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Fake bomb man 'had mental issues'

An Australian investment banker who admitted chaining a fake bomb to a teenager was reeling from the breakdown of his marriage, drinking heavily and exhibiting wild mood swings in the years before the bizarre extortion attempt, his ex-wife and a psychiatrist told his sentencing hearing today.

But Deborah Peters said she had no idea why Paul Douglas Peters committed the crime. She said: "I don't know if even Paul knows why he did it."

The 51-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison for tethering a bomb-like device to the neck of Madeleine Pulver, then 18, while she was alone at her family's Sydney mansion in August 2011.

In March, he pleaded guilty to aggravated break and enter and committing a serious indictable offence. It took a bomb squad 10 hours to remove the device, but it contained no explosives and Ms Pulver was not injured.

Peters, fled to the US and was arrested nearly two weeks later at the Louisville, Kentucky, home of his former wife, Deborah. He was extradited to Australia and has remained in prison since.

Mrs Peters wept at New South Wales state District Court as she described how her then-husband's behaviour began to change in 2000: "Paul started to disconnect. I didn't know who was going to walk through the door... One minute he'd be OK, the next minute he'd be upset or angry."

The mood swings coincided with his attempt to write a book, she said. Initially, it was meant to be about a man who finds a key and looks for treasure, she said, but it ended up being much darker, about a villain who kidnapped someone and got the victim hooked on drugs. She said he became obsessed with the book and began drinking heavily.

Psychiatrist Bruce Westmore, testifying for the defence, said Peters was "angry and revengeful" over his failed relationship and separation from his three daughters, was obsessed with his book and may have tried to become the vengeful character in the novel. Since his arrest, Peters has told the psychiatrist that he has no memory of the attack and described his own actions as "bizarre", "absurd" and "stupid". But he is so complex that pinpointing an exact diagnosis is difficult, Mr Westmore acknowledged.

Peters, wearing a suit and looking thinner than at the time of his arrest, nodded briefly in the direction of his victim's parents, Bill and Belinda Pulver, who sat in the front row of the public gallery. Mr Pulver stared back at him, stone-faced. It was the first time the two men have come face to face.

Outside court, Mr Pulver said he found the evidence about Peters' mental state interesting, but ultimately thinks the attack was all about money: "He threatened our daughter with a baseball bat... We have no question in our mind what this was all about. We believe it was clearly an extortion."

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