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Stock image of a cat. Tony Wittman blames post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in the army for holding a woman hostage at a Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne in a bid to get his cat back. Show caption Stock image of a cat. Tony Wittman blames post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in the army for holding a woman hostage at a Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne in a bid to get his cat back. Photograph: Tara Moore/Getty Images
Melbourne

Australian Associated Press

Wed 23 Feb 2022 03.53 GMT

A former soldier has blamed post-traumatic stress disorder caused in part by two army tours in Afghanistan for holding a woman hostage in an attempt to get his cat back.

Armed with an assault weapon and dressed in full military-style clothing, Tony Wittman held the young woman at gunpoint as she showed up for a late-night shift at the Lost Dogs Home in Melbourne’s Cranbourne West.

The victim Bailey Scarlett initially believed Wittman, because of his appearance, was legitimately there and that something had happened in the area, the Victorian county court has heard.

Then he told her: “If you do as I say and listen to me, I won’t shoot you.”

Wittman, 45, has pleaded guilty to five charges including false imprisonment, assault and aggravated burglary with an offensive weapon.

He claimed his unhinged actions were the result of his desperation to get back the cat that had helped him through episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder, itself the result of 16 years in the Australian army.

He also claimed he had been to East Timor and Afghanistan twice each, and to Aceh after the Boxing Day tsunami.

But Australian defence force records show he was a reservist for just two days shy of two years between 1995 and 1997, discharged for failure to provide efficient service.

“You really are the wost kind of evil human that makes the newspaper headlines today,” Scarlett told Wittman in a pre-sentence hearing on Wednesday.

She questioned why he would inflict a diagnosis of PTSD on another person, as he had done to her.

“You came prepared for war, and a war against a totally defenceless animal welfare carer,” she said.

“All of this over something I was not responsible for.”

Wittman had made an appointment for 12 January last year to pick up his cat from the home, but decided the night before that he couldn’t wait.

He went at 8pm, two hours after the home closed to the public. He later went back at 10.30pm as Scarlett arrived for work.

The Lost Dogs Home in Cranbourne West, where Tony Wittman held a woman hostage at gunpoint. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Wittman demanded to know where the cats were kept and after Scarlett said she didn’t have keys for the cat he demanded she get on her knees.

He cable tied her hands behind her back and told her to count to 100 before calling for help.

“I’m going to close this door, if I see you, I’ll shoot you,” he told her.

A cleaner had seen the initial events unfolding, but like Scarlett assumed Wittman was an official.

Scarlett waited five minutes before calling for help. By that time Wittman had fled. He dumped his military-style vest and weapons including a tomahawk and imitation flash bangs in bushland.

The following day he kept his appointment to pick up the cat.

He initially denied any involvement but after police confirmed he lied in an official statement he admitted what he’d done, claiming he had a “brain meltdown”. He later pleaded guilty.

Judge Duncan Allen will sentence Wittman on Friday.

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