Australian man charged in 'collar bomb' hoax

AP News
Posted: Sep 23, 2011 10:24 PM
Australian man charged in 'collar bomb' hoax

An Australian investment banker accused of chaining a fake bomb to a teenage girl's neck in a bizarre extortion attempt was charged Saturday with kidnapping and other offenses after being extradited from the U.S.

Paul Douglas Peters, 50, arrived in Sydney early Saturday morning after being flown from the U.S., where he had been held in a Louisville, Kentucky, jail since his August arrest.

New South Wales police whisked him from Sydney's international airport to a police station and charged him with kidnapping, aggravated breaking and entering, and demanding money with menaces.

Peters is accused of attacking 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver, who was studying at her home in a wealthy Sydney suburb on Aug. 3 when a masked man carrying a baseball bat broke into the house and tethered a bomb-like device to her neck. The man left behind a note demanding money, along with an email address that appeared to refer to a novel about a ruthless businessman in 19th-century Asia.

A police bomb squad spent 10 hours working to remove the device, which was later found to contain no explosives. Pulver was not injured.

Peters, a successful international businessman who travels frequently between the U.S. and Australia, was arrested by the FBI at his ex-wife's house in a Louisville suburb on Aug. 15.

Peters did not appear during a brief hearing Saturday at western Sydney's Parramatta Bail Court. He has not applied for bail or entered a plea. The judge ordered him to appear in court for another hearing on Nov. 17.

If convicted of all charges, he could face up to 49 years in prison. Peters' lawyers declined to comment outside court.

"I have great admiration for Madeleine Pulver and her family for the way they have dealt with this matter and what has been obviously a very traumatic time of their lives," Police Detective Superintendent Luke Moore told reporters.

It's not clear what ties Peters has to the Pulvers, though federal court documents say Peters once worked for a company with links to the family. The Pulvers have repeatedly said that they don't know Peters, and that they have no idea why Madeleine was targeted.

Madeleine Pulver's millionaire father, William Pulver, was once the president and CEO of NetRankings, a pioneer in tracking online exposure and readership for companies advertising on the Internet. He left after the firm was sold to ratings giant Nielsen in 2007. He is now CEO of Appen Butler Hill, a company that provides language and voice-recognition software and services.

"It's a slightly strange feeling to see him coming back into the country," William Pulver said of Peters' arrival in Sydney. "It's an important step in the process to move this thing through the courts."

New South Wales police have said surveillance footage showed Peters in several locations where they believe he accessed an email account with the address dirkstraun1840(at) _ the same address left behind on the note attached to the fake bomb. Dirk Struan is the main character in James Clavell's 1966 novel "Tai-Pan," about a bitter rivalry between powerful traders in Hong Kong after the end of the First Opium War.

U.S. lawyer Scott Cox, who initially represented Peters before he was replaced, has said Peters plans to fight the charges.