London, Ont. vehicle attack trial: Videos, manifestos and what’s happened so far

Click to play video: 'The police interview with Nathaniel Veltman, shown to the jury at the terror suspect’s murder trial in Windsor, has now been released.'
The police interview with Nathaniel Veltman, shown to the jury at the terror suspect’s murder trial in Windsor, has now been released.
As Catherine McDonald reports, Nathaniel Veltman, who has pleaded not guilty, admits he used his truck to deliberately kill a group of people because they were Muslim – Sep 22, 2023

Warning: Readers may find the contents of this story disturbing.

Police interviews, manifestos, video surveillance and nearly 20 witnesses made up the bulk of the Crown’s case in the trial for the man charged in the June 2021 London, Ont., vehicle attack.

Nathaniel Veltman is accused of deliberately hitting five members of the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out for a walk in London in what prosecutors allege was an act of terrorism.

The 22-year-old has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Veltman’s case is the first where Canada’s terrorism laws are being put before a jury in a first-degree murder trial.

The defence will have the opportunity to present evidence when the jury returns Thursday, after the Crown closed its case last week.

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The Crown’s opening statement

Federal prosecutor Sarah Shaikh delivered her opening statement on Sept. 11, arguing that Veltman was motivated by white nationalist beliefs and had planned his attack for three months before driving his newly purchased Dodge Ram truck directly at the Afzaals.

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.

FILE – The Afzaal family. Supplied by family

The official causes of death for all, as read to the jury on Sept. 27, were listed as “multiple trauma.” The jury also heard that Talat Afzaal likely died on impact.

Surveillance videos presented to the jury showed Veltman driving into a parking lot at Cherryhill Mall after the incident and approaching a taxicab before several police cruisers arrive.

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On Sept. 12, the Crown called the taxicab driver to the witness stand, where he testified that Veltman told him to “shut up and call the cops.” The jury also heard the 911 call Azzeddin Jahanghiri placed that evening.

Jahanghiri had his phone on speaker and a second voice identifying itself as “Nate Veltman” can be heard saying, “I did it on purpose. Get the f— over here, would you?”

Click to play video: 'Veltman admits killing family in 911 call'
Veltman admits killing family in 911 call

Proceedings continued that week with jurors shown video of Veltman being held at a police station after his arrest, pacing around in a small detention cell. They were then shown videos from two police interviews with Veltman that took place soon after the incident, at 1:30 a.m. and again at 9:55 a.m. on June 7, 2021, and heard testimony from the detective who conducted those interviews.

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The police interviews

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In the first video, Veltman speaks with conviction and energy, repeatedly apologizing to Det. Micah Bourdeau for going on “rants” or “tangents.”

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 amid COVID-19 for so long before he started looking further into “minority on white crime.”

The breaking point, he says, was 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 December 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.”

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.

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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.”

In the second video, however, he is decidedly less energetic and appears withdrawn.

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.

Click to play video: 'Defendant wanted to kill Muslims, prosecutors allege'
Defendant wanted to kill Muslims, prosecutors allege

Bourdeau’s testimony continued into the following week, with defence lawyer Christopher Hicks suggesting in questions to Bourdeau that police purposefully made Veltman “uncomfortable” before the interviews by putting him in a cold cell with a cement bed and no blankets, food or drink for hours.

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Hicks also asked Bourdeau if he was concerned about the accused’s mental state, noting Veltman had mentioned feeling depressed in the past, that he had done mushrooms the day before the attack and that he felt “shaken up” after the attack.

Bourdeau said he would have been more concerned if the accused had said he was not shaken up.

The testimony from first responders

The Crown’s case continued with testimony from police officers who were among the first to respond to the victims.

Const. Brock Dease said he and Const. Michael Olszowy were sitting in a cruiser parked at Brescia University College when they were called to respond to a vehicle hitting pedestrians at 8:43 p.m.

Dease’s voice broke as he recalled arriving to find an officer performing CPR on a victim and another officer just arriving at the side of another victim. He went to a third victim, an older woman lying on her back. He described gruesome injuries to her torso as well as what appeared to be broken limbs and “major facial injuries.”

He also told court about witnessing the young boy – the sole survivor – who was conscious, crying and asking questions. He also described seeing his teenage sister who had her eyes open but who “wasn’t moving any extremities.”

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Police officers involved in Veltman’s arrest also took to the witness stand, with one officer telling court that the accused “appeared giddy.”

Veltman was wearing a bulletproof vest and a military-style helmet when he was arrested, and knives were found in his truck, the jury learned. The vest and helmet were later presented to the jury in person.

The messy apartment and manifestos

Jurors also glanced into Veltman’s living space through photos of his downtown London apartment and testimony from officers who searched his unit. Photos presented to the jury show a garbage bin overflowing, drawers and cabinets left open and an unmade bed with personal items strewn about. The jury also learned of a handwritten note found on a table with a list of speeds and percentages.

In the final week of evidence on behalf of the Crown, prosecutors called a digital forensics expert with the Windsor Police Service who testified that a file titled “idk” accessed on an Acer laptop’s Notepad app was an early version of “A White Awakening,” the name of a manifesto prosecutors allege was penned by Veltman.

Sgt. Liyu Guan also told the jury that a USB drive linked to Veltman contained the manifesto of the New Zealand mosque gunman and a video of that mass shooting.

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The Crown wrapped up its case on Oct. 5 after calling nearly 20 witnesses.

The jury is expected to return to court in Windsor, Ont., on Thursday.

— with files from The Canadian Press’ Maan Alhmidi.

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