The man who terrified an Australian teenager by placing a fake bomb around her neck inadvertently left a clue to his identity on a memory stick that included his demand for money, according to court papers released today.
A note left around the neck of 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver contained a cryptic email address, email@example.com, and directions to contact the address for instructions on how to transfer a "defined sum" of money in order to get free of the bomb.
Attached to the fake bomb was a USB stick that included duplicates of the demand letter in Word and on a PDF.
The email address and the "Paul P" identification would eventually lead police to the arrest of Paul Douglas Peters, 50, in Louisville, Ky., on Monday as the alleged collar bomb suspect.
After leaving the Pulver house in Mosman, a wealthy suburb of Sydney, the intruder checked the email address three times in two locations, a public library and a video store. Security camera footage showed a Range Rover at both of these locations and a gray-haired man in a button down and beige trousers that matched Pulver's description of her assailant.
Collar Bomb Hoax Suspect Allegedly Left Behind Digital Clue
The "Peter P" computer identification allowed police to limit the search for the owner of the Range Rover and track down Paul Douglas Peters who left Australia on Aug. 8 with a one-way ticket to Chicago.
Peters' credit card trail from the purchases of the USB stick, stationary, lanyard for the USB stick and a baseball bat that he used to threaten Pulver led investigators to Deborah Lee Peters, his ex-wife living in La Grange, Ky.
It was at her home that an FBI SWAT team arrested Paul Peters on Monday.
The connection between Douglas and the Pulver family is still unclear.
"The police have obtained information that Paul Douglas Peters was formerly employed by a company with which the victim's family has links," said the court document.
An official at the Department of Justice said Peters is an attorney in good standing in Australia and an investment banker.
Collar Bomb Hoax Suspect Left Clue Behind
Peters made his first appearance in federal court in Louisville this morning for his arraignment. He is being held in the United States until his is eventually extradited to Australia.
Peters has been charged with breaking and entering with the intent to commit a serious indictable offense, demanding property by force with intent to steal and kidnapping.
The court documents also detail the terror experienced by Madeleine Pulver when Peters allegedly invaded her home while she was studying on Aug. 3.
Pulver "saw a man carrying a black aluminum baseball bat and wearing a striped, multi-colored balaclava over his head, walk into her room. The man told her that he was not going to hurt her. Alarmed, [Pulver] stood up, retreated, and asked the man what he wanted."
The intruder told her, "sit down and no one needs to get hurt." When she sat down, she noticed he was holding a black box.
"He forced the box against her throat and looped a device similar to a bike chain, which was also attached to the box, around her neck," said the document.
He also attached a purple lanyard with a USB stick and plastic document sleeve around her neck. When he moved toward the door, Pulver asked him where he was going and he told her to count to 200 and that he'd be back.
An "extremely frightened" Pulver waited a few minutes thinking the masked man was robbing the house. When he did not respond to her calls, she sent a text message to her mother, asking her to call the police.
When Pulver walked from her bedroom and removed the documents from the plastic sleeve, she saw the word "explosive" and feared there was a bomb around her neck. A panicked Pulver called her father and told him to call the police. But when she continued reading the note, she saw that it instructed her not to call the police so she called her father back, but he had already made the call.
The note around Pulver's neck included this message: "Powerful new technology plastic explosives are located inside the small black combination case delivered to you. The case is booby trapped. It can ONLY be opened safely, if you follow the instructions and comply with its terms and conditions."
The note instructed Pulver on how to transfer a "defined sum" of money would be relayed once a confirmation email was sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The name in this email address mirrors a character from a 1966 James Clavell novel, Dirk Struan. The character is a 19th century businessman who goes to extreme lengths to destroy his business rival and dominate Chinese trade.
When the police arrived, they said, "Initially, [Pulver] was crying and hysterical, but after a time, she became more reasonable and settled and gave the police the note," the document said.
For the next 10 harrowing hours, police worked to evaluate the device and keep Pulver calm. It was ultimately determined that the device was not explosive.
Paul Peters Alleged Left Trail of Clues
Pulver described the man as being in his 60s with a "slightly protruding stomach and weathered skin."
Police were able to determine that the email@example.com. account had been checked three times in the two hours after the suspect left the Pulver home. They traced the computer checks to a library and a video store that allowed access to computers. Surveillance cameras at both locations spotted the man described by the teenager and his parked Range Rover.
The Australian Road and Traffic Authority supplied investigators with the names of people who owned Range Rovers in the area, leading them Paul Peters, the affidavit states.