After fooling around with Citizen's Band Radio on and off since 1963, I became a qualified amateur radio operator in 1981 and really started to enjoy this hobby, being mainly active on the 2-Metre amateur band. I soon discovered that among the amateur radio fraternity, there were a number of deranged lunatics, such as Robert Lionel Lear VK2ASZ and some of his demented friends. This is the story of another one of these nut-cases, Philip Stack VK2YPS.
Around 1983 or so, I started receiving harassing anonymous phone calls late in the evenings, literally every night. The voice on the other end of the line was obviously contrived and squeaky and made abusive statements. It was actually hard to understand much of what this person was saying, but the abuse was clearly aimed at me and my family.
I discovered that I was not the only victim of this harassment. A number of other radio amateurs were receiving these harassing calls. Stephen Kuhl VK2TQ, told me that he was also the recipient of many similar harassing anonymous calls every night. Ron Swallow VK2GO also stated that he had received similar phone calls. But Stephen had been on the amateur radio scene for longer than me and somehow or other, he managed to recognise the contrived squeaky voice. He said that he was quite positive that the caller was a certain Philip Stack, who held the amateur radio callsign of VK2YPS.
So I looked up Stack’s address in the WIA Callbook and found that he was living in Milling Street Gladesville, in the adjoining suburb from my house in Putney. Stephen and I decided to see if we could confirm whether Stack was indeed the person making the harassing calls and try to put a stop to them.
So one evening, I staked out Stack’s house and sure enough around 10pm, Stack drove out of his house and proceeded to the post office on Victoria Road Gladesville, where there was a row of public phone boxes. I stationed myself in the park on the other side of the road from the post office to see what Stack would do. As I watched him through my binoculars, Stack went into one phone box and appeared to make a call that only lasted less than a minute. He then went into the adjacent phone box and made another call of less than one minute. He did this with every phone box, working his way around them a number of times.
I estimated that Stack made well over 50 calls that night, which would have cost him considerable money. Back then, a local call from a public phone box was 30 cents, so if Stack made those 50 calls every evening, it would have cost him $15 every night just to annoy us. And $15 in 1983 would be the equivalent of probably more than $30 in today's money. For somebody to spend that sort of money just to phone people and talk crap in a squeaky voice merely showed me that Stack was bat-shit crazy.
I rang Stephen Kuhl and told him what I had seen. Now we were both convinced that Stack was the anonymous caller. We decided to gather more hard evidence of Stack’s behaviour, so on a number of nights, Stephen and I hid in the park over from the Post Office and observed Stack going from phone box to phone box and making calls. Obviously we could not ascertain the nature of those calls, but my then wife had received harassing calls at exactly the same time as Stack was in those phone boxes. That was enough for Stephen and me to be completely certain that we had nailed Stack as the anonymous caller.
Both of us contacted NSW Police and Telecom, as it was called back then. We explained that we had been receiving many anonymous harassing phone calls and we demanded that something be done to catch and prosecute Stack, as what he was doing was a federal offence against the Telecommunications Act. After a short time, Telecom investigators informed us that they had installed a device called a “T-Back” on each of the phone box lines. This device would record the numbers that were dialled and the time and duration of the calls.
The investigators asked us to keep staking out the post office to confirm that the harassing calls were being made by Stack at the time that he was in particular phone boxes, so that when it came to a prosecution, we could be witnesses to confirm that he was the person making the calls. So on a number of occasions, Stephen and I hid in the park and noted the times that Stack appeared and which phone boxes he was using at precise times. We gave this information and statements to Telecom investigators.
The next thing that Stephen Kuhl and I found out was that police had arrested Stack and charged him with making nuisance phone calls, which was a federal crime. Unsurprisingly, the harassing anonymous phone calls ceased completely, again confirming to us that it was Stack who had been making those calls. Stack appeared in North Sydney Court, where he was convicted of making nuisance phone calls. Stephen appeared as a prosecution witness to corroborate the times and dates that the “T-Back” devices had logged Stack making those phone calls.
The strangest thing about this case is that I did not know Philip Stack and had never met him or spoken to him on amateur radio. I had never even heard him operating on radio. He obviously saw that Stephen Kuhl and I were very active operators on the 2-Metre amateur band in Sydney and just decided to harass us for no particular reason.
So that was the end of the Philip Stack saga and Stephen Kuhl and I could again enjoy peaceful nights at home without receiving so many harassing anonymous phone calls. Once the word got out that Stack had been convicted of this crime, nobody else tried to do the same to us. But this showed me that even though a person had to be reasonably intelligent to qualify for a radio amateur licence, this did not mean that the person was mentally stable, as the other lunatic, Robert Lionel Lear VK2ASZ proved. Unfortunately, there are more such demented crazies in the ranks of amateur radio.