true crime

In 2011, Maddie Pulver was home alone when a man broke in and strapped a collar bomb on her neck.

When Madeleine Pulver was in Year 12, a balaclava clad man broke into her Sydney home one afternoon and held her hostage, strapping a collar bomb to her neck.

Along with the device, he strapped a USB and a ransom note to her before he disappeared from the scene.

After a 10 hour ordeal which included the bomb disposal unit, counter terrorism command, and police negotiators, it was determined the bomb was fake.

The man responsible, Paul Douglas Peters, is eligible for parole on August 14, 2021.

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On August 3, 2011, 17-year-old Madeleine was forced to call her parents Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver and his wife Belinda, from their $15 million Mosman home, to tell them she was being held hostage.

She was studying for the HSC at the time, when Peters broke in wearing a balaclava and carrying a baseball bat. 

He locked a device around her neck, along with a USB thumb drive on a lanyard and a plastic sleeve that held a two-page document outlining extortion demands and instructions.

It took 10 terrifying hours for the bomb squad to determine the device fake and release her from its clutches.

Two weeks later, police arrested investment banker Paul Douglas Peters in Kentucky, in the United States, where he’d fled to a few days after the incident. Police found him because of an email address he’d used on the ransom note.

He was hiding out in his ex-wife’s home and had absolutely no connection to the Pulver family. He plead guilty to the charges against him – aggravated break and enter and detaining for advantage, telling the court he had “difficulty coming to terms with what he did”.

His psychiatrist told the court Peters remembered walking up the steps of the Pulver property at 2pm on that 2011 afternoon, but his next memory jumped to 2 1/2 hours later at his home. It was revealed the then 52-year-old was likely suffering from bipolar disorder.

Paul "Doug" Peters
Paul "Doug" Peters, Image: Getty.

But the prosecutor argued that Peters simply got the wrong victim and made up "not remembering" to save face, instead of admitting to his bungled plan. They said his intended victim was the Pulver's neighbour, a man Peters had previously done business with in Hong Kong and who he knew was very wealthy.

The judge called the attack "precise and premeditated" sentencing him on November 20, 2012, to 13 years and six months in prison, with a non-parole period of ten years. 

"The offender placed the victim in fear that she was going to die in order to extort money from her family.

"The victim was vulnerable, being entitled to the sanctuary of her own home… the terror she experienced can only be described as unimaginable," Judge Peter Zahra said during sentencing.

With the court case behind her, Maddie went on to study at the University of Technology in Sydney which included a stint over in Denmark.

She's now back in Sydney working as an interior designer, telling the Daily Mail in 2019, "I’m doing really well, I’m working as an interior designer and I’m loving it." 

She added that she "tries not to think" about what happened to her in 2011. 

Peters tried to appeal his sentence in 2013, claiming his punishment was "too severe" but the state's highest court rejected his plea.

Now in 2021, Peters is eligible for parole. 

A Current Affair reports he has already taken the initial steps to freedom, after being granted work release from jail for at least two days a week - with the possibility of day and weekend in leave in coming months as he nears his August parole date.

"It's 10 years that he's been in custody now. In my mind, in this case, justice has been done,' Detective Luke Moore, who ran the police investigation on the day told the program.

Feature image: AAP.