Tony Wittman charged by police
An ex-soldier allegedly stormed an animal shelter brandishing an assault rifle and cable-tied a terrified worker as he demanded to check on the cats, a court has been told.
Tony Wittman has been charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, aggravated burglary, armed robbery and firearm offences in connection with the incident on Monday.
The 44-year-old appeared via videolink and represented himself for the bail application in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
Detective Senior Constable Jo MacDonald told the court it would be alleged Mr Wittman was dressed in tactical gear and carrying an assault rifle in a “threat position” when he broke into the Cranbourne Lost Dogs’ Home.
Mr Wittman allegedly threatened a female worker and forced her into a shelter building at gunpoint before asking “where all the cats were,” Det Senior Const. MacDonald said.
When the woman responded they were usually in the room the accused kidnapper said “that’s bulls***”, according to a police summary.
“Where are they? Co-operate or I’ll shoot you,” he allegedly told the woman.
The woman pointed out the cat sheds before Mr Wittman allegedly forced her to her knees while aiming the weapon at her, the court heard.
He then allegedly cable-tied her hands behind her back, the detective told the court.
He then told her to count to 100 and fled the scene, according to police.
The court was also told Mr Wittman called the shelter hours before the alleged kidnapping and booked an appointment to retrieve his cat the following day.
When he arrived at the scene to collect his pet on Tuesday – after the alleged kidnapping – he spoke to detectives and told them the feline was a support animal for a friend with mental health issues, Detective MacDonald said.
“He went out of his way to insert himself into the investigation,” she said at the hearing.
The detective also said his military records showed he served between 1995 and 1997 and he was discharged for “failing to render efficient service”.
She also did not believe he was remorseful.
The court heard he told officers during an interview he wanted the woman involved to get support “he never got”.
“This highlights to me that he believes he is the true victim.”
But Mr Wittman said that comment was taken out of context.
He argued to the court he should be granted bail so he could get help and said he suffered from PTSD, anxiety and depression.
“I need help,” he said.
“The cat involved in the incident … on five or six occasions that cat was sitting next to me and has brought me back from the brink,” Mr Wittman said.
He requested to be sent to a psychiatric facility if his bail bid was refused and apologised to Magistrate Gregory McNamara for taking up the courts time.
The magistrate denied the former soldier bail and he will next face court in April.
Staff at the shelter expressed their horror at the incident in a statement.
“The Lost Dogs’ Home is shocked and extremely concerned at an incident that occurred at our Cranbourne shelter overnight,” it read.
“The Home has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violence against our staff in any shape or form.
“Our main priority is the welfare of our staff, and we are providing all the support possible to the animal transport team member who was a victim in this horrendous ordeal.”