SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian police were scrambling Wednesday to remove what local media said was a suspected bomb possibly collared to a young woman’s neck by an intruder into her home in a wealthy neighborhood in Sydney.
“It’s a very serious incident where the life of a young lady is potentially at risk and we are dealing with it in that light,” New South Wales assistant police commissioner Mark Murdoch told television reporters.
He gave no details of the nature of the device or how it was placed on, or near, the woman.
“We have clearly found some items in the house that we are having a close look at,” he said.
New South Wales state police have consulted the Australian Federal Police on the device and made international inquiries, Murdoch said.
Police said earlier they could not confirm local media reports that an explosive device, or bomb, was strapped to the 18-year-old’s neck or other media reports that the incident was part of an extortion plot.
Murdoch said the woman was “in the vicinity” of an unspecified device, but would not confirm that it was strapped to her body. He said the case was being handled by the robbery and serious crimes squad, which he said dealt with extortion, among other crimes.
“Specialist police are with the young lady and continue to verify exactly what we are dealing with,” Murdoch said.
Police responded to a call about the suspicious package at the house in mid-afternoon and were still on the scene 10 hours later.
Police said they had evacuated the area surrounding the house in the suburb of Mosman, one of the city’s plushest districts with views of Sydney Harbor.
Watch this video from Reuters, broadcast Aug. 3, 2011.
(Rebekah Kebede with additional reporting by Jill Gralow; Editing by Ron Popeski and Ed Lane)