Warning: Readers may find the contents of this story disturbing.
In the hours after four members of a Muslim family were fatally struck – and a fifth seriously injured – in London, Ont., the suspect in the case told a detective that he was left with “no choice” and that he hoped to “inspire more young men.”
Nathaniel Veltman is accused of deliberately hitting five members of the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out for a walk the evening of June 6, 2021.
The 22-year-old has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
On Friday, the jury watched portions of videos of Detective Micah Bourdeau’s interviews with Veltman on June 7, 2021.
The first interview occurred between roughly 1:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., with Veltman speaking with conviction and energy, repeatedly apologizing to the detective for going on “rants” or “tangents.”
The second video, which began just before 10 a.m. that same morning, appeared to show a more subdued and disoriented Veltman, refusing to answer many of Bourdeau’s questions and speaking softly, at times near to a whisper.
Before the first video was presented to the jury, Bourdeau told the court that he has been with the London Police Service for over two decades, with the last five years spent in the major crimes section. He was not on duty when the attack occurred but was called in to work.
In video played for the jury, Bourdeau and Veltman could be seen in a small room. Veltman, in dark-coloured pants, white socks and a white t-shirt with a black cross on it, accepts an offer of water and shoes.
Bourdeau leaves and returns with the items, telling Veltman that he can request food at any time. He repeatedly asks Veltman if he understands his rights and “his situation” and gives him the opportunity to talk to legal counsel.
“I’m not planning on pleading insanity,” Veltman says.
“I want the world to know why I did what I did so I’m just going to tell you.”
Again, Bourdeau asks Veltman if he understands his rights.
“I just want it very crystal clear that anything you say to me is of your doing. You’re voluntarily telling me things,” Bourdeau says, before asking Veltman to start “at the beginning.”
Veltman mentions the 2016 U.S. election as the first time he noticed that the media was “very dishonest.”
He mentions feeling like he was “in jail” doing online schooling in his home for so long before he started looking further into “minority on white crime.”
The breaking point, he says, were what he described as Muslim grooming gangs in the United Kingdom.
“I’m going to commit a terrorist attack,” he tells Bourdeau. “I’m done. I’m not putting up with this anymore.”
While grooming gangs are an issue in the U.K., a Dec. 2020 article in the Guardian stated that a Home Office report concluded “there is no credible evidence that any one ethnic group is over-represented in cases of child sexual exploitation” and that “research has found that group-based offenders are most commonly White.”
In the video before the jury, Veltman tells Bourdeau that he “would blame the Western governments for what happened.”
“You could say, ‘oh, it’s your fault, Nate, you chose to commit violence’” but “they leave you no choice,” Veltman can be heard saying.
He adds that he wants to “inspire more young men to stop sitting around and letting this happen” and chose to use a truck instead of guns because “in the U.K., their guns are very hard to get a hold of” but that “you can use a vehicle, it works.”
He said that his intention on June 6, 2021 was to “go on a rampage” but he stopped after striking one group.
He said it was easier than he expected but “very distasteful.”
“It was very damaging to my soul what I did,” he told Bourdeau. “I don’t regret what I did. I feel like I had to do it.”
Bourdeau then asks Veltman to walk him through the events leading up to Sunday evening. Veltman mentions feeling depressed on Saturday and taking a “bunch of shrooms” which left him feeling gross Sunday morning. However, he said he does not believe the drugs had anything to do with his actions.
He got up and went to work in Strathroy for 10 a.m., returning at 6 p.m. He told Bourdeau that he saw some people who appeared to be Muslim on his drive home.
“They weren’t the same people that I killed, though,” he said, adding that he arrived home before deciding to go out again with the intention of killing Muslims.
When asked if he knew the people killed, Veltman said, “they were Muslims, right?”
“How did you know they were Muslim?” Bourdeau asks.
“From the clothes,” Veltman says.
Bourdeau asks Veltman if he had an idea of the ages of the people he hit and Veltman states that he was aware there were children.
“I know for you this is probably difficult, so I apologize for that,” he then tells Bourdeau.
As the interview continues, Bourdeau notes to Veltman that he appears to have no issue discussing his beliefs and motivations, but he has provided few details when it comes to his actions, though he stresses he is within his rights to withhold that information.
Bourdeau raises concerns about whether Veltman had any additional plans, noting that he was arrested near the city’s mosque.
“I actually didn’t know that,” Veltman says. “I’m serious.”
Bourdeau notes that Veltman stated that he was aware some of the people struck were children and asked if that was intentional. Veltman says he knew there would be “collateral damage” and confirms to Bourdeau that he was aiming for the parents.
The interview ends with Bourdeau stating that he will check on him in the morning and reminding him that he can request to speak with a lawyer at any time.
The timestamp on the video states 3:49 a.m. on June 7, 2021.
The second video begins at 9:55 a.m. that morning with a decidedly less confident sounding Veltman.
“Have things changed for you in the last couple hours, the way you’re thinking about this?” Bourdeau asks.
“It’s complicated,” Veltman responds.
Bourdeau appears to attempt to encourage Veltman to share more details about the extent to which the attack was planned, noting that Veltman previously suggested that others would be inspired by his actions as he was inspired by others before him.
“I’ve already told you quite a bit,” Veltman says. “Not really sure I can say much more than that right now.”
Bourdeau asks if Veltman understands that it’s his job to get to the bottom of this.
“You killed an entire family except for one little boy,” he stresses.
“That’s a pretty extreme thing,” Veltman says quietly.
With roughly 25 minutes of video of the second interview remaining, proceedings ended for the weekend.
Court resumes Monday morning.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna, and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed in the London attack. The couple’s nine-year-old son was also seriously hurt but survived.
The trial, which is taking place in Windsor, Ont., is expected to last eight weeks.