Image: 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver, who had a suspected bomb attached to her
EPA
Madeleine Pulver, 18, had a suspected bomb attached to her after a masked man entered her family's home in Sydney on Wednesday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/4/2011 7:16:17 PM ET 2011-08-04T23:16:17

A bizarre ransom note bearing the name of a fictional character was left by a ski-mask-clad man who broke into a suburban Sydney home and chained a fake bomb to the 18-year-old daughter of a wealthy Australia businessman, officials close to the case said Thursday.

The man apparently was spotted running away from the home in the suburb of Mosman by a neighbor and her driver, who told police he leapt into a car driven by a woman who had been "driving up and down the street, looking nervous," sources told the Daily Telegraph.   

After telling police the car sped away, the neighbor, champion racehorse trainer Gai Waterhouse, took to her blog to chastise the "crazy person" who sparked a 10-hour ordeal Wednesday as police removed the bomb-like device from Madeleine Pulver.

Image: William Pulver, right, and his wife, Belinda, thank police and investigators Thursday, a day after their daughter, Madeleine, was chained to a fake bomb for 10 hours
Rick Rycroft  /  AP
William Pulver, right, and his wife, Belinda, thank police and investigators Thursday, a day after their daughter, Madeleine, was chained to a fake bomb for 10 hours.

"Some crazy person had supposedly tied a bomb to young girl who lives down the street. What is our world coming to, if people can't feel safe in their own homes," Waterhouse wrote. "This young lady could easily be affected for life by this horrendous experience. How dare someone violate the privacy that she and her family are entitled to, not to mention the unimaginable terror and strain they were put under, the boot should be put on the other foot."

Story: Police: Neck bomb hoax was a 'very serious' extortion plot

Police on Thursday revealed the name on the ransom note that contained a threat to detonate the device was Dirk Struan, the lead character in the 1966 novel "Tai-Pan," by author James Clavell and set during the time of the 1842 Opium War. The plot involves two businessmen who set out to destoy each other. It contains a passage in chapter 12 in which Struan is told there is a price on the heads of his mistress and children.

The typed note also contained instructions directing Pulver to contact the writer by the Internet and not to call police. It made no money demands, despite the family's wealth.

A USB stick — a mini electronic data storage device — was reportedly recovered from inside the fake collar bomb police removed from Pulver's neck.

The incident is being treated as extortion, but investigations are still in the early stages as police process evidence from the scene, Robbery and Serious Crime Squad commander Luke Moore said. Police interviewed neighbors and searched the Pulvers' three-story home and took computers to analyze.

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.

Related story: '30 Minutes or Less' movie suddenly seems even more disturbing

"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.

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.

    LAUER:

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