Image: 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver, who had a suspected bomb attached to her
Madeleine Pulver, 18, had a suspected bomb attached to her after a masked man entered her family's home in Sydney on Wednesday. staff and news service reports
updated 8/4/2011 6:31:02 AM ET 2011-08-04T10:31:02

A masked man who broke into a wealthy family's home in Sydney, chained a fake bomb to a girl's neck and left a note of demands was likely making an elaborate extortion attempt, Australian police said Thursday.

In a climactic scene straight out of a Hollywood thriller, Madeleine Pulver was freed from the device late Wednesday after bomb squad specialists spent 10 harrowing hours trying to safely remove it from her neck.

The 18-year-old was not hurt and police later determined the device contained no explosives.

A note of demands had been attached to the device, New South Wales state Police Detective Superintendent Luke Moore said, though he declined to specify what the demands were.

Video: Police: Australia neck bomb a fake (on this page)

"We are treating this as an attempted extortion — a very serious attempted extortion," Moore said.

The drama began on Wednesday afternoon in the upscale Sydney suburb of Mosman when Pulver's family contacted police saying their daughter had been attacked and there was a strange device attached to her.

Bomb technicians, negotiators and detectives rushed to the scene. Nearby homes were evacuated, streets were closed and medical and fire crews waited nearby.

Pulver told police a man wearing a mask broke into her home and confronted her while she was in the kitchen.

The teen said the man forced her to stay still while he fitted the device to her neck, and then fled. When officials arrived on the scene, they found Pulver alone in the house with the suspicious device tethered to her neck by a chain.

'Extraordinary support and comfort'
The family lives in one of Sydney's ritziest areas and the girl's father, William Pulver, is a successful businessman who serves as the CEO of an information technology company. On Thursday, he fought back tears as he talked about his daughter's horrifying ordeal.

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"We as parents are extraordinarily proud of Maddy," William Pulver said, his equally tearful wife Belinda at his side.

"I think she has woken up this morning in pretty good spirits. She's a little tired, a little sore, from holding this damned device in place for about 10 hours," he said.

William Pulver thanked the bomb squad and others for putting their lives at risk to help their "beautiful" daughter, the AAP news agency reported.

"You are a wonderful group of people, you were an extraordinary support and comfort to my daughter last night," he said, according to the report.

The AAP said that Constable Karen Lowden, a young mother, was first to arrive, staying with the girl for up to two hours while the bomb squad and other emergency personnel worked outside. "Hers was a truly brave and selfless act," New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said.

Forensics officers spent Wednesday night combing through the family's three-story home and scouring the surrounding streets for evidence.

Video: Cops defuse bomb strapped to Sydney teen (on this page)

Moore said they had not identified a prime suspect and are trying to figure out how the man got into the house.

"We are treating this as an individual incident," Moore said. "We have absolutely no information to suggest this is linked to any other crime."

New South Wales state Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch said the device was quite sophisticated and was designed to look like a bomb as part of a "very, very elaborate hoax."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she was shocked when she heard about the case on Thursday.

"When I looked at it this morning, the first thing I said was, 'It's like a Hollywood script — the kind of thing you would see at the cinema or on TV,'" Gillard told Fairfax Radio. "You would never expect it to happen in real life in Australia."

Pulver was examined and released from a Sydney hospital on Thursday. Students at the private girls' school she attends were being offered counseling.

"The school community is united behind the student and her family, and we thank God that she is not hurt," Wenona School officials said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Police: Australia neck bomb a fake

  1. Transcript of: Police: Australia neck bomb a fake

    MATT LAUER, co-host: It was 10 hours of terror for the daughter of a wealthy Australian businessman on Wednesday. A masked intruder broke into the family's home and strapped what he claimed was a collar bomb to the girl's neck. NBC 's Sara James is in Sydney with details on this. Sara , good morning to you.

    SARA JAMES reporting: Good morning, Matt. It was like a scene from a Hollywood movie , something you

    couldn't happenin this luxurious family home in a fancy neighborhood. Meantime, the investigation into the first crime of this kind in Australia is just beginning. After being rushed to the hospital overnight, 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver is on the mend, according to her shaken father.

    Mr. PULVER: I can tell you that we, as parents, are extraordinarily proud of Maddy . I think she has woken up this morning in pretty good spirits. She's little tired, a little sore from holding this damn device in place for about 10 hours.

    JAMES: Ten agonizing hours, unable to move, while the bomb squad carefully worked to remove what appeared to be an improvised explosive device from around the teenager's neck. Madeleine 's parents held a terrified vigil close by, as did friends and neighbors. Finally, in the middle of the night , good news.

    Unidentified Man #1: Moments ago, we have secured the release of the young lady.

    JAMES: The supposed bomb chained to her neck proved to be a sophisticated fake, but police say the crime was real.

    Unidentified Man #2: I can confirm for you that there was a letter attached to this device that did make certain demands. We are treating this as an attempted extortion.

    JAMES: Madeleine 's father is a multimillionaire software company executive. His daughter's ordeal began Wednesday afternoon Sydney time. Police say Madeleine was home alone studying for final exams when an intruder, wearing a balaclava, broke into the family's mansion and placed the device around her neck.

    Unidentified Woman: To me it sounded like a scene out of

    "Saw"......a horror movie.

    JAMES: Or perhaps television. Talk radio in Australia abuzz today with the uncanny similarities between this case and an episode of " Hawaii_Five -0" which aired in Australia on April 10th . Madeleine 's friends and classmates say they're just grateful she's OK.

    Unidentified Man #3: She's all, like, just probably, like, really comforting, like, best quality kind of girl that you could know. Like, nicest girl, smart, sporty, everything.

    JAMES: Madeleine 's parents said their daughter wanted to thank those officers who remained by her side during the ordeal.

    Mr. PULVER: Maddy particularly wanted to thank those few officers who spent many long hours sitting with her, showing little regard for their own personal safety. She is incredibly grateful.

    JAMES: A Sydney strike force is searching for the man behind the balaclava, one question sure to be whether he was a stranger or if he knew someone in the

    family. Matt: All right, Sara James in Sydney this morning on this story. Sara , thank you very much . It's 19 after the hour. Here's Ann.



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