Crime: Forensic technology links Mr Cruel suspect to electrical industry

Three decades after schoolgirls were kidnapped, a major breakthrough has been made in one of Melbourne’s most notorious mysteries.

A major breakthrough has been made in one of Melbourne’s most notorious abduction mysteries more than 30 years after an unknown masked offender kidnapped young girls.

Dubbed “Mr Cruel”, the serial child rapist attacked three girls in the northern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and is the prime suspect in the 1991 abduction and murder of a fourth girl, Karmein Chan.

While the case has remained unsolved, new details have suggested the suspect may have been linked to the city’s electrical industry.

Cutting-edge technology, revealed in Channel 9’s Under Investigation series overnight, has created a map linking similarities between the abductions of three victims.

His victims were all abducted near or found at electrical substations, leading investigators to believe the culprit had a connection in some way to the industry.

Mr Cruel, who wore a black balaclava with white stitching covering the eyes and mouth, was never identified by his surviving victims.

The pattern in his crimes often followed a period of surveillance of his victims before he would abduct and sexually assault the girls.

After an 18-hour ordeal, one victim was dropped off near the Bayswater electrical substation, while a second was let go near a substation in Kew, near her home.

The two victims both lived near substations just 20 minutes apart in East Camberwell and Ringwood.

A third victim lived near one in Lower Plenty.

Karmein Chan, who was shot three times in the head, was found near the Thomastown Terminal Station.

Karmein and one of Mr Cruel’s other victims also attended the Presbyterian Ladies College – which was close to another substation.

Senior law enforcement investigator Mike King told the program the connections suggested Mr Cruel might have worked or posed as a substation employee or lived close by.

“The fact that it’s all in about a 20-minute drive from each other, in that area the offender has to feel comfortable in order to function,” he said.

“From a geographic perspective, we just have to keep thinking, why is he comfortable in this area? Why is he selecting the victims where he is? And why is he disposing of them where he is?”

Police at the time described Mr Cruel as a highly intelligent man who ensured he left no forensic traces.

He meticulously planned each attack, conducting surveillance on the victims and their family, protected his identity by covering his face at all times and left red herrings to divert attention.

There is a $200,000 reward for information about the abductions and a $1m reward for information about the death of Karmein Chan.

Police have narrowed the investigation down to seven suspects, including convicted sex offenders and a former university lecturer.

Mr King said he didn’t believe in coincidences and there was a definite reason behind Mr Cruel’s movements.

“There are reasons why he selected those locations to drop off those victims. There are absolute reasons why he selected the victims he did,” he said.

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