Bomb strapped to Sydney girl's neck was elaborate hoax

Sydney police were searching for clues yesterday to the identity of a man who strapped a fake bomb to a student's neck, subjecting her to a terrifying 10-hour ordeal that the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, likened to a "Hollywood script".

Madeleine Pulver, 18, woke up "in pretty good spirits" after bomb disposal experts released her unharmed from the device shortly before midnight on Wednesday. Her father, Bill, a business executive, said she was "a little tired, a little sore, from holding this damned device in place for about 10 hours".

The man, who was wearing a balaclava, broke into Ms Pulver's home in Mosman, an affluent suburb of Sydney, on Wednesday afternoon, and confronted her in the kitchen. He told her to keep still while he fitted what appeared to be a bomb to her neck, with a note warning that it would detonate if the wires were cut or the police were called.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch said the device turned out to be "a very, very elaborate hoax". He added: "It certainly [looked like] a legitimate improvised explosive device. We had to treat it seriously until we could prove otherwise, and that's why it took so long."

Police declined to reveal the demands on the handwritten note, but said they were treating the case as "a very serious attempted extortion".

Ms Gillard said her first reaction on hearing what had happened was: "It's like a Hollywood script – the kind of thing you would see at the cinema or on TV. You would never expect it to happen in real life in Australia."

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