Sunday 26 October 2014

'Chain-bomb' banker gets 13 years

Published 20/11/2012 | 02:54

Madeleine Pulver outside the New South Wales State District Court, in Sydney, Australia (AP/Rob Griffith)

An Australian investment banker who chained a fake bomb to a terrified teenager in a bizarre blackmail plot has been jailed for 13 and a half years.

Madeleine Pulver, then 18, was studying at home alone in her family's Sydney mansion last August when Paul Peters walked in wearing a rainbow-striped ski mask and carrying a baseball bat.

He tethered a bomb-like device to her neck along with a ransom note, then slipped away, leaving the panicked teenager alone. In a tense operation that made world headlines, it took a bomb squad 10 hours to remove the device, which contained no explosives.

At the sentencing in Sydney, Judge Peter Zahra said Peters intended to put the fear into the young victim that she would be killed. "The terror instilled can only be described as unimaginable," he said.

The judge gave Peters less than the maximum sentence of 20 years, acknowledging he had pleaded guilty and was probably depressed at the time.

After attaching the device to the teenager, Peters, 52, fled to the US, but police used an email address he left on the ransom note to track him down. Authorities arrested him two weeks later at his ex-wife's home in Louisville, Kentucky, and extradited him to Australia. He pleaded guilty in March to aggravated break and enter and committing a serious indictable offence.

The defence had argued that Peters was depressed, drinking heavily and exhibiting wild mood swings before committing the crime. He had recently split from his wife, was separated from his children and had become obsessed with a book he was writing about a villain out for revenge, his lawyer Tim Game said during earlier sentencing hearings.

A psychiatrist for the defence said Peters may have tried to become the evil protagonist in his book. Peters said he had no memory of the crime. But prosecutors said there was a much simpler explanation for Peters' bizarre actions - money.

Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen said during an earlier hearing that Ms Pulver was never the intended target of Peters' crime. The investment banker was having financial problems and originally travelled to Mosman - the wealthy Sydney suburb where the Pulvers live - to hunt down the beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar trust fund he had learned about, she said.

"I'm pleased at today's outcome and that I can now look to a future without Paul Peters' name being linked to mine," Ms Pulver said afterwards. "For me, it was never about the sentencing, but to know that he will not reoffend. And it was good to hear the judge acknowledge the trauma he has put my family and me through."

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