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Police investigate Australia 'collar bomb' suspect's links to teenage girl's family

According to court documents, Australia 'collar bomb' suspect Paul Peters – arrested in Kentucky Monday – once worked for a company with links to the father of Madeleine Pulver.

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Extortion attempts against wealthy individuals or their families – a common occurrence in countries such as the Philippines – are relatively rare in Australia, according to Paul Wilson, a forensic psychologist and criminology professor at Bond University, on Queensland’s Gold Coast. And the use of a “collar bomb,” even as a hoax, is “extremely rare, or even unique” in this country, he says.

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The case most similar to the current one dates from 1960, when Stephen Bradley, an electroplater, demanded a ransom from the parents of an 8-year-old boy, Graeme Thorne, whom he had abducted from a residential Sydney street. Graeme’s parents had recently won the lottery. Graeme’s body was found five weeks later, and Bradley was convicted of murdering him.

Australia’s best known extortion case also ended in tragedy: a leading Sydney heart surgeon, Victor Chang, was shot dead in 1991 after a failed extortion attempt.

Unlike in the Philippines and Colombia, most extortion cases in Australia do not involve kidnap. And, Prof. Wilson says, the threat is usually a hoax. However, he adds that the majority of such cases are not reported in the media, or even to the police.

Where companies are involved, “the companies often settle them privately, otherwise they have to withdraw their products.”

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