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Australian ‘collar bomb’ suspect ordered detained

Posted: August 16, 2011 - 6:10pm  |  Updated: August 16, 2011 - 8:21pm
Paul Douglas Peters, left, of Sydney, Australia, is escorted from the Federal Courthouse in Louisville, Ky., after he was arraigned in connection with a bomb hoax in Australia, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/The Courier-Journal, Sam Upshaw Jr.)   Sam Upshaw Jr.
Sam Upshaw Jr.
Paul Douglas Peters, left, of Sydney, Australia, is escorted from the Federal Courthouse in Louisville, Ky., after he was arraigned in connection with a bomb hoax in Australia, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/The Courier-Journal, Sam Upshaw Jr.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The masked man who locked a fake bomb to the neck of an Australian millionaire’s teenage daughter did not look like your ordinary violent criminal. The gray-haired attacker wielded a baseball bat but wore beige trousers and a light-colored dress shirt, rolled up at the elbows.

Along with demands for money, he left behind an email address that appears to refer to a 45-year-old novel about a ruthless businessman in 19th-century Asia.

That address helped lead police all the way from the wealthy Sydney suburb where the attack occurred to a well-heeled Louisville suburb where they arrested an investment banker, Paul Douglas Peters, at his ex-wife’s home on Monday.

Peters once worked for a company with ties to the victim’s family, according to federal court documents released Tuesday that also reveal more details about the ordeal 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver endured earlier this month.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin on Tuesday ordered Peters jailed pending an extradition hearing Oct. 14 in Louisville. Peters faces charges in Australia that include kidnapping and breaking and entering.

An arrest complaint filed in court does not elaborate on the 50-year-old’s business ties.

The document says Pulver was studying for her high school exams Aug. 3 in her bedroom when she saw the intruder walk in carrying a black aluminum baseball bat and wearing a striped, multicolored balaclava. “Sit down and no one needs to get hurt,” he told her.

Pulver sat on her bed and the intruder placed the bat and a backpack next to her. She noticed he was holding a black box. He forced the box against her throat and looped a device similar to a bike chain around her neck.

The man locked the box around her neck and placed a lanyard and a plastic document sleeve around her neck. It contained a hand-written note with demands, the email address and a USB digital storage device.

“Count to 200,” he said as he left, taking the bat and the backpack with him. “... I’ll be back ... if you move I can see you I’ll be right here,” she told authorities, according to the complaint.

After a few minutes Pulver texted her mother, and soon after that she called her father. After telling both of them to call police, she saw that the attacker’s note warned not to do that.

Pulver was “crying and hysterical” when bomb technicians, negotiators and detectives rushed to the scene, but she eventually calmed down, the complaint said.

Neighboring homes were evacuated, streets were closed and medical and fire crews waited nearby. Pulver spent 10 hours chained to the device, which was removed after bomb technicians determined it did not contain explosives.

The note around Pulver’s neck said the fake bomb contained “powerful new technology plastic explosives” and was booby trapped. Details for delivering “a Defined Sum” would be sent “once you acknowledge and confirm receipt of this message,” it said. The USB device contained the same note.

The email address the attacker left is dirkstraun1840(at)gmail.com. Dirk Struan is the main character in James Clavell’s 1966 novel “Tai-Pan,” about a bitter rivalry between powerful traders in Hong Kong after the end of the First Opium War.

Australian authorities determined that the email account was established May 30 from an Internet Protocol address linked to a Chicago airport. Travel documents obtained from immigration authorities showed that Peters had been at the airport that day.

The email account was accessed three times on the afternoon of Aug. 3, beginning almost two hours after the hoax device was placed around the teenager’s neck, the complaint said.

The first access took place at 4:09 p.m. from an IP address registered to a library in Kincumber, about a 50-mile drive from the girl’s home in Mosman. The account was accessed twice more before 6 p.m. from an IP address registered to a video store a few miles from the library.

Surveillance cameras at the library and at a liquor store next to the video store recorded a man matching Peters’ description around that time, the complaint said. A video store employee said a “well-dressed” man came in twice to use one of the store’s Internet computers because he was “waiting for an email.”

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