Maddie faces future as tormentor jailed

Maddie faces future as tormentor jailed

It was the first time Madeleine Pulver had come face to face with her tormentor since that quiet August afternoon when he strapped a metal box to her neck with a bike lock and said ''count to two hundred .. if you move I can see you''.

Having walked bravely into the Downing Centre District Court arm in arm with her family, the Sydney teenager suddenly found herself just metres away from the banker-turned extortionist, Paul Douglas Peters.

As Peters, red-faced and sporting a light-grey suit, was sentenced over the bizarre hoax collar-bomb attack that made headlines around the world, he cast a couple of quick glances in the direction of his teenage victim.

Only those closest to the two protagonists will know whether their eyes met across the crowded courtroom as Peters was sentenced to at least 10 years jail.

''I can now look to a future without Paul Peters' name being linked to mine,'' she said after facing the 52-year-old for the last time.

''For me it was never about the sentencing, but to know that he will not re-offend and it was good to hear the judge acknowledge the trauma he has put my family and me through.''


Having cheerfully declared on the way into court that she was ''happy it's nearly all over'', Ms Pulver seemed shaken by his presence in the courtroom.

The teenager looked at the floor as Judge Peter Zahra recalled how Peters, a former Scots College student and failed international financier, had pulled on a rainbow balaclava, grabbed a black baseball bat and walked into her family's palatial home in Burrawong Avenue, Mosman.

''The victim was vulnerable,'' Judge Zahra said. ''She was on her own studying for her trial higher school certificate examinations. She was entitled to the sanctuary of her home.''

He said the teenager had experienced ''unimaginable'' terror as Peters put a black metal box around her neck along with a note designed to strike fear into its reader's heart.

''Powerful new technology plastic explosives are located inside the small black combination case delivered to you,'' the note read. ''You will be provided with detailed Remittance Instructions to transfer a Defined Sum once you acknowledge and confirm receipt of this message.''

Peters remained expressionless as the details of his crime were read out, staring straight ahead at the jury box.

Peters' face remained set in stone as Judge Zahra utterly rejected his claim the hoax collar bombing was the result of a bizarre delusion brought on by a combination of bi-polar disorder, heavy drinking and depression. This was the crucial finding in determining his fate.

During the course of three sentencing hearings, Peters' lawyers had argued he had committed the crime under the delusion he was the central character in a science fiction novel he was obsessively writing.

Peters had told psychologists he had deliberately planned the crime poorly to ensure he was caught and finally given help.

But Judge Zahra gave this explanation short shrift, finding Peters' version of events was designed to ''distort his true intentions in detaining the victim'' which was exploiting her fear for financial gain.

''I am not prepared to accept that the offending was the product of a psychotic state or the consequence of the offender assuming a character in his book,'' he said.

Peters had carefully planned the extortion attempt and carried it out ''with precision'', only pulling out after the Pulvers disobeyed his instructions and called the police.

''At the time of placing the device he had prepared around the neck of the victim he would have appreciated the enormity of what he was doing and the terrible effect and consequence of his conduct upon the victim. He proceeded regardless.''

Judge Zahra said, in light of these findings, the crime fell into the most serious category of the offence of detaining for advantage, and thus required a sentence significantly above the standard sentence of five years' jail.

The Pulvers seemed to be in a momentary state of shock when the 13-year maximum sentence was handed down. A few minutes later, with the enormity of the event seeping in, Bill Pulver broke into tears, being comforted by his daughter who was also crying.

Paul Bibby

Paul Bibby is a Court Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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