August 16, 2011 / 1:20 AM / 8 years ago

Australian collar bomb suspect appears in court

LOUISVILLE, Ky (Reuters) - A man wanted in Australia over accusations he strapped a fake bomb to the neck of a teenage girl appeared in U.S. federal court on Tuesday, a first step toward extraditing him home to face charges.

Paul "Doug" Peters, an Australian national who police in New South Wales were seeking to apprehend in connection with last month's sensational bomb hoax, arrives at the Louisville Federal Court House in a vehicle to make an initial court appearance in Louisville, Kentucky, August 16, 2011. REUTERS/John Sommers II

Federal Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin ordered Paul Douglas Peters, 50, detained without bond pending an extradition hearing set for October 14, a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington said.

Court records unsealed on Tuesday, meanwhile, revealed that Peters, who was arrested in Kentucky on Monday, had ties to a company connected to the girl’s family.

“The police have obtained information that Paul Douglas Peters was formerly employed by a company with which the victim’s family has links,” the criminal complaint filed in support of extraditing Peters to Australia said.

Authorities tracked down Peters through an e-mail account on Gmail, security camera footage in Australia and the Range Rover car he drove, according to the court documents.

On August 3, a man wearing a balaclava broke into the suburban Sydney home of Bill Pulver, the wealthy chief executive of Appen Butler Hill, a company that makes speech recognition and text-to-speech software.

The only person home was Pulver’s 18-year-old daughter, Madeleine.

The intruder strapped a device to the girl’s neck that he said was a bomb he could detonate by remote control, and left behind a ransom note. He also reportedly told the girl the device had a microphone that allowed him to monitor her conversations.

The girl summoned help anyway and, after a 10-hour ordeal, officers were able to remove the device, which turned out to be harmless.

The ransom note included the email address which was checked three times within hours of the man leaving Pulver’s house, and security cameras in the area caught images of Peters and his car, the complaint said.

Security camera footage at one location where the email account was checked, a library in Australia, showed a man who matched the description provided by Pulver’s daughter, the complaint said.

Further, authorities examined a memory stick that was left around her neck and were able to recover deleted files, one of which was written on a computer with the identification of “Paul P,” the court document said.

With that information and the footage of his vehicle, police searched for a matching car and found one registered to Peters. His driver’s license photograph matched those of the individual in the security footage, it said.

From there, authorities discovered that five days after the plot unfolded, Peters boarded a flight in Sydney for Chicago and then flew on to Louisville, arriving on August 9.

Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Jerry Norton and Cynthia Johnston

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