“THE GREAT CRIMINAL”: Mr Cruel prime suspect wrote “sex-death” essay “to do evil” while committing rape attacks

Brian Alan Elkner Feature Pic

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: True Crime News Weekly can reveal that the man identified last year as the “prime suspect” in the notorious and still unsolved ‘Mr Cruel’ case in Melbourne involving multiple child abductions, sexual assaults and murder once wrote a highly praised philosophical essay extolling the virtues of “the great criminal” while calling on others “to do evil” so as not to be “mediocre”.

He is the retired university lecturer who was identified last year as the prime suspect in Melbourne’s notorious unsolved ‘Mr Cruel’ case which haunted the city with a series of brazen child abductions and assaults in the 1980s culminating in the murder of schoolgirl, Karmein Chan, in 1991.

It can however now be revealed by True Crime News Weekly that the prime suspect in the case, Brian Alan Elkner – a convicted serial violent sex offender – once wrote a widely commended philosophical essay on the “sublime criminal” which suggested individuals should attempt “to do evil” so as to gain the “status of hero”.

Last April, on the 25th anniversary of Karmein’s murder, Victoria Police identified Mr Elkner, now aged 76, from a list of seven individuals as its prime suspect in the continuing Mr Cruel investigation.

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The decades-long search for the perpetrator behind the Mr Cruel attacks has seen Victoria Police spend close to $5 million in conducting its largest ever investigation, with 30,000 homes searched and 27,000 suspects looked at.

Coined the moniker ‘Mr Cruel’ for his dark, balaclava-clad ensemble and propensity to kidnap children from their own homes and bedrooms while leaving little trace of forensic evidence, the same culprit is believed to be responsible for at least four child abductions from 1987 until 1991.

Mr Cruel Outfit.jpg

A depiction of Mr Cruel’s disguise as witnessed by survivors

The essay written by Mr Elkner – ostensibly a wide-ranging rumination on the theories of seminal French Enlightenment thinker Denis Diderot – was first printed in 1973 in the book, Studies in the Eighteenth Century. At the time of the essay’s publishing, Mr Elkner was also the author of the academic work, French Aesthetic Thought in the XVIIIth Century.

In the piece, ‘Diderot and the Sublime: The Artist as Hero‘, Mr Elkner states that his intention is to better understand Diderot’s theories on what makes an artwork speak to and for the human condition, before then making the claim that transgressive artists and criminals share a similar greatness.

“The sublime artist is no use to society; his coldness makes us suspect him, his inventiveness tends to rock the social order too much, and his keen observation earns him more enemies than friends. In fact, the sublimity of the great artist puts him in the company of another individual with whom society wants little to do: the great criminal,” Mr Elkner wrote at the time.

“If society establishes a new ‘level’ above the amoral and determined world of nature, the sublime individual, artist or criminal, stands above both, affirming his value in the face of an indifferent nature, a mediocre society.”

The literati of Australia in the mid-1970s lapped it up. A review of the book by a government-funded, university-printed literary magazine heaped praise on Mr Elkner’s thoughts while picking his essay as the clear highlight of a rather uneven tome.

BrianAlanElknerImage

Essayist and convicted serial sex offender Brian Alan Elkner in 2016 (Image: A Current Affair / YouTube)

“Dr Elkner’s fascinating essay on ‘Diderot and the Sublime’, for instance, presents through the astonishing diversity of one great, restless 18th century mind a number of conflicting aesthetic and moral ideas which have insistently engaged and re-engaged thinkers ever since their first formulations in the Salons of Paris and in the drawing rooms of 18th century English country houses,” the review in the September 1973 edition of Westerly gushed.

“As for his celebration of what seems to be, the first fully fledged formulation of elan vital in ‘criminal sublimity’, it had its modified revival in Nietzche, and lately, closer to home, in the apotheosis of Saint Genet as well. But if Dr Elkner’s essay unobtrusively vindicates the value and significance of 18th century cultural history for the modern reader, the same thing cannot be said about all studies appearing here in the same bracket.”

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The words and themes in the essay though strike a distinctly darker note with the knowledge that it was published right while the former University of Melbourne senior lecturer in French was in the middle of a 25 month reign of terror which saw him attack at least six women and young girls – including one of his own students – in their homes across the city’s suburbs between 1972-74.

In the essay, Mr Elkner, who at the time of its publishing was married with three children, seems to suggest that a life of crime is somehow more beneficial to society than decades of living a quiet, law-abiding or peaceful life.
“Strong passions are what [Diderot] most admires in man; if they motivate the criminal to commit a horrible action, they also motivate the artist who paints the criminal in his true colours. The essential thing is to feel strongly, to do evil rather than to do nothing, since the mediocre man lives and dies like a brute,” Mr Elkner wrote.

READ THE CONVICTED SERIAL SEX OFFENDER’S ESSAY IN FULL HERE

ElknerEssay1Mr Elkner was eventually convicted in October 1974 over the rapes and sex assaults of multiple victims and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. He was then released from jail just a short while before the Mr Cruel attacks are thought to have first commenced in the mid to late 1980s.

At his trial, it was heard that Mr Elkner had used a knife to threaten his victims after breaking into their homes and that he had long harboured criminal fantasies of raping women and young girls.
“He gets sexual arousal at the prospect of tying a girl up and raping her,” a psychiatrist told the Victorian County Court at the time.
“He has had this sexual fantasy about tying up women and raping them since his late teens, but only in the last couple of years has he carried them out.”

However, what the court wasn’t told and what the wider public has never known until now was that Mr Elkner had most likely been planning grandiose philosophical and artistic rationalisations for his sex crimes as far back as 1970 when he was employed with the University of NSW in Sydney’s east. For Mr Elkner’s written defence of the greatness of criminals was actually based on a presentation he had given three years earlier at the David Nichol Smith Memorial Seminar at Canberra, which was a gathering for academics who had shared research interests into the 18th century.

ElknerWasLecturerAtUNSW1971

Timetables from the early 1970s show Mr Elkner was a lecturer in French at the University of NSW in Sydney in 1970 and 1971 before he moved to the University of Melbourne

Brian Elkner Bio in Book

By 1973, Mr Elkner was then working at the University of Melbourne, having earlier attended the university as a student

Nevertheless, in the intervening years between when Mr Elkner first formulated his thoughts and then published them in a book, it seems his belief in the idea that “the great criminal” was on par with the world’s greatest artistic visionaries only grew stronger. Two passages in the essay – one about women, the other about the value of art – when read side-by-side perhaps provide the best glimpse into Mr Elkner’s psyche and a possible large clue into the motivations of the sex crimes he would go on to commit.

Westerly Magazine

Read the review of the essay that was praised as “fascinating”

“Diderot’s model of the sublime would not look out of place among the sex-death archetypes that adorn Georges Bataille’s Erotisme, and, after all, Diderot is a near contemporary of [Maquis de] Sade. Indeed, this model of sublimity does present precisely that kind of suspension between attraction and repulsion which Bataille defines, in the work of Sade and elsewhere, as the essence of the erotic. The women are beautiful, but cruel; the drink is delicious, but the container is rather nasty; the soul opens with pleasure, only to shiver with horror,” Mr Elkner wrote.

“Civilised society, through its art, provides the possibility of enjoying violent sensation without occasioning actual bodily harm. Art is therefore at its most powerful when the spectator is utterly convinced of the reality of the spectacle. The empathy experienced in front of the work of art must not be destroyed by the awareness that it is, after all, only an imitation. Nevertheless, the emotion involved in this aesthetic experience will always be of an inferior and superficial kind since the work cannot help being an imitation, an inferior copy of the real thing.”

Studies in the 18th Century Book Cover

The cover of the book that Mr Elkner’s essay appears in

Bizarrely, despite his extensive history of serious sex crimes, after being released from prison in the 1980s, Mr Elkner somehow “rejuvenated” his career in the education and tertiary sector before going on to become the director of his own construction design business. Mr Elkner was even quoted by mainstream media outlets back in 1993 during a staffing dispute between the Victorian Government and TAFE.
“A senior coordinator with the TAFE Off-Campus Coordinating Authority (TOCCA), Mr Brian Elkner, said more than 13,000 TAFE distance education students faced disruption to their studies and the possible cancellation of courses,” The Age reported on December 30, 1993.

Daily Telegraph article cited in academic piece about Elkner

Details of Mr Elkner’s trial in 1974 for multiple rapes and violent sexual assaults

Speaking to the Herald-Sun newspaper last year under the pseudonym of ‘Bill’, Mr Elkner was adamant that he had moved on from his past as a violent sex offender.
“I’m not sure why they got onto me in the way they did,” he told the newspaper in April 2016.
“The police have called several times when there’s been a sex crime of some kind and they go through their list of previous offenders.
“I did my time and I have recovered my life pretty well. I’ve got a new family.
“I’ve rejuvenated myself as a writer and a construction designer and ran a business I’ve just retired from.”
Despite the ‘major investigation’ produced by the Herald-Sun last year, the newspaper though was seemingly unaware of the essay published by Mr Elkner in 1973.

ElknerSublimeCriminalStandsAboveSociety

A passage from Mr Elkner’s essay

When confronted though by cameras from Channel Nine’s tabloid A Current Affair news program outside his Thornbury home in April last year, Mr Elkner displayed a far more combative character.
“Well, I know I am [the prime suspect] because they’ve told me,” Mr Elkner angrily said.
“I went to jail for all that. It’s all past – 1974.”
When provoked by claims from A Current Affair that he had “destroyed” the lives of a number of women, Mr Elkner suggested that being harangued by a television crew for a few minutes on a public street was comparable to the multiple violent rapes and sexual assaults he had committed.
“So you say. But, I mean, what you’re doing now is equally disgusting … I’m innocent,” he said.
The current affairs program, while claiming to have an exclusive on Mr Elkner, however did erroneously refer to him throughout its story on television and online as ‘Brian Enkler’. The well-resourced media program seemingly also missed the fact that their prime suspect wrote a pseudo-criminal manifesto disguised as a philosophical essay.

WATCH A CURRENT AFFAIR’S STORY ON BRIAN ALAN ELKNER

Mr Cruel’s first known victim was an 11-year-old girl attacked inside her own home on August 22, 1987 after the culprit broke into her house in the suburb of Lower Plenty. He was armed with a knife and gun. Police have never publicly identified the victim.

More than a year later on December 27, 1988, it is believed the same suspect broke into the Ringwood home of 10-year-old Sharon Wills, where he bound and gagged her parents before kidnapping Sharon and taking her to another location where he sexually assaulted her. He finally released her 18 hours later in the grounds of Bayswater High School. True Crime News Weekly has been informed that Sharon has never recovered from the trauma inflicted upon her.

Then on July 3, 1990, Mr Cruel is believed to have entered the Canterbury home of 13-year-old Nicola Lynas. After the kidnapping, the suspect took her to another home where planes flying overhead could be heard. Nicola was released exactly 50 hours after being kidnapped, which matched a sick promise the perverted and evil sex offender made to the young girl just after he snatched her.

Crime_stoppers_reward_poster_for_Sharon_Wills,_Nicola_Lynas_and_Karmein_Chan

An old Crimestoppers poster seeking information on Mr Cruel

The crimes then culminated with the murder of schoolgirl Karmein Chan. The 13-year-old was kidnapped from her parent’s well-secured Templestowe mansion on April 13, 1991 while she was looking after her siblings as her mother and father worked at the popular Chinese restaurant they operated. Although Karmein’s body wasn’t found for a year, tests by forensic experts suggested the intelligent and strong-willed schoolgirl was killed only hours after being kidnapped. Is is widely thought that Karmein managed to see the attacker’s face or other evidence that would have allowed authorities to identify the attacker.

It is believed the suspect stalked his victims for a fair while before launching his attacks upon them. Evidence of the actual assaults is believed to exist as it is thought Mr Cruel used a video camera or camcorder to record many of the sexual and psychotic crimes he inflicted upon his young victims. Based on the limited information provided by survivors, Victoria Police believe the offender’s base for the assaults may have been located somewhere under the flight path of Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

A criminal profile of Mr Cruel compiled by Victoria Police with help from experts at the FBI in the early 1990’s stated that the perpetrator was likely to be intelligent, well-organised and someone who would seem to show a genuine interest and some devotion to children, and may be involved in the education sector.
The profile claimed that Mr Cruel would probably be considered a good neighbour and might be involved in community projects while having steady employment, and was possibly self-employed or in a management position that allowed for some freedom of movement.
Police also believe Mr Cruel is likely to have displayed obsessive-compulsive behaviours and would show behavioural changes around the time of the offences and during their anniversaries, or, when media and police publicly discussed the case.

Denis Diderot Image

French Enlightenment philosopher Denis Diderot (Image: Wikipedia)

Victoria Police would not comment on the major revelations discovered by True Crime News Weekly when approached this week.
“I’ve spoken to the investigators on this matter and it would be inappropriate to make any comment at this stage,” a police spokesperson said.

True Crime News Weekly does not suggest Mr Elkner is guilty or responsible for the Mr Cruel attacks, just that he is widely considered to be the main suspect. A state government reward of $1 million is on offer for any information leading to an arrest in the Mr Cruel case.

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