Defence expert on Nathaniel Veltman: 'I did not see him as psychotic'

Psychiatrist says the man accused of running his pickup truck into a London Muslim family ‘presented with multiple mental disorders’

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WINDSOR – A psychiatrist says the man accused of running his pickup truck into a London Muslim family “presented with multiple mental disorders” when he assessed him.

Dr. Julian Gojer, testifying for the defence, met with Nathaniel Veltman several times and wrote a report outlining his findings, including a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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“At the time I interviewed Mr. Veltman, I did not see him as psychotic,” he said.

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However, it was Gojer’s opinion that Veltman “had brief psychotic experiences in the past” and “at brief moments in time.”

Some of Veltman’s beliefs “were of delusional intensity,” he said.

Gojer said he didn’t diagnose Veltman with schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder or any other psychotic disorder – but he had thoughts. He wrote in his report that “these thoughts would wax and wane and when severely depressed and anxious, he reported intense beliefs that were close to being psychotic in nature but for brief moments in time.”

Veltman, 22, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for the June 6, 2021 hit-and-run crash at a northwest London intersection.

Killed were Talat Afzaal, 72, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their daughter Yumnah Afzaal, 15. Severely injured was their nine-year-old son.

The prosecution has argued that not only were the deaths planned and deliberate, they were also acts of white nationalist terrorism.

Veltman bought the pickup truck and body armour and wrote his own manifesto, called “A White Awakening,” in the month before the Afzaals were killed. Four minutes after he hit the family, Veltman was arrested at the Cherryhill Village Mall parking lot, wearing a bulletproof vest, an army helmet and a white T-shirt bearing spray-painted “crusader” crosses on the front and back.

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He gave a full and detailed confession during two police statements, during which he said the attack was “politically motivated,” that he was a white nationalist and his goal was to send a message to “Muslim grooming gangs” in the United Kingdom and to be an inspiration to other young white nationalists.

Veltman, who testified for eight days in his own defence, asserted that he gave in to “an urge” to drive into Muslims while coming down from a psilocybin drug trip. He admitted he was a large consumer of far-right online white nationalist political content, including videos of mass shootings and the manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, the mass murderer responsible for the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque killings in 2019.

He testified that he was raised in a strict, homeschooled, Christian upbringing in Strathroy and described his mother as a “religious fanatic.” He said he consumed hours of online content while living in a small downtown London apartment and the magic mushroom trip the day before he killed the family had left him in a “dreamlike” state.

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Gojer, who is the acting clinical director in the integrated forensic program at Royal Ottawa Hospital and has been called as an expert witness, spent much of his time Wednesday confirming a lengthy list of professional experiences and publications.

He said he met with Veltman several times about the offences at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, the Southwest Detention Centre in Windsor and when Veltman was a patient at the Ottawa hospital for two weeks. He also collected information from “collateral sources” including Veltman’s father, who was interviewed by a social worker.

Veltman also talked to a social worker and two psychologists. He had an MRI scan of his brain and the results, Gojer said, were “normal.”

Gojer also looked at police reports and watched Veltman’s testimony in court remotely.

“It’s not every day that one sees a homicide where multiple mental illnesses co-exist. There’s also (the) mushrooms,” he said of the drugs Veltman says he ingested near the time of the crash.

Gojer also told the jury that Veltman’s father said in his interview with the social worker that Veltman was born “with a rather large head” and was possibly hydrocephalic, which can put pressure on the brain.

Gojer said Veltman tested to above-average intelligence but he also noted Veltman “had trouble with bedwetting” in his childhood, which could be a sign of “a neuro-development disorder.”

Gojer said from Veltman’s description of his mother, there were concerns she had “a mental illness.” His father had suffered from depression. Gojer hasn’t spoken directly to either parent.

Gojer is expected to delve more into his report’s contents and diagnosis on Thursday.

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