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Update: Australian collar-bomb suspect arrested in U.S.

August 16, 2011

Police officers, some wearing protective equipment, gather near the home of 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver in the Sydney suburb of Mosman, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, after an intruder attached a suspicious device around her neck. The suspicious device contained no explosives and appeared to be part of an elaborate hoax, Australian police said

A 50-year-old man accused of strapping a suspected explosive device around the neck of an 18-year-old woman in Sydney, Australia, earlier this month was arrested Monday more than 9,000 miles away, Australian law enforcement officials said.

“The offender in this matter has been identified, and it’s been confirmed that he traveled to the United States,” New South Wales police commissioner Andrew Scipione told reporters.

Police said a man broke into the home of the woman, later identified as Madeleine Pulver, on August 3 and attached what she then believed to be a bomb. The woman spent 10 hours attached to the device before having it removed. Authorities later determined it had been inert.

The case subsequently drew intense media attention in Australia, and prompted police to launch an extensive investigation.

That probe led to the arrest of the suspect around 3:30 p.m. EST (5:30 a.m. Tuesday in Sydney) in Louisville, Kentucky, by FBI agents working “very, very closely” with their Australian counterparts, said Scipione.

“The information that I have is that the suspect was surprised” to be arrested, said Assistant Commissioner David Hudson.

18-year-old Madeleine Pulver in the Sydney suburb of Mosman

Australian police did not name the man arrested, noting that he hasn’t been formally charged. But Hudson said that he is an Australian citizen who frequently traveled to the United States on business. He’d been in Sydney, which is his primary place of residence, for six weeks before flying to the United States on August 8, said Hudson.

Hudson said that the man taken into custody was not yet a suspect when he went overseas. But “a fairly detailed chain of circumstantial evidence” — including a description from the victim, even though the alleged assailant was “heavily disguised” — ultimately led them to the United States and the arrest.

There were “some links between the suspect and the family, however no direct links,” said the assistant commissioner, though he declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.

The suspect is expected to be arraigned Tuesday morning in a U.S. court, said Hudson. Australian authorities plan to seek his extradition back across the Pacific Ocean.

Scipione thanked the Pulver family, as well as investigators in both Australia and the United States, for overcoming several challenges to find the person they believe was behind this “hideous crime.”

“The motto for (the New South Wales police force) simply says, ‘Justice swiftly follows crime,’ ” said Scipione. “You’ve seen that today.”

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