Nathaniel Veltman was 'repeating things I read on the internet' when he confessed to terrorism after attack
WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
In her cross-examination of Nathaniel Veltman, Crown prosecutor Jennifer Moser pointed out the words he used in the hours after a fatal attack on a London, Ont., family in June 2021, when he told investigators he had been planning to kill Muslims for three months.
The 22-year-old has been testifying for several days in his murder-terror trial in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor.
"You yourself knew that you committed a terrorist attack on June 6, 2021," Moser said. "You started planning this act in March 2021. I suggest that when you came out of the [psychedelic] mushroom trip, you decided you wanted to commit a terrorist attack."
They were suggestions the accused denied, but Moser read what he said to Det. Micah Bordeau, who interviewed him hours after his arrest in the attack on the Afzaal family.
- "You said to him, 'I started actually planning it in March.' You told him that," Moser said, to which the accused replied: "March was the time when I finally reached a point where my hanger was so high."
- "Your end goal was to overthrow Western governments. You say, 'The end goal is to overthrow Western governments, to create a new society to make white people have control over their lives,'" Moser said. The accused replied: "Crashing into Muslims doesn't overthrow governments…. That's silly. I'm just repeating things I read on the internet. I'm regurgitating what I read online."
- "You told Det. Bordeau that it was just a regular day, that you felt … some come-down effects but that you didn't think that had anything to do with what you had done," Moser told him. "You said people will claim it was because of psychedelic drugs, but that you don't believe that was the cause." The accused said he didn't understand the effect the shrooms could have, and that he felt "agitated and mentally detached."
What accused said in his police interview
The accused has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terror charges.
Five members of the Afzaal family, originally from Pakistan, were out for a late-evening stroll on a warm spring evening in suburban London when they were struck by a black truck driven by the accused, a detail agreed on by the defence and prosecution. The family developed the nightly walking habit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yumnah Afzaal, 15, a Grade 9 student who loved art, had many friends, and had painted a mural in her elementary school, died along with her parents — Madiha Salman, 44, a Western University graduate student described as a generous and loving person who loved engineering and research, and Salman Afzaal, 46, a physiotherapist who worked with seniors in care homes across southwestern Ontario.
Talat Afzaal, 74, Salman's mother, was also killed. The artist and teacher was staying with the family and lived with another son in the Greater Toronto Area.
The accused told police in the hours following the attack that he targeted the family because they were Muslim, which he could tell because of their clothing.
At his trial, which began Sept. 11, he has said his all-consuming obsession with watching alt-right videos online escalated to a breaking point. He took three grams of magic mushrooms in the early hours of June 5, 2021, and described feeling detached and in a dream-like state in the hours after the mushrooms had worn off, he has testified.
The dream-like state started to wear off on June 7, 2021, during a second interview with Bordeau. The accused has told the jury he decided to justify killing the Afzaals by telling the detective about his far-right views.
"I was having trouble justifying my actions, but as things became more and more real, it was feeling more and more horrific and difficult to justify," he said.
Moser also referred to a report written by Dr. Julian Gojer, a forensic psychiatrist who examined him in the months after his arrest.
She pointed out that that the accused made no mention of going out to get food the night of June 6, 2021, when he was interviewed by Gojer in July 2021. "'I just went out thinking about killing Muslims.' Did you say that to Dr. Gojer?" she asked.
The accused said he didn't remember.
"It's difficult to for me to remember exact statements to Dr. Gojer. I do know I was experiencing a lot of remorse and it was difficult for me to know what I was thinking, what was going on in my mind, what was my intention," he testified.
"I put on a shirt with a cross on it before I left the apartment, so obviously I thought something might happen. But I wasn't thinking, 'I'm going to kill Muslims.' I was having the thought that if I saw them, I might crash into them.'"
Also in July 2021, a month after the attack, Gojer's report indicates the accused said, "I put on armour. I thought I was going to war. I felt a surge of evil and then I had a sense of relief," Moser said.
The accused also didn't tell the psychiatrist or his team, who saw him as recently as June 2023, that he thought he turned left at the last second after aiming for the Afzaals, after having a change of heart.
Moser pointed out that the accused was "trying to blame a lot of people" for his actins, including Muslims and Western governments. "It's childish," the accused admitted.
Gojer is also expected to testify for the defence.
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