SYDNEY – The bizarre attack seemed straight out of a Hollywood thriller: A disguised man breaks into a suburban home in the middle of the day, chains an apparent bomb to a teenage girl’s neck, and leaves a note with instructions for her wealthy family. But after 10 frantic hours working to free her, Australian police say it was all an elaborate hoax.
Sydney bomb squad specialists managed to free 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver from the bomb-like device around midnight on Wednesday, and later determined it contained no explosives. Pulver was not hurt in the incident, which still had police hunting for answers today.
“A very, very elaborate hoax as it turned out,” said New South Wales state Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch.
The drama began on Wednesday afternoon in the upscale Sydney suburb of Mosman when Pulver’s family contacted police saying their daughter had been attacked and there was a strange device attached to her. Bomb technicians, negotiators and detectives rushed to the scene. Nearby homes were evacuated, streets were closed and medical and fire crews waited nearby.
Pulver told police a man wearing a disguise broke into her home and attached what appeared to be a bomb to her neck. When officials arrived on the scene, they found Pulver alone in the house with the suspicious device tethered to her neck “by a chain or something similar,” Murdoch said. Officers spent hours painstakingly trying to free the girl.
Police said they had no idea why Pulver was targeted, but they said the attack did not appear to be random.
The case is being handled by the police department’s robbery and serious crime squad, which deals with extortion, among other crimes.