Sydney terror assailant targeted daughter of top IT exec

By David Binning on Aug 5, 2011 1:17 PM
Filed under Security

Letter of demand signed by fictional character.

The victim of a bizarre terror-style attack carried out in Sydney last week has been revealed as the daughter of high profile IT executive and data expert Bill Pulver.

On Wednesday afternoon a masked intruder is alleged to have entered his family home in the Sydney suburb of Mosman and attached what was first believed to be an explosive device to the body of 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver, triggering a large-scale police response involving bomb disposal experts.

The device was subsequently found to be a fake, with an investigation now underway to determine the motivations for the attack and identity of the person or persons responsible.

Bill Pulver is the chief executive of successful software company Appen Butler Hill, which provides technology to call centres as well as law enforcement and defence agencies.

But it was his success in the lucrative internet ratings industry which saw him come to international prominence and made him his fortune.

After serving as the managing director of ACNielsen Australia in the 90s, Mr Pulver went on to a senior regional role in Asia before serving two years as president of ACNielsen eRatings.com from 1999 to 2001.

The highlight of his career followed when he became president of online ratings agency NetRatings.

According to a report in The Australian newspaper Mr Pulver’s annual remuneration from NetRatings in 2006 was $US350,000 base pay, $US250,000 bonus and 600,000 share options.

In 2007 existing NetRatings shareholder The Nielsen Company - parent company of AC Nielsen, now Nielsen Consumer - extended its stake to full ownership, handing Mr Pulver a severance package worth close to $1 million.

In April last year he became the chief executive of Sydney-based speech, text and language technology specialists Appen. 

In March this year the company merged with US consultancy Butler Hill, which specialised in assisting companies with language technologies to reach global markets. Appen held what the company said was the world’s largest database of lexicons.

The newly merged entity holds a large share of the global call centre and other markets and has annual revenues of under $25 million. It counts high profile clients including the US Department of Defense as well as Microsoft, Nokia, Sony and Siemens.

One of the world’s leaders in sophisticated linguistic solutions, Appen Butler Hill’s technology is also used in intelligence analysis of Arabic text, speech recognition for Mandarin and voice-driven language applications.

The company marketed its technology as being able to gain "sociocultural insights on the basis of language", which could include gauging the strength of feeling within a particular group on a specific topic, a key objective of anti-terrorism investigators. It also said that it could help to identify and catch cyber criminals.

A representative of Appen Butler Hill would not confirm whether Mr Pulver had taken leave of his duties with the company. Calls from CRN requesting comment from him were not returned by the time of publication.

Investigation underway

To date police have provided no details as to the possible identity of the assailant who attacked Ms Pulver, including whether he or she might have been known to the victim or her family. Mr Pulver and his wife Belinda also have three sons.

At least one witness is believed to have told police they saw someone running from the Pulver home minutes before police swooped.

A spokesman for the NSW police said that due to sensitivities of the investigation no further information would be made publicly available until further notice.

However, in the latest bizarre twist, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a note left by the assailant was signed by Dirk Struan, a fictional villain in the 1966 novel Tai-Pan who was attempting to destroy his business partner through extortion.

Curiously, the note contained no specific financial demands.

 
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