At murder trial, Nathaniel Veltman recounts 'sick urge' to drive into Muslim family

Veltman said despite his ‘dreamlike’ state from a drug trip he had second thoughts just before the moment of impact, but ‘it was too late’

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Editor’s note: This story includes details that may disturb readers

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WINDSOR – Before he stepped hard on the gas pedal, Nathaniel Veltman stared at the Muslim family he was about to kill.

“I recall looking at the victims and looking directly at the male,” Veltman testified in his Superior Court murder trial.

“I’m staring directly at them, specifically the man. . . . And I stepped on the gas and drove directly at them.”

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After “a very loud bang,” Veltman said he sped off too horrified to look back.

“I thought, ‘This isn’t the Internet anymore. This is real life,’” he said at the fourth day of his testimony at his first-degree murder trial for killing four members of a London Muslim family and seriously injuring a boy in a hit-and run.

After three previous days in the witness box blaming his “religious fanatic” mother for a tortured, home-schooled childhood, describing a bad magic mushroom trip and detailing a small encyclopedia of obsessions and compulsive thoughts about online right-wing conspiracy theories and anti-Muslim propaganda, Veltman finally got to the heart of the matter Tuesday and gave insights into what was going through his head when he plowed into a Pakistani-Muslim family.

But, as it has been throughout his detailed and lengthy testimony, nothing easily explains what compelled him to target the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021, when they were out for a walk in northwest London.

Despite his “dreamlike” state while coming down from a psilocybin trip and his explanation that he finally relented to the thoughts in his head to run over Muslim pedestrians, Veltman remembered he had some second thoughts just before the moment of impact.

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“The split second before it happened, I changed my mind and it was too late,” he said.

Killed were Talat Afzaal, 72, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their daughter Yumnah Afzaal, 15. The couple’s son, nine at the time, was injured, but survived.

Veltman, 22, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. The prosecution is seeking to prove the killings were planned and deliberate, and were acts of white nationalist terrorism.

Defence lawyer Christopher Hicks said in his opening statement to the jury last week he would focus on whether Veltman had the requisite intent for murder.

Hicks finished his examination-in-chief Tuesday afternoon and assistant Crown attorney Jennifer Moser began the preliminaries of her cross-examination in which Veltman admitted he was a white nationalist. She read excerpts of his racist manifesto, A White Awakening, that called for a white revolution, railed against multiculturalism and included desensitizing and dehumanizing language about Muslims all written between May 4 and June 1, 2021.

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But that was after Veltman had gone into extraordinary detail with Hicks about his thought process before the hit-and-run.

Veltman testified he was in mental torture and trying to push away anti-Muslim thoughts that he should run over Muslims with his pickup truck. He said he had been on a steady diet for months of online far-right fringe content that targeted Muslims and railed against so-called Muslim grooming gangs.

The jury had heard earlier Veltman had ingested a large amount of the psychedelic drugs about 36 hours before the crash because his grandmother had died and he was distraught from all the far-right online “garbage” he couldn’t stop watching.

When he was coming down from his high, his urge to run down Muslim pedestrians with his pickup truck was stronger than ever. He said he drove to Toronto the day before the crash and was able to stop himself before he acted on the “urge.”

He said he had the same feeling, and resisted it, while driving home from work in Strathroy to London the next day when he saw Muslims on Oxford Street.

Veltman said he came home to his downtown London apartment, watched more violent far-right online content and decided he needed to go out and get something to eat.

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“I knew something bad could happen, but I told myself I was only going to get food,” Veltman said.

He said he was “very agitated and confused.” At some point while driving around downtown London, he said he put on the bullet-proof vest and helmet he had in the truck. His knives and an airsoft gun were also in the cab.

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Veltman said he found himself driving north on Hyde Park Road and spotted the Afzaals. He knew they were Muslim “by their garb” and “I saw a male with a beard as well.

“Instantly, when I saw them, the sick urge came to drive at them,” Veltman said.

Veltman said he drove past them, put on his brakes and stopped. He said he felt sick and detached, calling it “a depersonalized feeling of wondering why I feel I’m not really here.”

His inner dialogue was that it wasn’t Christian to do what he was thinking. He also knew there was a child on the corner. The voice in his head repeated “collateral damage.

“My mind was a mess,” Veltman said, and he thought that if he acted out on the impulse, his obsession with the Internet and the Muslim crimes “not reported by the mainstream media” would end.

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“I felt I had to do it to make it go away,” he said, “If I act on it, I’ll be free.”

So, Veltman said he drove north to the end of the centre median and made a U-turn. Then, he drove directly at the family, jumped the curb and slammed into them.

What he described next was “shock and horror” and panic. He sped south on Hyde Park Road, avoiding crashing into other cars. Then, he saw a taxi and pulled over to it, screaming at the driver to call the police, “I hit somebody very hard and I might have killed someone.”

While the taxi driver made the call, Veltman said he saw more Muslims on the street and “I had that thought again.”

He put his hands on his head and said to himself over and over, “No, no, no.” And that’s why his hands were on his head when the police arrived, he said.

Before he got out of his truck, Veltman said he took the knife he had out of the sheath attached to his pants. He said moments earlier he considered running at the police with his knife so they could shoot him.

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But when he was arrested he had “a very demented, short-lived infatuation” because “I felt I didn’t have to obsess over the Internet and Muslim gangs . . .  and not obsess to have to do anything.

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“At that moment, I was very glad to be free of that obsession.”

Veltman remembered he was placed under arrest for “dangerous driving,” then re-arrested for attempted murder, then murder. “I thought people had only been hurt. I started to realize this was serious,” he said.

At police headquarters, after he was booked in, spoke to a lawyer and was placed in a cold, dry cell without a toilet, Veltman said he panicked, paced, and tried to come up with “a moral justification” for what he did. He said he was too scared to even ask for permission to use a washroom.

“My biggest concern was to justify it to myself, but I felt the situation was hopeless,” he said.

By the time he was interviewed by Det. Micah Bourdeau about four hours after his arrest, and found out four people had died,  Veltman said he “spewed out everything possible I could to make it justifiable.” He said that in some ways he was using Bourdeau as “a therapist.

“It’s all such nonsense. I recognize it is not justifiable,” he said. By the second interview hours later that morning, his mind was clearer and reality was settling in.

He was taken to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre where he was put on suicide watch, placed in “solitary” and said he was “mistreated.”

“I went through a very painful transformation to accept what I had done,” he said.

Veltman said he is on medication for depression and obsessive compulsive disorder that numbs his emotions.

“Mr. Veltman, are you remorseful about what happened on June 6, 2021?” Hicks said.

“Yes, I know that it was horrible,”’ Veltman said.

The trial continues Wednesday with the Crown’s cross-examination.

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Originally posted 2023-10-17 22:52:53.