go check on her family. About 10 minutes later she heard him return. He picked her up, led her to a spare room and then tied her ankles with nylon cord. “I’m going out now so count to one hundred slowly; then you can free your parents.”

He left the room. Shortly thereafter she heard the front door close. She got free and released her parents.

The father had to go shout and wake up his neighbors, for the phone would not work. Later it was discovered that the phone line had been cut outside.

Taken on its own at face value, this case suggested a spontaneous action to the police. Yet many things didn’t fit. The perpetrator was well prepared with handcuffs and nylon ropes. He knew how many were in the house. He even had a sequence planned out on how to use them– the cuffs first to temporarily bind the parents and then nylon rope when the entire family was secured before him. Cuffs might be traceable, but the nylon rope wasn’t. He had a bag and the sufficient gear to pull off his attack– including some shears to cut the phone line.

But when did he do that? First or afterward? None of the family heard anybody speaking on the other end of the phone. He certainly couldn’t have been talking to anybody if he had cut the line first.

It really is of some importance. If he cut the line first, then all what he did in the house was an act. This seems to fit, since it was obviously a well-planned attack. If he cut the line afterward, then it would merely mean he needed some time to get away, and this was buying him that time.

Obviously, he got away. So this wasn’t a transient who needed a bath and some clothes. He must have had a car nearby.

Altogether it does seem like his actions in the house were an elaborate performance and he had cut the line first. His object all along appears to have been the pedophile rape of the 11 year old daughter. It was, in fact, a well planned attack, and his actions and words were designed to throw the police off his scent. He knew to have the victim bathe and remove any forensic evidence against him.  Strangely, he had worn some nylon blue windbreaker under his sport jacket. Not a shirt, a disposable waterproof jacket. Everything he wore over this apparently was disposable and any forensic clues those clothes may have left he felt could not be traced to him. The waterproof jacket protected his body from leaving clues.

This was a careful thinker.

The masked perpetrator had tried to sound quite uninformed. He had asked the girl: “What’s your name? How old are you?” She told him her name, but he wrongly called her “Kate” later, which was not her name, and repeated this several times.

Yet everything else suggested a very confident villain who had carefully planned his attack. So confident he had spent an hour or so in the house, helped himself to a meal, and casually left as dawn was breaking.

A theory was put forward that the culprit was an obsessive pedophile who had seen the daughter’s picture in the paper a few days before. The family had been featured in the local paper. Given how premeditated the attack was, and apparently how knowledgeable the villain was about evidence, we will see how  unlikely this scenario is as the crime spree develops before us.

The perp was an Australian between 5 foot 8 inches and 6 foot tall, medium to slim build, possibly in his middle 20s; oval face, soft hands, possibly right-handed.

But how much was the rest of his appearance a performance? Hair seemed brown-grayish/white with white spots in it. He may have had dandruff, and his hair hung out somewhat from under the balaclava. His eyebrows were bushy and also grayish/white.  His voice seemed gruff, somewhat deep. There was a nervous tenor to it. He sounded uneducated. He had bad breath, described as “musty”– however we are to take that. He had a couple of days beard growth.

 

MrCruel3

The artist’s work above is based on the family’s descriptions of the man who would later be dubbed “Mr. Cruel.”

Despite the sound of a gruff, transient thief that he had cultivated, his clothes were in good condition– close fitting blue denim jeans, brown tweed sports jacket, a blue nylon waterproofed zip up jacket, strangely underneath it, and his tennis shoes were “blue runners with white flashes down the side, white soles in good condition.” His socks were white cotton.” His balaclava was somehow adjusted by him with some kind of material to cover his eyes like a visor, since balaclavas are open-faced ski masks. His gloves looked and felt like dishwashing gloves and were the same yellow in appearance.

MrCruel2

A basic light blue balaclava with a strange improvised visor.

So there were things about him that seemed very prepared, but others things which suggested he was home-tailoring them. There was no real similar MO like this in the police records. But, in addition to the rape, had robbed the family of several items. Perhaps it was a one-time incident?

. . .Yet it remained a worrisome example of someone who went to great lengths, and thus it seemed very premeditated.

In evidence of this is the list of items he used. As the Herald Sun tallied them: “Small black handgun, pistol type. Knife, kitchen, black handle, silver blade about 20cm long. At least four sets of handcuffs. Nylon coated cord, white and red/white. Electrical tape, adhesive, roll of red, roll of green and roll of blue. Elastoplast. Material bag, dark bluish/grey or light grey colour, similar to school library bag.”

How long had this nut planned this attack, and would he strike again?

 

 

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

Australia’s Mr. Cruel

Home invaders are a particular brand of evil villain. That’s because it never ends there and it never begins there. These swine make it plain to their victims that they had stalked them for a while. So Home Invasion of this sort is not spontaneous. It indicates a hideous stalker had staked them out for some time.  Of course, there is more purpose to their home invasion than simply invading the house and violating their home life. The victims soon learn that rape, terror, torture, kidnapping, perhaps even murder is the ultimate intent. If it isn’t, the home invader makes it apparent there is that potential.

EAR/ONS perhaps is the most infamous there ever was. But he is not the most mysterious. He was so prolific that his MO was detectable. There is no mystery how he selected his ultimate victims.  But there are others whose crime sprees need a spotlight on them so that more information (and clues!) can be gleaned.

One of these is NORCAL Rapist, a rather dramatic Phantom of the Opera style rapist, who hid behind theatrical or Halloween masks and engaged in theatrics with his victims, aside from taunting them.  How his selected his victims is still a mystery. More information is desperately needed.

The same can be said for what is ultimately one of the cruelest home invaders. This is Australia’s Mr Cruel, aptly so dubbed by the Press because he learned much of his victims and their house before invading it. He then bound the family members and, in his first attack, raped the under-aged daughter on the premises. He assailed them behind the cover of a ski mask, and he always had a gun and a butcher’s knife.

MrCruel3

At his first known strike off Para Road in Melbourne’s suburban area of Lower Plenty, he pointed the gun at the father while he was in bed and warned him at gunpoint: “Do you feel brave?” The warning was implicit– just try and challenge him. This attack was on August  22, 1987.

From here, it escalated. After stalking his next victim, invading the house, he then kidnapped the young, under-age daughter. This attack was on December 27, 1988, on Hillcrest Avenue in the Ringwood subdivision.

Mr. Cruel let her go 18 hours later to be picked up by police and then her family. In the interim he had taken her to his lair and sexually assaulted her, apparently videotaping it. He washed her up and had the forethought to have taken a second set of clothing for her to wear after he had finished with her. This means she picked up very few forensic clues to her tragic ordeal. He was very careful.

Again, he struck on July 3, 1990. The parents were gone and this left him with only sisters to contend with. He tied the eldest and took the youngest to his lair. He kept her for 50 hours, drove her miles from her home and dropped her off, wrapped in green garbage bags. She too had been washed, and without her clothes there was very little for the police to use forensically to trace where she had been.

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The 3rd victim, Nicola Lynas, taken from her Monomeath Ave. home in the Canterbury subdivision. It is one of the most premeditated attacks.

 

The only real clue they had was that she, like the previous victim, said they could hear planes landing. The Melbourne police deduced his lair was in the approach path to Melbourne Airport.

Then, waiting quite a long time again, Mr. Cruel struck on April 13, 1991, in the Templestowe subdivision of Melbourne on Serpells Road.  He locked up the two youngest daughters in a cupboard and kidnapped the eldest, 13 year old Karmein Chan. Like in the earlier attacks, he left false clues. Noticeably in this case, he spray-painted one of the family cars (the parents were away at their popular Chinese restaurant) indicating this was payback for the parents being Chinese drug lords, which they were not.

Unlike the previous victims, Karmein would not be returned. A year later her remains were found in a shallow grave miles away. She had been shot in the back of the head 3 times, execution style.  The police surmise she had actually gotten a look at Mr. Cruel, and for this she had to die. He had warned one of his victims that death awaited if she saw him. He obviously had meant it.

After this, Mr. Cruel never struck again. Police thought that in the enormous dragnet that followed, they must have interviewed him and this frightened him. The Mr. Cruel crimes are perhaps Australia’s most infamous unsolved cold case.

In a series of posts we are going to examine this crime spree in detail. We have a very clever and arrogant villain to deal with here. So confident was he that he became incredibly elaborate. He not only meticulously stalked and planned his attacks, he took on whole families, then kidnapped the victim, assaulted her on camera for hours at his pleasure, then made sure there was no evidence to trace her to his lair and to him. It is not surprising that Melbourne Police never found his trail. They have only the surmise that they had interviewed him, and a few other clues two of the victims were able to relate about his lair.

We will examine all of this as these posts unfold.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

Tracking and Identifying A Serial Killer . . .

In an earlier post I highlighted a couple of cases down San Diego way. Some pivotal years of my life were in San Diego in the 1980s– the “decadent 80s”! The “Age of Excess”! It is a wonderful city, and its citizens are proud of it. So much so that suburbs like El Cajon, La Mesa, Chula Vista, Bonita (where I lived) identify themselves not with California but with San Diego. Radio announcers identify locations like the following “This is (call letters) Chula Vista, San Diego.”

Yet dark things have happened there, but San Diego doesn’t frequently report on such matters. It is very protective, to personify it, of its reputation as California’s premier clean and vacation city and as “America’s finest city.”

But the 1970s and ’80s had very dark undercurrents, all over California. In the earlier post I highlighted a couple of cases I had long had interest in. The composites show a perp very similar to EAR/ONS, and this is what led me to them. I wish to separate them here and add a third case where there was no composite, but the MO was similar.

I’m not saying it is EAR, but if these 3 cases are by one man he is a definite serial killer.

On December 27, 1980, Julia Wilkinson was taken by surprise in her corner home on Wightman by a stranger. Neighbors heard screams and rushed to her, finding her dying in her garage. She had run here and had been chased by her attacker. He beat her with her own hammer and escaped. She eventually died. But the neighbors were able to assemble a good composite for the police. The assailant had been hanging around the neighborhood for hours and appeared strange. He was wearing a military fatigue jacket. He was in his early to mid 20s, about 6 feet tall.

Wilkinsonsuspect
The Wilkinson perp.

 

Deduce from his behavior that he was looking for a victim, but what kind? Was he looking to rob or looking to rob and kill? He finally chose Julia’s home, a corner house on Wightman Ave. There is no indication she was robbed, but obviously he had gotten in the house and taken her by surprise. He didn’t flee when discovered but chased her down and silenced her forever. Had he not just surprised her in the house, but had he tried to kill her already and she broke free and fled?

Come forward now to October 1, 1985– the murder of Karen Taylor in Imperial Beach, San Diego’s lazy and low scale suburb at the appendix of Coronado. Karen Taylor is murdered in her home on Elm. How, we are not told. But her assailant stole her credit cards and car. He is later identified because he had her car towed into a shop in Bakersfield, north of Los Angeles. He does not wait for it but boards a Greyhound bus. On the repair order he gives a zip code of a rinky dink farm town of Richgrove. It sounds like a creep on the run and her murder merely a necessity in order to continue to flee . . . But cons on the run don’t flee from the border and one doesn’t need to murder someone in their house to get a car. Moreover, the composite done on the memory of those who serviced him in Bakersfield show a man remarkably similar to the perp in the Wilkinson murder of late 1980. He was not wearing a military style jacket, but he had two “military style” duffle bags.  He was in his early to mid 20s, but compared to the earlier composite he looks like he’s had a haircut. Same general height– 6 foot or a little better.

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Suspect in the Taylor murder

 

If this was the same perp, he got around California and San Diego was his southern terminus.

Come forward now to the murder of Marianne Jutta Amaya on February 18, 1988. She too was older, at 48 years of age. She was German and living with her husband on a corner house on Ute Street, San Diego. The perp caught her while she was alone. She was murdered in a particularly vengeful way. She had been struck with a blunt object, then strangled, then her throat needlessly cut.  When her husband returned from work in the afternoon he found her dead on the master bedroom floor.  There was no forced entry. The front door was found open. The house had been ransacked, but only a few items had been stolen, none of any great price. One of the items was a knife in sheath, possibly the one the perp used to kill her. A little gold bracelet had ben stolen and a pair of Chinese Foo Dogs.

The similarities to the Wilkinson murder are obvious. The killer struck a corner house, probably killed his victim with a weapon found on the premises, but having not been interrupted had time to ransack the house. Yet he wasn’t prepared to take much. In fact, he took things of little consequence. The perp in Wilkinson’s case had been hanging around the block for some time, time enough for neighbors to remember what he looked like. In Amaya’s case, there is no composite.

There are many who like to research the web and official cold case pages of various jurisdictions. For those interested, a search over this period of time in both Arizona, Nevada, and all of California and perhaps Oregon may reveal similar cases and composites of POIs that resemble these two San Diego composites.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.