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KARMEIN CHAN

A reward is on offer for information about the abduction and murder of 13-year-old Karmein Chan in 1991. Karmein was abducted from her home in Templestowe on April 13, 1991 about 9.15pm.
Murdered schoolgirl - Karmein Chan.
While her parents were at work at a Chinese restaurant in Eltham, Karmein and her two younger sisters were confronted by a man in a balaclava.
He forced Karmein's sisters into a wardrobe before fleeing with Karmein. Karmein's body was found at Edgars Creek, Thomastown, on April 9, 1992.
An autopsy revealed she had been shot.
Despite an exhaustive investigation led by detectives of the Spectrum Taskforce, no-one has been identified as Karmein's murderer - though her killer has been dubbed "Mr Cruel" by the media.
Police have checked more than 10,000 public tips, searched 30,000 homes and interviewed 27,000 people in relation to the Karmein Chan case and are hopeful someone in the community will have the essential piece of the puzzle which will help solve this crime.
Homicide Squad Detective Inspector Stephen Clark said this unsolved murder has been extremely devastating on the Chan family.
"We're hoping someone with that vital piece of information will come forward and help solve the Karmein Chan murder and give closure to the Chan family," Detective Inspector Clark said.
"We urge them to contact police," he said.
Anyone with information in regards to the Karmein Chan murder is asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppers.com.au


www.vicpolicenews.com.au
http://www.vicpolicenews.com.au/rewards/291-karmein-chan.html


Today/ Tonight - "Mr Cruel Detective" (12-11-2013) - The notorious child killer Mr Cruel remains on the loose.


Up to 20 men were suspected of being Mr Cruel, and one prime suspect still lives

Police have chased about 20 suspects in the hunt for Mr Cruel, Keith Moor reveals more in part three of our special report.
In the final of our three-part special into Mr Cruel, Keith Moor asks what we know about a man who is the monster hiding in the shadows.
There was a glimmer of hope in 2010 when a new Mr Cruel suspect was nominated and a taskforce formed to investigate what seemed like strong information.
While the new information was from a reliable source - and the suspect nominated may end up being charged with other offences - the taskforce has now ruled him out of being the long sought after Mr Cruel.
And while similarities between the Mr Cruel cases and last year's disappearance of 13-year-old Siriyakorn "Bung'' Siriboon have been examined, detectives don't believe it was Mr Cruel who took her.
Karmein Chan's body was found 20 years ago.
Detectives involved in the Operation Spectrum taskforce which originally hunted Mr Cruel have, over the years, indicated they had a short list of about 20 suspects, of which six were stronger than the others, that they had been unable to eliminate.
They have consistently shied away from saying they think they know who Mr Cruel is.
But in a 2003 interview with the Herald Sun, former Spectrum chief David Sprague said his personal view was that there was one man above all others who he believes might be Mr Cruel - that man is still alive.
"There is a prime suspect. We interviewed him for about 14 hours. He said at the end of it that if we thought we had a good case we should charge him and if not he wanted to be let go then and there,'' Commander Sprague said.
"It was a good circumstantial case, but not good enough to charge him. We have certainly kept tabs on him since and if we had another abduction he'd be the first person dragged in.''
Police traditionally hold back items of information about crimes so they can use them to eliminate suspects. One reason is that attention seekers often wrongly confess to high-profile crimes. Such people might think they know everything about a crime, having read everything that was written, but police are able to weed them out when they don't know as much as police do about, for example, the wounds suffered by a victim.
Detectives know a number of things about Mr Cruel that have never been made public. They have used this inside knowledge to eliminate more than 27,000 suspects, including the man nominated in 2010 as possibly being Mr Cruel.
But the prime suspect nominated by Commander Sprague has not been able to be eliminated. He fits both the public and secret profiles of Mr Cruel.
Police examine the scene where Karmein Chan's body was found.
Serial sexual predators like Mr Cruel don't usually stop offending until they are caught or die. Yet there is no evidence that Mr Cruel has stepped out of line since he killed Karmein Chan in 1991.
Commander Sprague believes the reason Mr Cruel hasn't struck again is because he was one of the thousands of men interviewed by Operation Spectrum. "I honestly think we got very, very close and scared the crap out of him. So close that he stopped,'' he said.
Other former Spectrum detectives disagree with Commander Sprague that this man is above all other suspects, but they don't disagree that he is well deserving of his place on the top 20 list of possible perpetrators.
One thing all Spectrum detectives agree on is that they don't like the Mr Cruel tag given to the kidnapper by the media. They feared it would create the impression he was a monster when he probably conducted himself as a normal, everyday person.
Former Operation Spectrum member Steve Fontana, who took over from Commander Sprague as head of the Mr Cruel taskforce and who is now a Victoria Police assistant commissioner, said Mr Cruel would appear anything but cruel to those who know him.
John and Phyllis Chan plead for public help at the time of Karmein's abduction. Her mother holds what she was wearing when she was taken.
"He's very intelligent and probably comes across as being a reasonable sort of person. He is very talented and will be very meticulous in the way he goes about things,'' Mr Fontana told the Herald Sun.
Operation Spectrum detectives, already working long hours, were swamped with information from a shocked public after news of Karmein's murder broke in 1991. But none of it helped identify Mr Cruel.
"His crimes were very much premeditated,'' Mr Fontana said. "He wore a balaclava, always wore gloves, he always made sure the girls were blindfolded the whole time.
"I won't go into other things that he did, but there were certain things, like with Sharon Wills, she was wrapped in plastic garbage bags before she was dropped off. I think it gives you an indication that this person was really thinking about not leaving any traces behind.''
Mr Fontana said it was very difficult to commit the sort of crimes Mr Cruel did without leaving physical evidence - yet Mr Cruel managed it.
"You have to give it a lot of thought. He's gone to great lengths to conceal his identity and that has been maintained for the duration of those girls being held captive,'' he said.
Commander Sprague is sure Mr Cruel has been convicted of lesser offences in the past.
"We are convinced he's been done before, probably for flashing or being a Peeping Tom or something similar,'' he said.
"He has learned from being caught and that's why he was so worried about leaving any forensic evidence and went to such extremes to ensure he didn't leave anything that would identify him.''
Police were desperate for public help to crack the case.
After many hours interviewing victims and consulting police experts - some from the FBI - Operation Spectrum detectives produced a profile of Mr Cruel.
This is what they know or suspect about Mr Cruel, his habits and the house in which he held some of his victims:
He used the phrases Bozo, Worry Wort and Missy and had an Australian accent with no definable class or characteristic.
Victims described him as aged between 30 and 50, from 173cm to 180cm tall, possibly with fair to sandy coloured hair and eyebrows and sometimes sporting a gingery beard. He had a slim to medium build, with a small pot belly.
Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas, and almost certainly Karmein Chan, were kept in a dwelling under the Tullamarine flight paths, probably in an area close to the airport such as Coburg, Strathmore, Keilor, Plenty, McLeod or Watsonia. This house, unit or flat had a drive on its right-hand side and a small number of steps.
Sharon Wills was one of Mr Cruel's victims, and gave crucial clues police still hope will crack the case.
The girls were occasionally able to bravely sneak a look inside the house, despite warnings not to remove their blindfolds. One described the bedroom she was kept in as having beige or cream carpet, peach full-length curtains, double bed with peach bedhead, orange lamp base, lemon lampshade with thin white vertical stripes, light walls and a white door.
A dark blanket covered a bookcase or cabinet at the opposite end of the room from the bed, possibly to hide identifiable possessions.
The bathroom had a bath, a triple-sliding door to the shower and a washbasin adjacent to the shower door. You had to get past the basin to get into the shower. The dual flush toilet was very near the bathroom.
Mr Cruel had access to firearms and was sometimes armed with a 35cm kitchen knife.

Mr Cruel's bathroom from a sketch as described by one of his victims.
Mr Cruel's bathroom from a sketch as described by one of his victims.

The profile suggests Mr Cruel was probably in steady employment, possibly in a management job or self-employed, with freedom of movement.
Those who know him would not regard him as a monster. He would probably be considered a good neighbour and may be involved in community projects.
He has an obsessive, compulsive character - the type who would immediately wipe his hands if soiled. He took a great deal of interest in media coverage, though he probably tried to disguise it. He goes for unexplained drives or walks.
He has expressed sexual fantasies or shown sexually dysfunctional behaviour. His sexual arousal and gratification is probably dependent on his partner playing specific roles, such as dressing like a schoolgirl in uniform.
Mr Cruel could be married or living with a woman who goes away around school holidays, when some of the attacks occurred. He is intelligent and well-organised. He will seem genuinely interested in and dedicated to children. He gets satisfaction from the way things look, rather than their use.

An image of Mr Cruel's bedroom as described by his victims.
Mr Cruel's bedrrom from a sketch as described by one of his victims.

He will have displayed behavioural changes about the time of the offences and on anniversaries or when publicity is renewed. Changes such as sleeping disorders, reluctance to go to work, distraction or different eating and drinking habits. He would disguise his stress with abnormally rigid behaviour. He told some of his victims he was a victim of sexual assault as a child.
Police stress that profiling is not an exact science and anybody who suspects somebody they know might by Mr Cruel should not discount him just because he doesn't fit the profile - they should pick up the phone and contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


www.heraldsun.com.au (12-4-2012)
Keith Moor
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/up-to-20-men-were-suspected-of-being-mr-cruel-and-one-prime-suspect-still-lives/story-fnat7dag-1226324113247




Mr Cruel was a meticulous, intelligent predator, say police

The hunt for Mr Cruel was always going to be hard because he put his knowledge of forensic evidence to good use by meticulously cleaning up after his crimes.
It was made that much harder by sloppy police work.
Commander David Sprague, the former head of the Victoria Police Operation Spectrum taskforce set up to catch Mr Cruel, was not impressed by what he found on arriving at Karmein Chan's home within hours of her being abducted by Mr Cruel in 1991.
"The crime scene was not preserved as it should have been,'' he told the Herald Sun.
"We had a lot of problems with it. Unfortunately, the initial police member in charge had set up the command post inside the house.
"It was a disaster, with people stomping around all over the place. They didn't seal the crime scene off as they should have.''

Victim - Karmein Chan, 13, was abducted and murdered by Mr Cruel.

Commander Sprague's concern was that evidence that could help identify Mr Cruel might have been destroyed in those first few vital hours.
He later discovered it was not the first time a chance to identify the notorious kidnapper had been lost.
Operation Spectrum detectives established that Mr Cruel was almost certainly responsible for an earlier series of attacks in Melbourne's southern suburbs in the early to mid-1980s.
They naturally wanted to review all the evidence from those cases, but were bitterly disappointed to find some of the evidence had been lost.
Of particular concern was the fact that tape Mr Cruel had used to bind one of his victims was missing.
There have been vast improvements in forensic technology since those attacks in the 1980s, enabling scientists to extract identifying characteristics from the smallest of samples left by an offender.
Mr Cruel's DNA may well have been on that tape as it is likely he was not as careful during those early attacks as he was with his victims in 1988, 1990 and 1991, Sharon Wills, 10, Nicola Lynas,13 and Karmein Chan, 13.
Police examine the scene where Karmein Chan's body was found. "But we will never know as the exhibit just isn't there any more,'' Commander Sprague said.
"In those days police didn't have the supervision that they do now. With things like exhibits, people would sometimes leave them in their lockers.
"By the time we identified these additional attacks, years after they had taken place, some of those exhibits had been lost and others had simply been thrown out.
"They had never been examined. One exhibit that was lost was tape that one of the victims had been tied up in.
"There were other examples of exhibits that might have been vital to us in identifying the offender not being able to be located when we asked for them.

1989. Sharon Wills, an abduction victim, with her puppy Benjamin. Believed to have been a victim of Mr Cruel. She was taken from her East Ringwood home on 27 December 1988. She was released 18 hours later.

Sharon Wills was one of Mr Cruel's victims, and gave crucial clues police still hope will crack the case.
"There were times when we would go looking for the old criminal record sheets, which would record things like the modus operandi of the offender, for incidents we felt might be connected to the man we were after, only to discover those records were missing.
"These things were big hindrances to Operation Spectrum. We were playing catch up all the time.''
Operation Spectrum actually changed the way all Victorian detectives conduct investigations.
The stink Spectrum detectives kicked up at not being able to find exhibits and records from earlier sex crimes prompted a review by Victoria Police and the introduction of minimum standards for all future major crime investigations.
Karmein Chan's body was found 20 years ago yesterday.
These minimum standards are now part of Victoria Police operating procedures, which are followed by all officers.
"We lifted the bar,'' Commander Sprague said.
"With the introduction of minimum standards, which covered such things as forensics, crime scene preservation and other aspects of investigations, the force became more professional. It was Spectrum which identified the problem and led to it being fixed.
"When we critiqued what had been done in the past, it was found wanting. That is not meant as a criticism of the people doing it, that's just the way it was done back then. But the way it is done now is better.''
The abduction of Sharon Wills in December 1988 was big news. The kidnapping of Nicola Lynas in July 1990 made Mr Cruel a household name. The taking of Karmein Chan in April 1991 received massive coverage.
A dramatic "Police Need YOUR Help'' poster showed photographs of these three victims and offered a $300,000 reward for information leading to Mr Cruel's conviction - a reward that is still available today.
In an Australian first, every home in Victoria, and some in New South Wales and South Australia, received the disturbing poster. Huge versions of it were plastered on hundreds of billboards and smaller ones were displayed on Melbourne buses and trams.
John and Phyllis Chan plead for public help at the time of Karmein's abduction. Her mother holds what she was wearing when she was taken. The poster tactic was the brainchild of Operation Spectrum, which went on to become the Victoria Police crime department's biggest operation.
It was set up four weeks after Karmein Chan was taken. The 40-strong taskforce spent almost three years and $3.8 million chasing Mr Cruel.
The taskforce was disbanded in January 1994 after detectives had eliminated more than 27,000 suspects; travelled 910,000km around Australia; conducted interviews in Britain and the US; received 10,800 separate pieces of information from the public; worked 25,000 hours of unpaid overtime; and examined 30,000 houses suspected of being used by Mr Cruel to hide his victims.
Although Operation Spectrum didn't catch Mr Cruel, the trawl through Victoria's seedy side produced some unexpected results: 74 people were charged with offences including rape, incest, blackmail, attempted bestiality, possession of child pornography, threats to kill, making obscene phone calls and firearm offences.
As a result of Operation Spectrum, the Victorian Government strengthened legislation regarding sex offenders loitering in areas frequented by children and possession of child pornography.

Undated. Nicola Lynas, a schoolgirl abducted from her Canterbury home on 3 July 1990. She is believed to have been a victim of Mr Cruel.

Schoolgirl Nicola Lynas was among Mr Cruel's victims.
There is evidence that Mr Cruel closely followed news reports, discussing them with his captives.
"I don't think there is any doubt he was following the media. He wanted to know what people were saying about him when a child was missing, and it was front page news many times over the months,'' Commander Sprague said.
So he would have seen the haunting images of Phyllis Chan, who has since reverted to her maiden name of Lam after splitting with her husband John, weeping over the loss of her daughter and heard her pleas to him to return Karmein alive.
Knowing Mr Cruel had released Sharon Wills after 18 hours and Nicola Lynas after 50, the Chans hoped and prayed their daughter would soon be home. But those deadlines passed with no sign of Karmein and no word from Mr Cruel.
Phyllis Chan wrote a letter to Mr Cruel, which was published in the media when Karmein had been missing for nearly 70 hours. She pleaded with him to return Karmein, saying "in the past you have released the others''.
She said Karmein's sisters, Karly and Karen, had started sleep-walking and were calling out for Karmein as they did so.
"The sisters wake up often and peep through the window to see if the man has sent Karmein back,'' she wrote.
Police were desperate for public help to crack the case.
The letter also contained a secret code which only Karmein would be able to break. Mrs Chan said breaking the code would reveal the number of a Post Office box where she was prepared to leave ransom money.
Mrs Chan swore to Mr Cruel that police knew nothing about her attempt to pay to get her daughter back alive. She was telling the truth.
Mr Cruel - sexual predator.
Karly and Karen also wrote letters to Karmein and Mr Cruel, with Karly saying: "Whoever has my sister, I would like her back because then she can help me with my homework and also take good care of my little sister and me.''
But their tormentor ignored these emotive pleas and as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, the climate of fear which had struck Melbourne slowly dissipated as news of Mr Cruel dried up.
That all changed on April 9, 1992 - just four days short of the first anniversary of Karmein's abduction - when a man walking his dog along Edgars Creek in Thomastown spotted what looked like a human skull in a land-fill area.
Bulldozers had recently been at work in the area at the rear of an electricity sub-station on the intersection of Mahoneys Road and High Street. The man wasn't sure it was a skull so he walked over and touched it before going to his nearby home. He told his mother then called Thomastown police.
The site was sealed off and the painstaking task of exhuming the human remains began. It took 24 hours to recover what was left of the badly decomposed body.
It was taken to the Coroner's Court for forensic testing to establish identity. DNA and dental records confirmed what police and the Chans feared - it was Karmein.
Examination of the skull revealed she had been shot at least three times in the back of the head.
Operation Spectrum detectives, already working long hours, were swamped with information from a shocked public after news of Karmein's murder broke.
There was another burst of publicity in 1993 after police released details of the interior of the house Mr Cruel held his victims in, and roughly where it might be.
Nicola Lynas was released after a horrifying ordeal, but Karmein was not so lucky.
Sharon Wills and Nicola Lynas were both able to provide police with aspects of what parts of the inside of the house were like and that they had heard planes flying overhead.
Police worked with the Civil Aviation Authority to pinpoint flight paths, based on descriptions from the girls about the frequency and loudness of the flights, and determined the girls had heard planes on the flightpath to Tullamarine Airport.
Detectives then spent months checking the inside of thousands of homes in 15 suburbs, including Coburg, Strathmore, Keilor, Plenty, McLeod and Watsonia, but they never identified the house described by the girls.
Pieces of information have continued to trickle in over the years, but none of it has helped identify Mr Cruel - and he still hasn't been caught.
Anyone with information on the Mr Cruel case should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


www.heraldsun.com.au (10-4-2012)
Keith Moor
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/mr-cruel-was-a-meticulous-intelligent-predator-say-police-investigators/story-fnat7jnn-1226320066350




New suspect in decades old Mr Cruel investigation

Police have a new suspect in the hunt for Australia's most notorious child sex offender and the alleged murderer of Karmein Chan.
It's more than 20 years since parents in Victoria - and many youngsters - felt the panic and fear of living in a society they no longer consider safe and secure.
He's still at large (or dead) and police confirmed today that they have a new suspect.
I was the ABC's police reporter at the end of the 80s and in the beginning of the 90s, when this person took little girls from the safety of their homes, spirited them away, abused them and dumped them after hours of torture for their families, the police and the community.
These are the crimes police say Mr Cruel was responsible for -
AUGUST 22, 1987. LOWER PLENTY - Armed with a knife and a gun, the man removed a pane of glass from the lounge room window and broke into a family home about 4am. He forced both parents onto their stomachs and tied their hands and feet before he locked them in a wardrobe. Their seven-year-old son was tied to a bed and the 11-year-old daughter was then attacked. He cut the phone lines and left.
DECEMBER 27, 1988. RINGWOOD - Armed with a small handgun and a knife, the masked man broke in through the back door at 5.30am. He forced both parents onto their stomachs, bound and gagged them, disabled the phones and demanded money. He grabbed their 10-year-old daughter, Sharon Wills, placed tape over her eyes and put a ball in her mouth. He abducted the girl, releasing her - dressed in plastic rubbish bags -- at Bayswater High School 18 hours later.
JULY 3, 1990. CANTERBURY - Armed with a knife and a gun, he broke into a house through a window at 11.30pm and forced the victim, 13 year old Nicola Lynas, onto her stomach before tying and gagging her. He taped over her eyes, drove her to another house where he kept her for 50 hours before releasing her in a public area in Kew.
APRIL 13, 1991. TEMPLESTOWE - The masked offender cut through a flywire screen to open a window. He confronted Karmein Chan, 13, and her two younger sisters. He forced the younger girls into a wardrobe and pushed a bed against it, before abducting Karmein about 9.15pm. Her remains were found at Edgars Creek, Thomastown, a year later. She had been shot three times in the head.
He's also suspected of attacking up to 12 children in the decade from 1985.
Initially called Mr Cool because of the way he operated, he was dubbed Mr Cruel by a clever newspaper sub-editor.
Hundreds of police were involved in the search for this man, paedophiles were rounded up in their dozens and questioned, as police chased up every lead and scrap of information they could get on the man.
They interviewed an incredible 27,000 people.
There were striking similarities in the cases which means police can swiftly group different crimes and deduce they are most likely committed by the same criminal.
The original investigation, Operation Spectrum, was wound up in 1994, without anyone being charged with the abductions and murder.
By that stage, we'd learned lots about this man who took a forensic approach to the treatment of the girls he held. He was a man aged between 35 and his late 40s, slightly built, with sandy or ginger-coloured hair, clean shaven, softly spoken and, according to police, 'quite caring in his own monstrous way'.
Now the man would be close to 60.
One of the witnesses amazed detectives - counting out seconds as she travelled in her attacker's car (so she could tell them how far they'd travelled and which direction), and even being able to tell police how many steps she took once outside the car, and inside the house.
When a victim gave police specific information about the timing and direction of planes overhead, police were able to concentrate on an large, residential area near Tullamarine airport, where they sent in officers in various guises, so they could inspect the insides of hundreds of houses.
Police searched about 30,000 houses as part of this massive investigation.
More than 70 people were arrested, mostly for sex offences, as part of the $4 million Operation Spectrum.
Now we learn a covert police operation - Taskforce Apollo - has been closing in on the man, after new intelligence unearthed by detectives working on the case.
The information was uncovered during a review of the original Operation Spectrum - Victoria's largest operation ever - and information gathered since its closure.
After having interviewed 27,000 people in the biggest investigation in Victoria's history, investigators revisited a huge stockpile of evidence.
Superintendent Fryer said substantial new intelligence had warranted the establishment of a new taskforce to explore "every avenue" of inquiry he told ABC Radio.
While Supt Fryer would not give details he said a covert investigation had been running for some time.
Today he revealed more than 12,000 separate pieces of information had been reviewed and cross-referenced with new details as part of the investigation.
Retired detective Colin McLaren, a senior investigator in the original Spectrum taskforce investigation into Mr Cruel, said the case was the one that still lingered two decades later.
"I probably don't know of any other more important case that I've worked on that still is unsolved," he said.
"This strikes at the heart of most parents, if not everybody in the community."
Police have not ruled out the possibility Mr Cruel had since fled the country, died or committed suicide.
The profile of Mr Cruel that investigators narrowed down was of a man with few distinguishing features.
Police believe there are still people in the community with information that could help them solve the case.
A $300,000 reward is still on offer for information leading to a conviction.
The public can phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000


www.abc.net.au (14-12-2010)
Philippa O'Donnell
http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/12/14/3093126.htm




'Mr Cruel' child Rapist Still Free

Police believe Australia's most notorious child-abducting rapist is alive and well and living in Victoria.
They know where he is and have kept tabs on the man most likely to be the pervert dubbed Mr Cruel for more than a decade.
He is the prime suspect for at least 12 sickening attacks and one murder since the 1980's - but police don't have a strong enough case to charge him.
The Herald Sun has also discovered police have either lost, contaminated or destroyed vital evidence that may have convicted him.
Victoria Police Commander Dave Sprague is bitterly disappointed that exhibits seized by detectives, which might have linked Mr Cruel to the crimes, have disappeared.
He also revealed crucial forensic evidence might have been rendered useless as a result of the last known Mr Cruel crime scene not being sealed off as it should have been.
Commander Sprague provided details of the missing evidence and botched crime scene during an interview for MugShots, a new book reporting on 12 crimes.
He also said detectives had identified at least 10 people in Victoria with the propensity to commit the sort of offences Mr Cruel committed.
"Having interviewed some of them, I can tell you they are bloody scary," Commander Sprague said.
Although the taskforce set up to catch Mr Cruel didn't get a conviction against him, it was still enormously successful. It ended up charging more than 70 people with a range of serious offences, including rape, blackmail and pedophilia.
Mr Cruel is believed to have last struck in 1991, when he kidnapped and killed 13-year-old Templestowe schoolgirl Karmein Chan.
He was also responsible for abducting 10-year-old Sharon Wills from Ringwood in 1988 and taking 13-year-old Nicola Lynas from her Canterbury home in 1990.
Sharon was held prisoner and assaulted for 18 hours before being dressed in plastic rubbish bags and dumped at a Bayswater school.
Mr Cruel kept Nicola for 50 hours.
He only released the Presbyterian Ladies College student after taking meticulous steps to avoid leaving identifying evidence. Serial sexual predators like Mr Cruel usually keep attacking until they are caught or die.
But Cdr Sprague, head of Operation Spectrum, the taskforce set up to catch the offender, said the man they most suspect of being Mr Cruel still walks the streets.
He confirmed police know where he is and are keeping an eye on him.
Cdr Sprague believes the reason Mr Cruel has not struck again is he became scared after being tracked down and interviewed by Operation Spectrum detectives.
"I honestly think we got very, very close. So close that he stopped," he said.
Over the years, Operation Spectrum detectives have indicated they had a list of about 20 suspects they have been unable to eliminate.
Six were strong suspects.
They have consistently shied away from saying they think they know who Mr Cruel is.
But Cdr Sprague reveals for the first time in MugShots that there is a prime Mr Cruel suspect, who was interviewed for about 14 hours.
"He said at the end of it that if we thought we had a good case we should charge him and if not he wanted to be let go then and there.
"It was a good circumstantial case, but not good enough to charge him.
"We have certainly kept tabs on him since and if we had another abduction he'd be the first person dragged in."
Police usually hold back some some information about crimes in order to eliminate suspects.
One reason is that attention-seekers often falsely confess to high-profile crimes.
Such people might think they know all about a particular crime, having read everything written.
But police are able to weed them out when they do not know as much as police do about, for example, the victim's wounds.
Operation Spectrum detectives know things about Mr Cruel that have not been made public. They have used this knowledge to eliminate more than 27,000 suspects.
But they have not been able to rule out the prime suspect.
He fits both the public and secret profiles of Mr Cruel.
Cdr Sprague revealed he was not impressed by what he found on arriving at Karmein Chad's home within hours of her 1991 abduction.
"The crime scene was not preserved as it should have been," he said. "We had a lot of problems with it. Unfortunately, the initial police member in charge had set up the command post inside the house.
"It was a disaster... they didn't seal the crime scene off as they should have."
Cdr Sprague is concerned evidence that might have identified Mr Cruel was possibly destroyed in those first few vital hours.
He later discovered it was not the first time a chance to identify the kidnapper had been lost.
Operation Spectrum established that Mr Cruel was almost certainly responsible for an early series of sex attacks in Melbourne's southern suburbs in the 1980s.
Detectives wanted to review the evidence from those cases. But they were bitterly disappointed to find some of the evidence had been lost.
Of particular concern was that the tape Mr Cruel had used to bind one of his victims was missing.
Forensic technology has improved since those attacks in the 1980s and scientists can extract identifying characteristics from the smallest of samples. Mr Cruel's DNA may well have been on that tape because it is likely he was not as careful during those early attacks as he was in the later abductions of Sharon Wills, Nicola Lynas and Karmein Chan.
"But we will never know as the exhibit just isn't there any more," Cdr Sprague said.
"In those days police just didnt have the supervision that they do now," he said. "With things like exhibits, people would sometimes leave them in their lockers.
"By the time we identified these additional attacks, years after they had taken place, some of those exhibits had been lost and others had simply been thrown out. They had never been examined.
"One exhibit that was lost was tape that one of the victims had been tied up in.
"There were other examples of exhibits that might have been vital to us in identifying the offender not being able to be located when we asked for them.
"There were times when we would go looking for the old criminal record sheets, which would record things like the modus operandi of the offender, for incidents we felt might be connected to the man we were after, only to discover those records were missing.
MugShots is written by Herald Sun journalists Geoff Wilkinson and Keith Moor and covers 12 notorious crimes it will be available from newsagents and bookshops from Wednesday.


The Mercury (4-8-2003)
Keith Moor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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