, SYDNEY, Aug 16 – An Australian man was arrested on Tuesday by an FBI SWAT team in the United States in connection with a bizarre incident in which a fake bomb was strapped around the neck of a Sydney schoolgirl.
The arrest came after Madeleine Pulver, 18, a member of one of Sydney’s wealthiest families, endured a horrifying 10-hour ordeal earlier this month when a masked man strapped a device around her neck at her home.
“We will allege the suspect was responsible for entering the Pulver home and placing the device around Madeleine’s neck,” New South Wales Assistant Commissioner Dave Hudson told reporters in Sydney.
Australian detectives said the 50-year-old was taken into custody in Louisville, Kentucky, in an operation assisted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI named the man as Paul “Doug” Peters, saying he had been staying at the home of his former wife near La Grange, Kentucky and was arrested without incident by one of its SWAT teams.
Australian police said the man, who had indirect links to the Pulver family but was not known to them, had family ties in both the United States and Australia but his primary residence was in Sydney.
“It’s a fairly detailed chain of circumstantial evidence that led to the arrest this morning,” Hudson told reporters at a press conference with Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
The man had left Australia on August 8, five days after the incident that gripped the nation, and before investigators had considered him a suspect, police said.
“Over the course of the last three or four days, NSW police, working closely with the FBI, identified the man and confirmed he travelled to the United States in the last few days,” Scipione said.
“A male was taken into custody after a search warrant was executed in Louisville.”
At the time of the incident, police described the collar bomb as “a very, very elaborate hoax”. Bomb specialists worked through the night to free Madeleine Pulver but the device was later found to contain no explosives.
The arrested man is yet to be charged, but he is expected to appear in court in the United States on Tuesday on a provisional warrant for aggravated break and enter, committing a felony and kidnapping offences.
Australia will seek his extradition, police said, adding that it was too early to say what the motive had been.
When asked if they believed the man acted alone, Hudson said: “At this stage we are not seeking any other offenders in this matter.”
Police said they had always believed the story given to them by Madeleine Pulver, who is completing her final year of school.
“She, from the very start, despite reports that suggested otherwise, was totally believed by the police officers who took those statements, and we have looked at this as a true offence from the very beginning,” Hudson said.
“The statement from the victim has assisted us in the resolution we have come to this morning.”