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Collar device 'an elaborate hoax'

A masked man broke into the home of a wealthy family, chained a fake bomb to a teenage girl's neck and left a note of demands behind as part of an elaborate extortion attempt, Australian police have said.

Madeleine Pulver was freed from the device after bomb squad specialists spent 10 hours trying to safely remove it from her neck. The 18-year-old was not hurt and police later determined the device contained no explosives.

A note of demands had been attached to the device, New South Wales state police Detective Superintendent Luke Moore said, though he declined to specify what the demands were.

"We are treating this as an attempted extortion - a very serious attempted extortion," Mr Moore said.

The drama began on Wednesday afternoon in the upmarket Sydney suburb of Mosman when Miss Pulver's family contacted police saying their daughter had been attacked and there was a strange device attached to her. Bomb technicians, negotiators and detectives rushed to the scene. Nearby homes were evacuated, streets were closed and medical and fire crews waited nearby.

Miss Pulver told police a man wearing a mask broke into her home and confronted her while she was in the kitchen. She said the man forced her to stay still while he fitted the device to her neck, and then fled. When officials arrived on the scene, they found the teenager alone in the house with the suspicious device tethered to her neck by a chain.

Mr Moore said police had not identified a prime suspect and are trying to establish how the man got into the house.

"We are treating this as an individual incident," he said. "We have absolutely no information to suggest this is linked to any other crime."

New South Wales state police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch said the device was quite sophisticated and was designed to look like a bomb as part of a "very, very elaborate hoax".

Miss Pulver was taken to hospital but was later released.

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