Man accused of holding Melbourne animal shelter worker at gunpoint allegedly returned for cat

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Tony Wittman fails in a bail application as it is alleged he forced the woman onto her knees and tied her up

A man accused of holding a woman at gunpoint while demanding to know where the cats were at a Melbourne animal shelter allegedly returned the next day, while police were present, to collect his missing cat.

Tony Wittman, 44, was charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, burglary and weapons charges after allegedly threatening a 23-year-old woman with a loaded assault rifle at the Lost Dogs Home in Cranbourne West on Monday.

He was denied bail in a Melbourne magistrates court hearing on Wednesday, when it was revealed he allegedly forced the woman onto her knees at gunpoint before tying her up with cable ties.

The court heard Wittman threatened to shoot her if she did not show him where the cats were.

In a document tabled in court, police alleged Wittman contacted the animal shelter in Melbourne’s south-east at 5.50pm on Monday looking for his lost cat. He was told his cat was there, but that the shelter closed at 6pm, and Wittman allegedly scheduled an appointment to pick the cat up the next day.

However, police allege that Wittman drove to the Lost Dogs Home at 8.30pm that night, then returned home where he “planned to force entry” into the animal shelter “to retrieve his cat”.

It is alleged by police that Wittman “packed full military style Swat clothing” and “a large assault rifle style battery powered gel blaster”, before returning to the shelter at 10.20pm.

Detective Senior Constable Jo MacDonald told the court Wittman carried the rifle in a “threat position” while breaking into the animal shelter.

The alleged victim, a staff member, drove in at around 10.30pm and saw Wittman pointing the weapon at her, MacDonald said.

“Do as I say and listen to me, and I won’t hurt you,” he allegedly told the woman. She was tied with cable ties before Wittman fled the scene empty-handed, the court heard.

According to the police’s alleged facts, Wittman then returned to the animal shelter the next morning when it was open – while police were there investigating – and provided his identification and asked for his cat back.

Wittman told police at the shelter he had “tried to get his cat back the night before”, and agreed to show police his car and let them photograph it. He allegedly told them the cat was a support cat for a friend with mental health issues.

On Wednesday, Wittman told the court that he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder from military service and “sometimes he can act without thinking about the consequences”, according to court documents.

He stated that he “loves his cat and relies on his cat for support”.

“I need help,” he told the court, requesting if the application was refused that he be sent to a psychiatric facility instead of prison.

“I apologise for taking up your time today,” he said.

Wittman’s lawyer, Crystle Gomez-Vasquez, told the court that her client was “concerned about things being exaggerated in the media and he feels that he’s not safe”.

Gomez-Vasquez said it was her client’s first time in custody, he had a diagnosis of PTSD, and spinal and knee injuries.

The magistrate said the extremely serious threats made with loaded firearms meant the community would be at risk if Wittman was freed on bail.

Wittman is due back in court on 7 April.