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In the Badlands: Murder Mysteries

6 minutes to read

Content Warning: Some of the crimes discussed in this article are violent, cruel and graphic in nature. The previous article in this series is just as bad –  read it here

Australia is great for mysteries. There always seems to be something worth unearthing. Did Milat act alone? Did a dingo really take her baby? What’s in a servo meat pie?

But everybody knows the high-profile cases. Australia’s dark zaniness goes back to colonial times and permeates almost every locale in the country; from Melbourne’s sprawling suburbs to windswept Wanda Beach and upmarket Perth neighbourhoods. Here are a couple of cruel, creepy and downright odd happenings from our short, checkered history.

Mr Cruel

He wore a mask, left no forensic traces, and was softly spoken. Mr Cruel was responsible for at least three sexual assaults on young victims, and was suspected of the bloody murder of another. Victorian police described him as ‘super cool & super cruel’. To the media, and the terrified residents of Melbourne, he was just ‘Mr Cruel’.

A very helpful police sketch of the suspect. Source

What set Mr Cruel aside from other criminals of his ilk was his calculating modus operandi – it’s speculated that the man placed his victims under surveillance prior to carrying out an assault, sometimes even cutting telephone lines – as well as the fact that he’s never been caught. Here are some details that may be key to identifying Cruel:

1. Mr Cruel may have been a school teacher, or trained in security & forensics. He committed his crimes during the school holidays, and was adept at erasing forensic evidence.

2. He may have lived in or owned a house below one of the flight paths of Melbourne Airport, with one victim reporting she heard the sound of planes overhead. 

Mr Cruel was not known for killing his victims, but it is suspected that he may have been behind the murder of 13 year old Karmein Chan, who he abducted in 1991, because she saw his face. Chan was found with multiple gunshot wounds a year after her disappearance. Cruel had previously told a victim “My freedom is more important than your life.”

There is a one million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest of Mr Cruel.

The Wanda Beach Murders

Ah, Cronulla. Best known for its patchy NRL record and riots, the suburb holds one hell of a dark secret: in 1965, it played host to one of the most horrific crimes of the decade.

On January 11 1965, best friends Marianne Schmidt & Christine Sharrock went picnicking at Wanda Beach with four younger children from the Schmidt family. At some point the two girls split off from the group, and were last seen about 800 metres away from the local surf club by a man walking with his son. They appeared to be hurrying, and one of the girls was looking over her shoulder.

They were found dead the next day. Marianne had been stabbed nearly thirty times and almost completely decapitated. Christine had been similarly mutilated, and both girls were sexually assaulted by their unknown killer.


Indeed, the Wanda Beach murderer has never been identified. There have been multiple suspects, including a convicted sex offender who painted a landscape similar to the crime scene (a detective became obsessed with this explanation, and went a little off the rails), as well as Christopher Bernard Wilder. Dubbed ‘The Beauty Queen Killer’ by American media outlets, Wilder emigrated from Australia to America in 1965 and began a brazen, multi-state murder spree. He had already committed one assault in his home country – a gang-rape on a Sydney beach – but was killed by police before he could be questioned about his possible involvement in the Wanda Beach Murders.

Police recently lost the only DNA sample obtained at the Wanda crime scene, leaving little hope that the killer will ever be identified.

The Claremont Serial Killer

January, 1996: 18-year-old Sarah Spiers leaves the Club Bayview and disappears into the night. Her body is never found, but police are soon presented with another lead: the murder of Jane Rimmer, who vanished in similar circumstances outside the Hotel Continental. Her body was found five months later, in bush land south of Perth. In 1997, Ciara Glennon was also abducted outside the Continental Hotel. Her body was found in similar circumstances.

All three women were taken in Claremont, an upmarket suburb of Perth that was considered relatively safe. Like the other cases in this article, the killer has never been identified.

Perth by night. Source

The Claremont Serial Killer operated in the era of CCTV and advanced forensic techniques, but has still evaded capture.  Here are some details that may be key to identifying the murderer:

1. He might have had a connection to screen-printing, and had a way of “printing coloured words and patterns on fabric such as T-shirts”.  A victim of a rape committed in a Perth cemetery prior to the murders was also tied up with washing line containing material used in screen-printing.

2. He probably drove a mid-1990s white Holden Commodore VS series 1, as fibres from the upholstery of one were found on the body of Jane Rimmer.

3. He may have been responsible for a slew of other sexual assaults prior to the killings.

There is a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the Claremont Serial Killer.