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Ex-NetRatings CEO's daughter freed from collar 'bomb'

Device defused after ten-hour ordeal

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New South Wales police have worked for ten hours, with calls to the Australian Federal Police and bomb disposal experts in the UK, to free a Sydney girl from what was believed to be an explosive.

The ordeal for Mosman 18-year-old schoolgirl Madeleine Pulver began when a balaclava-clad intruder broke into the family home and attached a device around her neck.

Only after the “box-shaped device” strapped to her neck was removed were police able to confirm that it was not, in fact, an explosive. However, Assistant Commissioner of NSW Police Mark Murdoch said that instructions left by the attacker had led them to believe the device was explosive.

“There were some instructions left by the intruder,” Murdoch said to ABC radio on Thursday morning, Sydney time. “Those instructions limited us somewhat in how we could proceed. They were precise, and they led us to believe we were dealing with a serious and legitimate threat.”

While he would not confirm that the attack was part of an extortion attempt, Murdoch told ABC 702 presenter Adam Spencer: “We do not for one minute believe this is a random event, given the elaborate nature of the events. Someone has done this for a reason.”

Extortion speculation is driven both by the lack of any other apparent motive, and by the Pulver family’s position among Sydney’s “A-list” (some of which were evacuated from their homes during the drama). Ms Pulver is a student at Wenona, one of Australia’s most exclusive schools.

Ms Pulver’s father, Bill Pulver, is CEO of Appen Butler Hill, a speech and text analytics software company formed earlier this year when Appen merged with American company Butler Hill. The Herald-Sun reports that Pulver was formerly president and CEO of Neilsen NetRatings in New York before taking the helm at Appen.

The drama began early Wednesday afternoon, when the intruder broke into the family’s home and attached the device, before leaving. At about 2.30pm, she called her father to tell him what had happened. Police were notified, and began the ten-hour operation to remove the device.

Assistant-commissioner Murdoch said Ms Pulver remained calm throughout the operation to remove the device. ®

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