Just after 10:30PM on Monday, in the outer south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, a former Australian soldier clad in full tactical gear stormed an animal shelter, aimed a loaded assault rifle at a young female worker and tied her up at gunpoint. As we now know, he was looking for his cat.
Tony Wittmann, a 44-year-old father of three who served in the Australian Army before being discharged for failing to render efficient service, faced a Melbourne court this week on multiple charges, including kidnapping, false imprisonment and armed robbery.
The court heard that Wittmann went to the Lost Dogs' Home in Cranbourne West on Monday night, armed and clothed in a military-style vest, a balaclava and a tactical helmet. His cat was being held at the shelter, and he’d been told he could pick it up the following day.
Instead, he forced away into the premises, brandished his gun at the staff member—who later described the weapon as "something a SWAT team in the movies would use"—and allegedly told her: "Do as I say and listen to me, I won't shoot you."
He then started interrogating the woman about "where all the cats were", according to police, keeping his gun aimed at her with his finger on the trigger. Finally he told the woman to get to her knees, put her hands behind her back and tied her up.
"The accused said, 'I'm going to close this door. If I see you, I'll shoot you'," a detective told the court. After Wittmann had left the woman managed to free herself and call her boss, who then alerted the authorities.
On Tuesday morning, as detectives scoured the scene for clues, Mr Wittmann allegedly returned to the animal shelter to retrieve his cat—although it’s unclear whether he was successful. He was arrested and has since been denied bail.
"The community would be at risk personally of him committing further offences if granted bail," Magistrate Greg McNamara declared. "The strength of the prosecution case is a very strong one. Firearms were involved, loaded firearms.”
“On this occasion, [Wittman has] acted to get back possession of a cat, which he was only going to be without for possibly 10 hours,” Detective Senior Constable Jo MacDonald told the court. “The victim and her work colleagues are absolutely traumatised by what's happened.”
Detective MacDonald further noted that, based on evidence in his phone, Wittmann had collected a series of weapons and purchased several more that were due to be delivered to his home address.
Wittman's lawyer, Crystle Gomez Vazquez, told the court he had multiple physical injuries and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He is due to return to court in April.
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