Three mothers have experienced a parent’s worst nightmare when a man, posed as an emergency services worker, told them their child had been killed in a truck accident.
Phillip Anton Zillner, 38, used social media to find out information about the mothers, including if they had children, before he phoned them in 2016 and 2017.
The Lower Plenty man posed as State Emergency Services worker and police officer to tell the mothers a truck had hit and killed their daughters.
The Ballarat and Tullamarine mothers now experience a number of medical conditions, including post traumatic stress disorder, severe depression and anxiety, sleep deprivation, panic attacks, isolation and fear.
One mother collapsed at her workplace after Zillner phoned to tell her a truck had hit and killed her two-year-old daughter, who was safely asleep in her cot at childcare.
“The coroner is on its way. Call the local police and they will take you to the scene. I am sorry,” Zillner told the mother.
Another mother raced to her daughter’s primary school in a panic, listening for sirens.
She was inconsolable when she arrived, and after seeing her daughter, was in disbelief someone could do that.
That night, Zillner phoned the mother again and made inappropriate comments to her and her husband.
Another mother was made redundant from her employer because she was unable to perform her duties due to PTSD, stress, panic attacks and sleep deprivation.
CCTV footage captured Zillner making the telephone calls from pay phones in South Australia.
During the calls, he knew the mothers’ names and one child’s name but the victims did not know him.
In the County Court at Ballarat on Wednesday, Zillner pleaded guilty to three counts of recklessly causing injury, three counts of stalking and two counts of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence.
He pleaded guilty to five summary charges, including breaching bail conditions and posing as a police officer.
Crown prosecutor Patrick Bourke said Zillner told police after his arrest in March he got upset when he saw children because he could not have them with his former wife.
He told police he had had constant rejections in 2015, his brain was going haywire, he took his anger out on other people and he wanted a reaction and give people a scare.
Mr Bourke said the maximum penalty for stalking was 10 years’ jail, while using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence was three years’ jail.
Defence barrister Megan Casey said her client’s charges were reckless causing injury rather than intentionally, and Zillner did not anticipate the women’s injuries.
She read Zillner’s apology to the court in which he said he thought about the victims every day and he was very, very sorry.
“Mr Zillner is in custody for the first time in his life.That has had a significant deterrent effect. He has been spending his time in custody working,” Ms Casey said.
A psychological report was tendered to the court, which Judge Michael McInerney said one needed to read to understand Zillner’s behaviour.
“(Zillner) proved to be the worst nightmare you could anticipate,” Judge McInerney said.
Zillner, who has been in custody for 335 days, is due to be sentenced in Melbourne on May 2 after a Forensicare report is completed.