Arrested Sydney collar bomb hoax suspect named

GWENDA KWEK AND STEPHANIE GARDINER
Last updated 14:04 16/08/2011
Madeleine Pulver
Sydney Morning Herald
VICTIM: Madeleine Pulver was trapped inside her Sydney home.
An ambulance arrives outside a house where bomb squad officers eventually freed an 18-year-old Sydney girl who had been trapped for 10 hours with a bomb around her neck.
Reuters Zoom
An ambulance arrives outside a house where bomb squad officers eventually freed an 18-year-old Sydney girl who had reportedly been trapped for 10 hours with a bomb around her neck.

Sydney teen safe after 10-hour bomb scare

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In an extraordinary breakthrough in an extraordinary case, a 50-year-old Australian man named as Paul "Doug" Peters has been arrested in the United States over the collar bomb hoax on Sydney schoolgirl Madeleine Pulver.

Mr Peters, who police say does business in Australia and the US, was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky about 7.30am today NZ time (3.30pm Kentucky time Monday) by an FBI Swat team and two detectives from the NSW Robbery and Serious Crime Squad's Strike Force Haddon.

FBI special agent Elizabeth A Fries, who named the man, said he had been staying at his ex-wife's apartment in Heather Green Boulevarde, La Grange, a town of 5000 people 48 kilometres north-east of Louisville.

Police confirmed the man, who they did not name in a Sydney briefing, had not been a suspect until he left Australia on August 8, after which he was placed under surveillance.

He is now in custody and NSW police will seek his extradition to Australia to face charges of aggravated breaking in and entering, and kidnapping.

The fake bomb was attached to Ms Pulver's neck by a balaclava-clad intruder in her family's home at Mosman on Sydney's north shore on August 3. After 10 hours, during which police officers sat with the teenager while specialists worked on the device, the collar was found not to contain any explosives.

Madeleine's father, Mr Bill Pulver, said today the family was "enormously relieved" that an arrest had been made. He thanked the police for their superb work during a "frightening" ordeal for the family.

He said the family had been "humbled by the selflessness and generosity of those who wanted to help Maddie in any way they can".

He said at times the intense media interest in the case had been difficult but on the whole the media had been respectful and had protrayed Maddie as the vibrant young woman she was. He asked for privacy and said the family would make no further comment.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Dave Hudson told a packed media conference in Sydney today that the suspect was surprised when he was confronted by police today.

The apartment was still being searched, he added.

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"A fairly detailed chain of circumstantial evidence led us to making the arrest ... it's fairly compelling," Mr Hudson said.

Mr Peters, who flew between Australia and the United States for work and has family in both countries, had been living in Sydney for six weeks before August 3.

While he declined to elaborate on what made police suspect Mr Peters, Mr Hudson said police were "confident that he is responsible for the crime" and that no other suspects were being sought.

The bomb hoax was still being treated as an extortion attempt and Mr Peters had not been known to police before this case.

SOME CONNECTION TO FAMILY

Mr Peters had some connection to the Pulver family, but no "direct links". He was not believed to have been inside the Pulver home before.

Mr Hudson would not comment on questions about whether Mr Peters had any business links with Bill Pulver, Ms Pulver's father and the chief executive of Appen Butler Hill, a linguistic software company that specialises in voice recognition software.

"The ins and outs of motive are yet to be determined and that's part of our ongoing investigation," Mr Hudson said.

"We will allege through the courts ... [he] was responsible for entering the Pulver home and placing the device around [Ms Pulver's] neck."

He would not outline exactly how police came to identify Mr Peters and would not comment on whether his fingerprints were found on the device.

Mr Hudson said the extradition process was "not an exact science" and it could take some time.

'TRUE OFFENCE'

He said police had treated the bomb hoax as a "true offence" from the beginning and Ms Pulver's statement helped them make the arrest.

NSW Police Detective Superintendent Luke Moore, who flew to the US for the arrest, told the media in Kentucky that Peter's had family connections in Kentucky, and he had lived in the United States at one time.

He said there was no evidence that Peters' ex-wife was involved in the incident.

She was not at the home when Peters was arrested peacefully by the FBI SWAT team.

"It was fairly normal. The FBI affected the arrest and I believe Mr Peters was the only person in the house at the time," Supt Moore. "The arrest was done fairly swiftly and safely."

WORKING WITH FBI

A delighted NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione praised his officers and those of the FBI.

''They have worked with us [over] every request. ... They made our job just that little bit easier,'' he said.

He added that this was a ''very good day for the NSW Police Force'' and, quoting the NSW Police motto, said: ''Justice swiftly follows crime.''

Today's arrest came after reports a computer was seized by police on the NSW central coast over the weekend.

On Friday, police confirmed reports that investigators had a suspect, but had not spoken to the person yet. It followed a report Ms Pulver told police her attacker had "old, wrinkly eyes".

Shortly after the incident, it was also revealed that a long, typed note with strict instructions and signed by fictional character Dick Struan from the 1966 novel Tai-Pan had been pinned to Ms Pulver, 18, during her ordeal.

The Pulver family was based in New York for a few years from 2002 when Mr Pulver was president and chief executive of NetRatings, an audience ratings company.

-Sydney Morning Herald, with AAP

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