‘Baffling, frightening experience’ draws to a close for family

2011-08-16 07:29

Sydney – An Australian man has been arrested by an FBI SWAT team in the United States over a bizarre incident in which a fake bomb was strapped around the neck of a Sydney schoolgirl.

Madeleine Pulver (18), a member of one of the city’s wealthiest families, endured a horrifying 10-hour ordeal earlier this month when a masked man placed a device around her neck at her luxury home in leafy Mosman.

“We will allege the suspect was responsible for entering the Pulver home and placing the device around Madeleine’s neck,” New South Wales Assistant Commissioner Dave Hudson told reporters in Sydney.

Australian detectives said the 50-year-old was taken into custody in Louisville, Kentucky, in an operation led by the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The FBI named the man as Paul “Doug” Peters, saying he had been staying at the home of his ex-wife near La Grange, Kentucky, and was arrested without incident by one of its SWAT teams.

Australian police said the man, who had indirect links to the Pulver family but was not known to them, had family and business ties in both the US and Australia but his primary residence was in Sydney.

“It’s a fairly detailed chain of circumstantial evidence that led to the arrest this morning,” Hudson told reporters at a press conference with Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.

The man left Australia on August 8, five days after the incident that gripped the nation, and before investigators considered him a suspect.

“Over the course of the last three or four days, NSW (New South Wales) police, working closely with the FBI, identified the man and confirmed he travelled to the United States in the last few days,” Scipione said.

“A male was taken into custody after a search warrant was executed in Louisville.”

At the time of the incident, police described the collar bomb as “a very, very elaborate hoax”.

Bomb specialists worked through the night to free Pulver but the device was later found to contain no explosives.

A note was found but police said no demands were ever made.

The arrested man is yet to be charged, but is expected to appear in court in the US today on a provisional warrant for aggravated breaking and entering, committing a felony and kidnapping offences.

Australia will seek his extradition, police said, adding that it was too early to say what the motive had been.

When asked if they believed the man acted alone, Hudson said: “At this stage we are not seeking any other offenders in this matter.”

Police added that they always believed the story given to them by Pulver, who is completing her final year of school.

“She, from the very start, despite reports that suggested otherwise, was totally believed by the police officers who took those statements, and we have looked at this as a true offence from the very beginning,” Hudson said.

Madeleine’s father Bill Pulver said he hoped the arrest marked the beginning of the end of his family’s traumatic ordeal.

He said his daughter was “a bright, happy young woman who for reasons we still don’t understand had her life turned upside down, going through this dreadful experience”.

“This has been a baffling and frightening experience,” he added in Sydney.

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