It hadn’t been the usual stretch between attacks. It was April 13, 1991. The location (Templestowe) fit with Mr. Cruel’s broad area of attack off the M3 in the east/northeast of Melbourne. It was a corner house, at a main cross road– Serpells and Church.
13 year old Karmein Chan was home with her two younger sisters. They were watching a documentary about Marilyn Monroe. The parents were tending to one of their popular Chinese restaurants. It was a little past 9 p.m. Karmein and one of her sisters went to the kitchen. There facing them in the darkened hallway was a man standing there wearing a balaclava ski mask. In his hand was a large carving knife. He led them back to the bedroom and shoved both of the younger sisters into a closet and sealed them therein using the bed.
Karmein Chan was his intended victim. He took her. When the sisters got free they found the house was empty. The police came screaming to the area. A thorough search revealed a cut window screen via which the intruder had entered. Curiously, the Chan’s car outside in the driveway was spray-painted: “Payback Asian Drug Dealer.” The door was lettered: “More and more to come.”
Police investigation proved that the Chans weren’t connected with drug dealing. The lettering on the car, coupled with the location of the attack, and the sisters’ description of the intruder, all smacked of Mr. Cruel. It was his MO to leave a false motive as a misleading clue. In each case, so far, he had done that. Usually it had been verbal, something one of the parents or siblings could relate to the police. While the police were chasing false clues, this gave him time with the kidnapped girls to assault and film them in his hideous lair before he returned them to a street corner somewhere.
He didn’t do that here. He didn’t leave any false clue with the sisters. The false clue was in the lettering of the family car.
But then there was a kink in the MO. Karmein never returned. Despite her mother pleading on the TV, despite days going by, Karmein was never seen again. This wasn’t Mr. Cruel’s MO.
Almost a year later on April 9, 1992, Karmein’s remains were found in a field at a cross street under development. The bulldozer uncovered the skull first. Forensics proved it was Karmein. She had been dispatched by 3 bullets to the back of the head (presumably a small caliber gun).
There is therefore some debate. Was Mr. Cruel responsible? From the broader picture, it seems he was. Therefore there was some speculation. Karmein was pretty feisty. She was the kind to fight back. It is possible that she got a view of Mr. Cruel and he disposed of her to protect his wicked identity.
If so, this fits with Mr. Cruel’s excessive zeal to protect his identity. Yet what were the chances that Karmein’s composite of him would truly lead to his identity? Many villains have had more than one sketch done of them by eyewitnesses and have never been caught. Either Mr. Cruel was a very recognizable citizen, had a distinguishing mark under the mask, or he was truly ignorant of the stats that a single eyewitness, even briefly, could lead to his identity.
Either Mr. Cruel was really dumb or really smart, from an evil standpoint anyway. Or perhaps she saw something more incriminating. Perhaps she saw the lair and it was in a distinctive area.
In any event, Mr. Cruel was obviously cold-blooded enough to commit the murder of a 13 year old child just on the belief he was protecting his identity.
Mr. Cruel never struck again. Either killing Karmein took too much out of him or. . . or why? Perhaps because he had a murder charge hanging over him now, and the coward realized it was too risky. He disappeared, and remains one of Australia’s most sought after villains.
As this case ends the known and accepted Mr. Cruel attacks, it is time to go into some analysis. Mr. Cruel left clues, and the most revealing are found in the broader picture of the crime spree and his stalking MO.
In the next post we will begin to assemble these.
* * *
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.