EXCLUSIVE: Mainstream media outlets are at the centre of a plagiarism storm, with a group of local amateur sleuths who have spent years looking into the notorious unsolved Mr Cruel case in Melbourne going public with claims their extensive research has been allegedly stolen by an American law enforcement consultant. Mike King has now received widespread acclaim for providing a “major breakthrough” by the likes of Channel 9 and News Corp despite making a range of basic errors regarding the case. Aidan Satz investigates.
In early March 2022, the Nine Network aired an episode of Under Investigation Australia, focusing on Mr Cruel, an Australian serial child rapist and murderer who is thought have been active through the late 1980s and 90s.
In last month’s true crime doco fronted by Liz Hayes, the highly resourced media network claimed that new forensic technology has led to a ‘major breakthrough’ in the investigation. And that lead had supposedly been provided by a senior law enforcement investigator from the Mormon capital of the world, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Channel 9 claimed that American law enforcement consultant, Mike King, had used geographic information system technology (GIS) – a new geographical mapping technology – to establish that there was a strong correlation between electricity substations and the known crime scenes in the Mr Cruel case.
Mr King who is a self-proclaimed “expert in the investigation of violent crime” is now though facing serious accusations against him, with a rag-tag group of Melbourne amateur sleuths claiming he plagiarised their research from them, failed to credit them and on top of that, provided a range of misinformation on the case.
In the show, Mr King and Under Investigation stated that this ‘new’ theory had led to a “major breakthrough” in the cold case.
However, this breakthrough had been extensively researched, written about, and published by a range of amateur true crime researchers and bloggers dating back to as early as 2014.
In 2014, a man known by the pseudonym, Clinton Bailey, had published information on Mr Cruel in his manuscript, having previously been for a short time himself a possible suspect in the notorious and still unsolved case. Bailey’s house was raided by the police, and he became obsessed with solving the mystery surrounding Mr Cruel’s attacks. Bailey also met with True Crime News Weekly in late 2017 and provided hard copy documents of his research mapping out the links between Mr Cruel’s crimes and Melbourne’s electricity network.
Working as a group of amateur journalists and self-proclaimed ‘armchair detectives’ on Reddit and in an exclusive WhatsApp group, several individuals loosely banded together. They continued to publish their work on their blogs and the forum r/MrCruel, where discussions began as early as 2019.
Perhaps the most notable contribution comes from the true crime blog Melbourne Marvels, who had independently researched the electric substations.
Speaking with True Crime News Weekly about their research, the blogger who wished to remain anonymous described how they were deeply involved in trying to solve the Mr Cruel case.
“I have been living and breathing this case every day for the last year,” the amateur researcher said.
Using online archives and collaborating with his peers, the Melbourne Marvels blogger had mapped out the electricity system – including terminals and substations – on a Google Map document over two years before the Under Investigation episode aired.
This research was claimed by Channel 9 to be “a product of GIS”.
The same GIS technology that Mike King is supposedly an ‘expert’ on.
Google Map created by Melbourne Marvels detailing the electric substations and key locations in the case (Image: Supplied / Google Maps / Melbourne Marvels)
Map shown on “Under Investigation: The unsolved case of Mr Cruel” looking extremely similar to the map shown above (Image: Supplied / Channel 9)
Importantly, Victoria Police have most likely known about this information since the 1990s. Even True Crime News Weekly has been aware of this so-called “major breakthrough” for five years.
In 2017, this publication received hard copy evidence from the mysterious Clinton Bailey containing documents mapping the city’s electricity network and how it corresponded with Mr Cruel’s crimes.
Bailey had chosen to contact True Crime News Weekly following our exclusive investigation published in July 2017 which looked into the prime suspect in the Mr Cruel case – Brian Alan Elkner. The investigation revealed the former university lecturer and convicted rapist had published a widely praised literary “sex-death” essay in the mid-1970s which seemingly offered thinly veiled rationalisations for criminal behaviour.
Hard copy evidence received from Clinton Bailey in 2017, highlighting the correlation between Mr Cruel and the electricity grid (Image: Supplied)
Contacted for comment for this investigation, Victoria Police chose to distance themselves from the inaccuracies and misappropriated research hailed as a “major breakthrough” by Under Investigation last month.
“Victoria Police was not involved in the Channel 9 show,” a police spokesperson told True Crime News Weekly.
“The investigation into a number of incidents believed to be possibly linked to Mr Cruel remains active and ongoing.”
Getting in Contact
The author of the Melbourne Marvels website informed True Crime News Weekly that in September 2021 Clinton Bailey initiated email contact with Mr King. Bailey informed the American criminal consultant that the Esri Australia website contained a high number of mistakes in a post concerning the Mr Cruel case as well as a related podcast, Mapping Evil.
During this back-and-forth email exchange Bailey was also put into contact with a Nine Network producer. Previously, the media network had contacted the Melbourne Marvels website looking for Bailey’s contact details.
True Crime News Weekly has been forwarded the email communication between the producer of Under Investigation, Danielle Collis, and the author of the Melbourne Marvels website as well as Clinton Bailey. The pair had provided access to their research to Channel 9 prior to the show.
In the email chain, the mainstream media producer was wholly positive on the extensive research the amateur sleuths had put together after years of dedicated work.
“Fantastic work” and “very impressive” were just some of the comments Ms Collis wrote in the emails.
“Fantastic work”: Channel 9 producer, Danielle Collis, was full of praise for the research of the amateur sleuths behind closed doors but failed to respond to multiple requests for comment from True Crime News Weekly (Image: Supplied)
Searching for the Truth
Bailey claims he was more than happy to assist Channel 9 because he aimed to call out the “deeply flawed” criminal profile the FBI released in 1991 which supposedly provided sociological and psychological clues about the perpetrator behind Mr Cruel. Bailey says he wanted the world to know the FBI had made some crucial mistakes, and that’s why he offered to get Channel 9 in contact with Mr King.
Bailey told True Crime News Weekly he thought the media were more likely to listen to the credibility of the research if someone well known talked about it.
“It occurred to me that if I could help get someone high profile on the TV program that knew the FBI profile was a dud, it may hopefully put a stop to this appalling document even being mentioned,” he said.
“I happened to know Mike King, US media and FBI trained profiler. I had informed him previously of the flawed FBI profile.”
Not talking: Mike King refused to comment on accusations of plagiarised research despite multiple opportunities to defend his reputation as mainstream media continues to hail the allegedly stolen research as a “major breakthrough” (Image: Supplied / News.com.au)
Despite being well aware of the role the local amateur sleuths had played in the research ever seeing the light of day, Channel 9 instead chose to give full credit to Mike King and his company Esri.
In the documentary that aired last month, Channel 9 claimed:
“Using geographic information system (GIS) technology developed by Esri, Under Investigation uncovered a new connection between Mr Cruel and nearby terminal stations”.
A few weeks after the television show aired, News.com.au then similarly published an article about the investigation, stating: “Cutting-edge technology, revealed in Channel 9’s Under Investigation series … has created a map linking similarities between the abduction of three victims”.
When asked about the fact that Channel 9 and News.com.au have published the work of Mr King as a major breakthrough, the anonymous blogger behind the Melbourne Marvels website stated:
At the very least, it seems like the whole distasteful episode has once again put the journalistic integrity of Channel 9 into question. In failing to publicly credit the group of local amateur sleuths to instead heap acclaim on a pompous American ‘pop’ criminologist who is seemingly profiting from the research of others, it seems Channel 9 knows no bounds when it comes to promoting plagiarism and lies.
Channel 9 did not respond to requests for comment when approached by True Crime News Weekly.
Perhaps expectedly, Mike King also did not respond to multiple requests for comment from True Crime News Weekly.
He failed to respond to messages sent by email, Twitter and through a contact form on the Esri Australia website.
While some may view the group of true crime nuts at the centre of this dispute as being possibly obsessed, or even loopy, it is important to note that these individuals have spent years of their life researching the Mr Cruel case and were happy to help others. Even going so far as providing access to their research to the likes of Mr King and Channel 9 in a search for the truth.
To no avail.
Mr King and Under Investigation took the information made accessible to them by Clinton Bailey and the Melbourne Marvels website, claimed it as their own, and made a multitude of errors while they were at it.
These true crime nuts are searching for nothing more than the truth and they will continue to try and solve the case of Mr Cruel regardless of what Channel 9 viewers believe.
– Additional reporting and research by Serkan Ozturk