SYDNEY // An Australian investment banker who admitted chaining a fake bomb to a Sydney teenager as part of a bizarre extortion plot was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison yesterday.
Madeleine Pulver, then 18, was studying at home alone in her family's mansion in August last year when Paul Douglas Peters walked in wearing a rainbow-striped ski mask and carrying a baseball bat. He tied a bomb-like device to her neck along with a ransom note and then slipped away, leaving the panicked teenager alone. It took a bomb squad 10 hours to remove the device, which contained no explosive material.
Peters, 52, failed to convince the judge that his made-for-Hollywood crime was the result of a psychological meltdown sparked by the breakdown of his marriage and a failing career. Instead, the judge said, the once-successful businessman and father of three had shown no remorse, lied to police and was largely motivated by one thing: money.
"The offender intended to place the very young victim in fear that she would be killed," said Peter Zahra, a New South Wales state district court judge. "The terror instilled can only be described as unimaginable."
Ms Pulver hugged relatives after the sentence was read. Her father, Bill Pulver, wiped away tears. Peters remained silent and impassive.
"I'm pleased at today's outcome and that I can now look to a future without Paul Peters' name being linked to mine," Ms Pulver 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."
Mr Zahra gave Peters less than the maximum sentence of 20 years, acknowledging he had pleaded guilty and was probably depressed at the time.
After attaching the device to the teenager, Peters fled to the United States, but police used an email address he left on the ransom note to track him down. Authorities arrested him two weeks later at his ex-wife's home in Louisville, Kentucky, and extradited him to Australia. He pleaded guilty in March to aggravated break and enter and committing a serious indictable offence.
Peters, who will be eligible for parole in 10 years, cried in court when the judge detailed the problems the banker had been facing with his marriage and his career. But he showed no emotion when the judge described the trauma Ms Pulver endured as a result of the attack - a point which did not escape Bill Pulver's notice.
"Mr Peters has actually, from our perspective, shown no clear remorse for this entire event," Mr Pulvert said. After the verdict, he added: "There has still been no apology nor any explanation for his behaviour, which is disappointing. But the man was just told he was going to be in jail for 10 years, so he has reason to be upset."
* Associated Press