Mr Cruel is the moniker that was handed by the press to an unidentified rapist-murderer. Also known as the Hampton Rapist, the man targeted young underage girls in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Here Unsolved Casebook takes a look at the case.
The First Known Crime Of Mr Cruel
On August 22, 1987, at around 4 am Mr Cruel committed his first known crime. He had targeted a home within the Lower Plenty area. The premises was home to two parents, their eleven-year-old daughter, and seven-year-old son.
Mr Cruel wore a mask to cover his identity and armed himself with a knife and a gun. The attacker went in through the lounge, removing a pane of glass from a window to make his entrance.
Now inside Mr Cruel cut the phone lines and then made his way through the home. First, he tied up both the parents before bounding the couples seven-year-old son to his bed. The sick attacker then made his way towards his actual target, the eleven-year-old girl.
Mr Cruel sexually assaulted and raped the poor girl over the course of the next two hours. The disturbed attacker would take the occasional break during his perverse assault, including taking the time to make himself a meal.
After two hours of torture for the eleven-year-old girl, the attacker finally left, somewhat randomly taking with him a jacket and a box of records.
The eleven-year-old victim told police that during his numerous breaks the attacker made several phone calls from the families phone. She overheard him threatening to attack another family. Investigators soon found no such calls had been made. It was a sick game played by the psychopath, it wouldn’t be the only time he would leave false leads and red herrings
The Abduction Of Sharon Wills
On December 27, 1988, Mr Cruel would strike again. This time his target was a home in the Ringwood area, home to the Wills family. The Wills family consisted of John Wills, his wife and their four children, all girls.
Donning a blue ski mask and armed with the same weapons Mr Cruel broke into the premises at around 5:30 am. Mr Cruel woke the sleeping John Wills by putting a gun to his head. He tied up, blindfolded and gagged both the parents. The attacker told them he was only looking for cash and took $35 from the bedside table.
Mr Cruel cut the phone lines and made his way around the property. He made his way to the room of ten-year-old Sharon Wills. The young girl then had her eyes taped shut. He forced a rubber ball into the young girl’s mouth to gag her before dragging her out of the home and abducting her.
The Discovery Of Sharon Wills
At around 1:30 am on December 28 Sharon Wills was found by a woman near Bayswater High School in the suburb of Bayswater. Dressed in garbage bags, the ten-year-old told the woman her name and what had happened to her, saying:
“A man left me here and told me to go and ring home.”
Sharon Wills had been repeatedly assaulted at an unknown location before been dumped at the High School.
When later questioned about her horrific ordeal Sharon Wills told officers she had been shackled to a bed. She had been blindfolded throughout the horrific ordeal.
The attacker had gone to extreme lengths to cover his tracks. Mr Cruel washed the young girl thoroughly. He also brushed and flossed her teeth, and cut the victims nails. Mr Cruel kept Sharon Wills clothes too. The attacker had removed all traces of forensic evidence.
Sharon Wills did say she could constantly hear aircraft noises. This led investigators to believe Mr Cruel had used a location near to an airport. Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t be enough to find the man that was now been dubbed The Hampton Rapist.
The Abduction Of Nicola Lynas
On July 3, 1990, Mr Cruel would attack again. This time he had targeted a home in the suburb of Canterberry.
The premises on Monomeath Avenue was home to the Lynas family. The Lynas family, who were from England, consisted of Brian and Rosemary and their two daughters, Fiona, age 15, and Nicola, age 13. At around 11:30 pm he entered the home through a window.
Unlike with the previous attacks, this time the parents were out and the two teenage girls were home alone. Mr Cruel woke both the young girls. He angrily ordered Nicola to go fetch her school uniform. The Hampton Rapist then bound, blindfolded, and gagged the fifteen-year-old Fiona to her bed. The intruder then ransacked the home, searching for valuables.
Mr Cruel told Fiona that he wanted $25,000 for the safe release of her sister before abducting Nicola Lynas. The abductor took the rental car the family were using and made his getaway. The car would later be found a kilometre away, it was assumed it was here that Mr Cruel had transferred Nicola Lynas to another vehicle.
On July 6 Nicola Lynas was dumped in Kew, near an electric power station. It was the day of Nicola Lynas 14th birthday. She had been held captive and repeatedly sexually abused for over 50 hours before her release.
Nicola Lynas Clues
Nicola Lynas was able to provide the police with several details which they hoped would lead to a suspect. She described the attacker as been around 5ft 8 and having reddish-brown hair. Although blindfolded throughout her ordeal, Nicola Lynas had also managed to sneak a peek of the room she was held captive and gave a description of it as well as the bathroom.
Nicola Lynas told investigators that the attacker had at several times spoken to another person. She never heard a response. Did Mr Cruel have an accomplice or was this just another of his little games?
Nicola Lynas later remembered another detail. After the Lynas family had returned to England she reported a detail similar to the previous victim, Sharon Wills. During her captivity, Nicola remembered hearing low flying aircraft. This gave police the belief that the attacker lived within the vicinity of Tullamarine Airport.
Police now had far more information to go on but again they had little in the way of forensics. Nicola, like Sharon Wills before her, had been thoroughly washed and cleaned by Mr Cruel. He also left very little evidence at the Lynas home during the abduction.
The Abduction Of Karmein Chan
On April 13, 1991, Mr Cruel would strike in what would be his last known crime. At 9:15 pm, wearing the same ski mask, he would enter a home in Templestowe through the window. This time it was the home of the Chan family. The home belonged to John and Phyllis Chan, who shared the home with their three young daughters.
Inside the house, he encountered Karmein Chan, age 13, and her two younger siblings. Mr Cruel bundled the two younger girls into a nearby closet, blocking their escape by placing a bed in front of the closet door. He told the children he only wanted Karmein to help him find the money in the house. He then proceeded to abduct Karmein Chan.
Before completing the abduction the attacker would leave behind several messages. He spraypainted the words and phrases “Pay back”, “Asian Drug Deal” and “More to come” on the Toyota Camry that belonged to Phyllis Chan before fleeing with Karmein.
Investigators eventually ruled out the messages as yet another red herring. In their opinion, the perpetrator had used them to send the police looking in the wrong direction. Instead, police looked into similar cases, soon seeing the similarities with the crimes of Mr Cruel.
The Discovery Of Karmein Chan
Despite fearing the horrific ordeal their daughter would suffer there was at least hope from Karmein Chan’s parents that their daughter would be returned alive. This had been the case previously so detectives were also optimistic.
Several days after the abduction of Karmein Chan her mother Phyllis would give a heartbreaking plea for her release at a press conference. Letters written by her younger siblings pleading for her return were also printed in newspapers. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
On April 9, 1992, just a few days short of the 1 year anniversary from her abduction, Karmein Chan’s decomposed remains were discovered along Edgar’s Creek in Thomastown. The killer shot Karmein three times in the head, she had been killed not long after her abduction.
One theory as to why Mr Cruel suddenly turned to murder was that Karmein Chan had discovered the identity of her abductor and paid the price. Karmein’s own mum Phyllis was sure her daughter would have put up a fight.
Of course, that may not be the case. It may well have been the plan all along as with each passing case Mr Cruel’s attacks had become more extreme. Maybe murder was just the next step. The truth is we may never know why Mr Cruel killed Karmein Chan.
The police force seemed convinced that the four crimes were all the work of one man. The method of entry. The masked disguise. The weapons used. All pointed to the same attacker.
Investigators searched over 30,000 homes, with a special focus to homes near aircraft routes. No useful leads to who Mr Cruel was would be forthcoming. Over 27,000 suspects were also interviewed with similar results.
A special task force, named Operation Spectrum, looked into the idea that Mr Cruel would be a collector of child pornography. Despite over 70 convictions been made due to the work of the task force, none could be definitely linked to the crimes of Mr Cruel.
In 1994 Operation Spectrum was ended and the investigation into the crimes of Mr Cruel went dead.
On April 24, 1991, an FBI profile was sent to the Victoria Police Department. The key points in the profile were:
- The attacker may reside close to the vicinity of the first assault.
- He is involved with a school. Due to attacks been in school holidays and asking for the school uniform of his third victim.
- He would appear as a “nice guy” and seem genuinely interested in helping children.
- The attacker would be dedicated to his role with children. Perhaps even earning plaudits such as coach or teacher of the year awards.
- He will have a collection of both home-made and commercial pornography.
- Mr Cruel would be a functional member of his community. He would be employed, seen as a good neighbour and may be involved in community projects.
- The attacker would live in a single-family residence.
- He may be in a relationship. If so his partner would know of sexual dysfunctions on his part. This may include role-playing, for example, her dressing as a schoolgirl.
- Work colleagues would notice a change in behaviour after attacks took place.
- In the mind of Mr Cruel, he has no intention of harming the children. His attacks are motivated by sexual desire and his unique psychological profile.
A New Detail
15 years after the abduction of Karmein Chan police revealed perhaps the most disturbing knowledge they had. One of the survivor’s had reported that a camera tripod was present in the room where she was held captive.
It was the firm belief of investigators working the case that Mr Cruel had filmed or photographed his victims for momentoes. Police kept this information secret for so long as they believed if it became public knowledge Mr Cruel would get rid of what could’ve become vital evidence.
In 2010 Taskforce Apollo was launched. This was a new investigation into the attacks that had started over twenty years earlier. The team were hopeful that the improvement of technology and new investigation methods since the original investigation would lead them to finally solving the Mr Cruel crimes.
Problems arose pretty quickly. Taskforce Apollo was shocked at the state of the files belonging to the case. The files were a complete mess, they were totally unorganized and much had been misfiled.
Worse though was the fact that several pieces of evidence were missing altogether. This included tape which had been used on one of the victims. Taskforce Apollo had hoped this would lead to possible DNA evidence but now the vital piece of evidence was no longer in place.
The knowledge that Mr Cruel seemingly had about leaving forensic evidence. Mr Cruels ability to stake out his victims and mislead the investigation. And now vital evidence had conveniently vanished. Could Mr Cruel have been a member of the law enforcement team?
The Sierra Files List Of Suspects
In 2016 the Herald Sun newspaper was given access to a dossier into the crimes. The dossier, given the name the Sierra Files, was created in 1994 with the help of the FBI. The file gave information on seven suspects that they believed could be Mr Cruel. The Herald Sun tried to trace each suspect.
Suspect 1 was now 66 (in 2016). He lived in Eltham at the time of the Mr Cruel attacks. The Herald Sun learned he lived in Box Hill and Surrey Hills before marrying a Canadian woman and moving to Canada.
Suspect 2 was 68 and lives in Musk near Daylesford. This is also where he lived at the time of the attacks. The man has twice changed his name by deed poll. He angrily told a reporter to leave when they attempted to speak with him.
Suspect 3 was 57. He lived in Harcourt at the time of the attacks and still lives at the same address. His neighbours stated that he now spends most of his time in Melbourne. The paper was unable to contact the suspect directly.
Suspect 4 died in 2015. He was 66 at the time. The suspect lived in Knoxfield when the attacks took place. He was married with children at the time of his death and had worked as a self-employed tradesman.
Suspect 5 was aged 61 when the Herald Sun spoke to him in 2016. The man, who lived in Balwyn at the time of the attacks, told a reporter he knew he was a suspect. He said:
“I’ve never had any charges laid against me. I’ve been interviewed, yes, along with 27,000 other people. I was interviewed, that was it.”
Suspect 6 was a ghost. No response could be obtained from the Glen Iris home he had lived at during the attacks. No neighbours had any knowledge of the man in question. He was not on any social media, in any phone book or on the electoral roll. If alive the suspect would have been 67 in 2016.
The Sierra Files Prime Suspect
The seventh suspect in the Sierra Files was also the prime suspect in the Mr Cruel case. The man lived in Thornbury at the time of the attacks. The suspect soon revealed himself to be convicted sex offender Brian Alan Elkner.
Brian Elkner was a former lecturer at a Melbourne University. In 1973 he was the senior lecturer in French and had several published essay’s. In his essay Diderot and the Sublime: The Artist as Hero he compared transgressive artists to criminals, declaring that they shared similar greatness. The essay was generally gushed over by the literati.
Little did they know the man they were gushing over was also in the middle of a twenty-five-month crime spree. During the period between 1972 to 1974, Brian Alan Elkner attacked six women and young girls. Like the Mr Cruel attacks, the attacks took place in the victim’s homes and they were threatened with a knife.
In October of 1974, Brian Elkner was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. He had pleaded guilty to rape and several other offences. He was released shortly before the first know Mr Cruel attack.
Brian Elkner Questioned On A Current Affair
Brian Elkner, now in his late 70’s, admitted to knowing he was the prime suspect when confronted by a reporter for A Current Affair, a news program on Australia’s Channel Nine. Elkner strongly denied any suggestions that he was Mr Cruel, stating it was in his past and he had turned his life around.
The interview does show Elkner making the following ridiculous statement. After been told by the reporter he had destroyed the lives of his female victims Elkner said:
“So you say. But, I mean, what you’re doing now is equally disgusting”
No Mr Elkner it is not. Sexually assaulting young women is far, far worse than been asked questions about your proven past crimes.
The video of the A Current Affair interview can be seen below.
Although a prime suspect in the case according to the man himself, no charges have been made against Brian Elkner in relation to the Mr Cruel attacks.
Robert Keith Knight
Robert Keith Knight was convicted in 1998 for kidnapping and sexually abusing two twelve-year-old girls. The attacks, however, were sixteen years apart. The first attack took place in 1980 and the second wasn’t until 1996. Both offences took place in the Mornington Peninsula.
Studies from all over the world have shown that sex offenders don’t take sixteen-year breaks between attacks. The fact Knight was a youth worker and a scout volunteer during these years only point to it been even more unlikely these were his only attacks given his access to children.
In both known attacks Knight abducted his victims before sexually assaulting them. He also took explicit photos of his two twelve-year-old victims. In the 1996 attack, he had drugged the girl.
Knight served 11 years before been released in 2009. Shortly after he began a large collection of sick and disturbing child porn images. Robert Keith Knight was again arrested but whilst awaiting trial he killed himself by leaping from a second-storey prison railing.
Det Sen-Sgt Chris O’ Connor was the man who arrested Knight and he was also part of Operation Spectrum. He said they had been unable to eliminate Knight as a suspect in the Mr Cruel attacks. O’ Conner believes Knight was responsible for more attacks but his belief was that Knight wasn’t Mr Cruel.
It is not known whether Robert Keith Knight was one of the suspects in the Sierra Files.
Police believe Mr Cruel may be responsible for a dozen of more attacks on young children. Officially however his last known crime was the murder of Karmein Chan.
So what happened to the Hampton Rapist? Did Mr Cruel get put away for another crime? Was he perhaps stopped due to his health? Did he suddenly, although highly unlikely, just stop? Or most worryingly of all is he still out there committing these horrific offences elsewhere?
Hopefully, these questions can still be answered and the true identity of Mr Cruel uncovered. The victims and their families deserve nothing less.
If you have any information on the case call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au. A $1 million reward is available for information leading to the conviction of Karmein Chan’s killer.