Sydney schoolgirl collar bomb was ‘elaborate hoax’
Madeleine Pulver escapes apparent extortion attempt unharmed after 10-hour police operation
A 'collar bomb' that was strapped to a terrified Australian teenager during a dramatic 10-hour ordeal has turned out to be a hoax. Bomb squad specialists worked against the clock to free Madeleine Pulver, the 18-year-old daughter of a wealthy business executive, from the device in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Pulver was at her family home in Mosman, one of Sydney's wealthiest suburbs, on early Wednesday afternoon when a balaclava-clad intruder broke in and strapped a device to her neck.
At around 2.30pm the schoolgirl called the police, telling them that the man had also left a note warning that the bomb would be detonated if a ransom was not paid. According to some reports, the blackmailer also told Pulver that he could set off the device remotely.
Nearby homes were evacuated and streets closed as experts from the New South Wales bomb squad arrived to free the young heiress. Taking advice from the British military, the technicians spent several hours examining and X-raying the device, which was still attached to Pulver. Her parents waited anxiously outside the house, unable to enter for their own safety. The Sydney Morning Herald claimed that William Pulver, who is the chief executive of the technology company Appen, was the target of the extortion bid.
Pulver was freed shortly after midnight before being taken to a nearby hospital for a medical assessment.
Later, New South Wales police assistant commissioner Mark Murdoch told journalists the bomb had turned out to be a "very, very elaborate hoax". He said: "We had to treat it seriously until we could prove otherwise and that's exactly what we did and that's why it took so long."
Murdoch also said that police did not yet know why the schoolgirl had been targeted but the "sophisticated" attack did not appear to be random. He confirmed that a note had been left inside the house which would provide detectives with further lines for inquiry.
"Those instructions also limited us in how quickly we could proceed," he added. "The instructions were precise and led us to believe that we were dealing with a very serious and legitimate threat."