How an evil prank call from this man changed a mum’s life

GUILTY: Phillip Zillner rang women telling them their children were dead.
GUILTY: Phillip Zillner rang women telling them their children were dead.

A mother who received a cruel hoax phone call telling her a truck had killed her toddler is still anguished almost two years after the event.

Emma Mackey has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety after receiving a call at work in September 2016 from a man claiming to be from the emergency services.

“He said ‘I’m sorry but your daughter has been hit by a truck and killed’,” Ms Mackey said. “He kept saying ‘I’m so sorry, so sorry,’ and I froze … I didn’t know what to do.”

After taking the call Ms Mackey collapsed and her co-workers supported her, but it was 20 minutes before a workmate phoned the child care centre only to find the call had been a heartbreaking hoax and the two-year-old was asleep in her cot.

“I look back now and think I’m a bit of an idiot for believing him. Why would someone do what he did?”

Ms Mackey took the rest of the week off from her job working with NBN technicians.

“The only thing I did that was wrong is I told them I was ok after that week off when I should have taken more time off,” she said.

“Work really collapsed from there as I had to be on the ball and my head wasn’t in it.”

She was later made redundant because she was unable to perform her duties due to PTSD, stress, panic attacks and sleep deprivation, and has not worked since.

I had a massive fear of death that was getting quite severe and has now escalated to extreme levels … and I have severe anxiety and feel very overwhelmed. I think my brain shut down because of everything that happened.

It also deeply affected her husband and their marriage.

“It messed me up for quite a while but I’m finally starting to get a little better. I’m thinking about going back to work but then I get quite anxious and hesitant so I don’t know whether I can.”

A few weeks after the call Ms Mackey posted about it on Facebook and received a phone call from a friend who knew someone else who had received a similar hoax call.

Ballarat police were investigating that case and Ms Mackey contacted them. She was one of three women who had received similar calls.

In the County Court at Ballarat in February, Phillip 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

This week he was sentenced to a further 90 days behind bars on top of the 14 months he has spent in custody, followed by a two-year community corrections order.

Ms Mackey did not attend the sentencing but attended Zillner’s court appearance last month.

“He actually apologised to me, which was amazing to hear and has helped me quite a lot. He started crying,” she said.