Collar 'bomb' ordeal victim hails arrest

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The Independent Online

An Australian teenager who spent 10 hours with a fake bomb chained to her neck said today that she is relieved the FBI has arrested a man accused of breaking into her home and tethering the device to her as part of an elaborate extortion plot.

Paul Douglas Peters was arrested in Kentucky on Monday in connection with the attack on 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver, who was studying at home in Sydney when a masked man carrying a baseball bat broke in and attached the bomb-like device to her neck.

The intruder left behind a note demanding money, along with an email address which appeared to refer to a novel about a ruthless businessman in 19th century Asia. Bomb technicians later found no explosives in the device.

A smiling Miss Pulver told reporters outside her home in the wealthy Sydney suburb of Mosman that she was "very relieved" to hear of Peters' arrest.

"I'm glad it's all over," she said.

Asked whether she was wondering why she had been targeted, she replied: "I think we're all wondering why."

Peters, a 50-year-old Australian investment banker who travels frequently to the US, was arrested by the FBI at his ex-wife's house in a well-heeled suburb near Louisville, Kentucky.

Yesterday, US Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin ordered Peters to be jailed pending an extradition hearing set for October 14 in Louisville.

Australian police plan to charge him with multiple offences, including kidnapping and breaking and entering.

What ties he has to the wealthy Pulver family remain unclear, although federal court documents released yesterday say he once worked for a company with links to the Pulvers.

William Pulver, Madeleine's father, is chief executive of Appen Butler Hill, a company which provides language and voice-recognition software and services.

Peters' brother, Brent Peters, said his brother would not have the guts or the technical capacity to mastermind such a plot.

"I still don't believe it. I still think there's more than meets the eye in this case," said the 52-year-old. "I would not know who'd have any technical capability whatsoever like that. We're old school."

Brent last saw his brother in 2010, and said he appeared to be doing well.

"Look, the guy was a quarter-of-a-million-dollar guy a year over in America," he said.

The small Australian coastal community of Copacabana, where Peters lived, was buzzing with news of his arrest today.

His hairdresser, Tammy Schreiber, told The Associated Press he usually called every six weeks when he was in town, but she last saw him about four months ago. At the time, he was planning a trip to the US to visit his family and was eager to see his daughters, she said.

Ms Schreiber said Peters rarely talked about work, but gave the impression he was a "real entrepreneur type" and was always well-dressed. He did not interact much with members of the close-knit community of around 3,000, about 55 miles (90km) north of Sydney, she said.

"Really nice person - really helpful, liked to have a nice chat," she added. "A family man, loved his daughters... Even now if I see the papers and I see his face in there I still can't believe it."

New details of Miss Pulver's chilling ordeal were unveiled in the arrest complaint released yesterday.

The teenager was studying in her bedroom on August 3 when a man walked in carrying a black aluminium baseball bat and wearing a striped, multicoloured balaclava.

"Sit down and no-one needs to get hurt," he told her.

Miss Pulver sat on her bed and the intruder placed the bat and a backpack next to her. He forced a black box against her throat and looped a device similar to a bike chain around her neck.

The grey-haired man locked the box around her neck along with a lanyard and a plastic document sleeve. It contained a note, the email address and a USB digital storage device.

"Count to 200," he said as he left, taking the bat and backpack with him. "I'll be back... If you move, I can see you - I'll be right here."

Minutes later, Miss Pulver texted her mother and called her father. After telling both of them to call the police, she saw that the attacker's note said not to contact authorities.

The attacker's note said the device contained "powerful new technology plastic explosives" and was booby-trapped. Details for delivering "a defined sum" would be sent "once you acknowledge and confirm receipt of this message", it said. The USB device contained the same note.

The email address the attacker left was Dirk Struan is the main character in James Clavell's 1966 novel Tai-Pan, about a bitter rivalry between powerful Hong Kong traders after the end of the First Opium War.

Australian authorities determined that the email account was established on May 30 from an internet Protocol address linked to a Chicago airport. Travel documents showed that Peters had been at the airport that day.

The email account was accessed the day of the attack at 4.09pm from an IP address registered to a library in Kincumber, about 50 miles (80km) from the Pulvers' Mosman home. The account was accessed twice more before 6pm from an IP address registered to a video store a few miles from the library.

Surveillance cameras at the library and at a liquor store next to the video store recorded a man matching Peters' description around that time, the complaint said. A video store employee said a "well-dressed" man came in twice to use one of the store's internet computers because he was "waiting for an email".

Records from two stores show that, in July, Peters bought a black baseball bat, and a USB device and lanyard identical to those left with Miss Pulver, the complaint said.

The arrest complaint said Peters left Australia on a one-way flight from Sydney to Chicago on August 8 and flew to Kentucky the next day.

Peters showed no emotion in court yesterday, speaking quietly to his lawyer and glancing briefly at his ex-wife, Debra, who sat alone in the front row, weeping quietly.

Asked by reporters if he had any message for Miss Pulver, Peters said "I hope she's well" as he was placed into a police van.

His lawyer, Scott Cox, said Peters will contest the charges in Australia, but he did not know whether his client would fight extradition.

Authorities said Peters has been involved in various businesses, but would not elaborate. Mr Cox said his client is a lawyer who works as an investment banker in Australia and owns his own company.

Peters and his ex-wife divorced in 2007 and have three school-age children, Mr Cox added.