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  • 20 November 2012, 10:58

Oz Collar Bomb Attacker Paul Peters Jailed

An investment banker who attached a fake bomb around the neck of a schoolgirl in an attempt to extort money from her wealthy family has been jailed for at least 10 years.

Paul Peters, 52, had already pleaded guilty to breaking into the home of the Pulver family in August 2011 and putting the device around the neck of teenager Madeleine Pulver, telling her that if she moved it would detonate.

It took a bomb squad 10 hours to remove the device, which contained no explosives.

Peters, who had been wearing a ski mask and carrying a baseball bat when he entered the multimillion-dollar mansion, was eventually tracked down to the US and extradited back to Australia.

He pleaded guilty to aggravated breaking and entering, and detaining the teenager for advantage.

"The offender intended to place the very young victim in fear that she would be killed," Judge Peter Zahra said in court.

"The terror instilled can only be described as unimaginable."

Miss Pulver hugged relatives after the sentence was read. Her father, Bill Pulver, wiped away tears. Peters remained stone-faced and said nothing.

"I'm pleased at today's outcome and that I can now look to a future without Paul Peters' name being linked to mine," she said outside court.

"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."

"I realise it is going to take quite some time to come to terms with what happened, but today was important because now the legal process is over," the teenager added.

The court heard Peters was suffering psychiatric problems after his marriage broke down and he lost custody of his children, with Mr Zahra saying he appeared to think he was an "avenging character" in a novel he was writing.

The judge, who said Peters would be eligible for parole in 10 years, described his bizarre crime as "heinous" and a "deliberate act of extortion" which had terrified Miss Pulver, now aged 19, who was home alone studying for exams.

"The offender entered a house armed and disguised. He found the young girl on her own and vulnerable," Mr Zahra said.

"At the time of placing the device he had prepared around the neck of the victim he would have appreciated the enormity of what he was doing and the terrible effect and consequence of his conduct upon the victim," he added.

Mr Zahra said Peters "would have been aware that after he left the victim she would have experienced considerable trauma before it was determined that the device did not contain explosives".

"He would have understood, at the time, in the many hours that followed she was in fear she would be killed," he added.

"The terror instilled can only be described as unimaginable."

Mr Zahra said Miss Pulver had been in fear of her life for a "substantial period" and now struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

"She presently experiences severe nightmares and suffers debilitating intrusive images while awake," the judge said.

Mr Zahra noted that Peters' expressions of remorse had been "qualified and guarded" and gave him "minimal" discount for his mental health problems, which included bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse and major depression.

Prosecutors had described the case as an act of "urban terrorism" fuelled by financial greed.

Defence lawyers argued that Peters was depressed, drinking heavily and exhibiting wild mood swings before committing the crime and had no memory of the attack.

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.

During an earlier hearing, prosecutor Margaret Cunneen said Miss 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.

When he arrived there, he bumped into a neighbour of the Pulvers whom he had met while doing business in Hong Kong.

That man, who lived next door to the Pulvers, then became Peters' new target, Cunneen said.

But on the day of the attack, Peters walked into the wrong house. Miss Pulver was, in the end, just the unwitting victim of Peters' incompetence, the prosecutor said.

Miss Pulver now intends to put the experience behind her and begin studying at Sydney University in the new year.

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