Depressed Aussie gets 13 years for fake collar bomb plot

Sydney judge jails man who attached a fake bomb to a schoolgirl to extort money from her parents

LAST UPDATED AT 10:06 ON Tue 20 Nov 2012

THE MAN who put a fake collar bomb around the neck of Australian schoolgirl Maddie Pulver in a failed attempt to extort money from her wealthy parents has been sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in jail.

Businessman Paul Douglas Peters, 52, was sentenced in Sydney's District Court today for the botched extortion attempt in August last year.

Judge Peter Zahra said his crime was a "deliberate act of extortion" and rejected the defence's claim that he was psychologically unsound when he entered the Pulvers' house in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Mosman wearing a rainbow-coloured balaclava. It took police ten hours to ascertain the bomb was fake and remove it from the terrified schoolgirl's neck.

Maddie Pulver, 18, told Ninemsn today she was pleased with the court's decision and said: "I am looking forward to a future in which Paul Peters's name is not linked with mine."

Peters, who was arrested in Kentucky last year after fleeing to the United States, broke down when Judge Zahra told the court it was the collapse of his marriage and financial woes that led him to attempt extortion.

During his trial, the court heard that Peters believed he had "lost everything" and suffered mental health problems, merging his identity with a character in a fictional crime novel he was writing in which a young girl is kidnapped by the villainous protagonist. His obsession with his book, combined with alcoholism and bi-polar disorder, encouraged him to attempt the bizarre extortion, his defence argued.

But Judge Zahra rejected the argument his disturbed state of mind led him to commit the crime and he had ultimately wanted to be caught, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. At today's sentencing hearing Zahra said the extortion plan was carefully planned and Peters was fully aware of the terror he was inflicting when he confronted Pulver in her bedroom.

"I'm not prepared to accept that he was taking on the persona of a character from his book [that he was writing]" the judge said. · 

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