Warning: This story contains distressing details.
Nathaniel Veltman planned for months to kill Muslims, purchased a pickup truck to use a “murder weapon” and psyched himself up before driving into the Afzaal family in London, Ont., two years ago by reading about other terrorist attacks, Crown prosecutor Jennifer Moser said Monday.
“You purchased this truck as your murder weapon … You installed a 200-pound push bar to make the truck more lethal,” Moser said to the accused, who has been in the witness box for seven days, four of those under cross-examination, during his trial in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor.
The accused denied those statements, but Moser pressed on, saying that since the June 6, 2021, attack, he has changed his story “because murdering this beautiful family and orphaning a small boy now seems like a pointless and horrific act.”
“You’ve had nothing but time, sir, and you’ve come up with this new version to help yourself live with what you have done to this family.”
The accused has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terrorism charges.
The jury has seen video footage of an interview with a police detective hours after his arrest, when the accused said he went out to find Muslims to kill, an attempt to send a message of intimidation to others, after months of mental decline and watching countless hours of far-right and anti-Islamophobic material online.
The Afzaals were out for an evening walk in northwest London when they were struck by the accused’s black Dodge Ram pickup truck. Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents, Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A nine-year-old boy survived.
Accused was driving, lawyers agree
Testifying in his own defence, the accused has told the jury he took magic mushrooms the day before the attack, and that when the high wore off, he was unable to “resist the urge” to kill. He has said he made up the story of his attack being motivated by far-right ideology as a way to justify his “horrific” actions to himself and the detective.
The defence and prosecutors agree that the accused drove his truck into the family and his gas pedal was 100 per cent depressed for four seconds before the impact, and one second before impact, he steered slightly to the left. The accused now says the slight move to the left was because he changed his mind at the last second, a suggestion he first made to a court psychiatrist on Sept. 23, 2023, two weeks after the jury watched a video of the attack.
“I’m going to suggest to you that the slight left was you trying to strike all members of the family,” Moser said. “You say you hesitated, but you didn’t stop. You didn’t ask for someone to call 911. You said you saw something fly over the top of your vehicle. That something was a human being, Mr. Veltman, and you didn’t think to stop and help any one of those human beings.”
The accused replied: “No, I wanted to get as far away as I could. I didn’t want to see what I had done… Obviously, looking back, I should have [stopped]. I turned myself in because I felt sick to my stomach.”
Moser showed the accused pictures of the intersection at Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road, where the family was struck. Some of the photos showed how far the impact threw the family members.
She also suggested the accused staged his apartment so it would be easy for police to find his manifesto, entitled “A White Awakening.” Copies of it were found on USB drives laid out on desks in his apartment.
He purchased the truck and picked it up on May 19, then added the push bar (also known as a grill guard) and tinted windows. His manifesto was last edited five days before the attack.
“By June 1, 2021, all of your plans were crystallized and finalized, isn’t that right?” Moser asked the accused, who denied the suggestion.
Now that the cross-examination is finished, Veltman’s lawyer will have a chance to re-examine his client on Tuesday, when the trial resumes. Expected to testify next is Dr. Julian Gojer, a forensic psychiatrist who has seen the accused several times in the last two years, most recently a month ago.
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