Accused killer of London, Ont., Muslim family details attack, aftermath for jury | CBC News

Accused killer of London, Ont., Muslim family details attack, aftermath for jury | CBC News


Nathaniel Veltman, who is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and associated terrorism counts, told the jury at his Superior Court trial that he is remorseful for his attack on the Afzaal family two years ago.

After three days of testimony, prosecutor has started cross-examining the accused

Kate Dubinski · CBC News


A court sketch of the accused in a London, Ontario, terror attack surrendering to police.

A courtroom sketch shows testimony during which the accused is seen, on video, on his knees and surrendering to police minutes after the Afzaal family was killed on June 6, 2021, in London, Ont. (Pam Davies/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Nathaniel Veltman, who is charged with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and associated terrorism counts, told the jury at his Superior Court trial that he is remorseful for his attack on the Afzaal family two years ago. 

“I know it was horrible,” the 22-year-old said on his third day of testimony in his own defence in Windsor, Ont., court. He’s pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his defence lawyer has said he disputes his client’s intent was to kill the family. 

The remorse began the day after the truck attack that killed three generations — four members — of the Afzaal family, and injured the family’s youngest member, a nine-year-old boy. 

“As the hours went by, this depersonalized feeling that I wasn’t all there, it was starting to go away and reality was setting in. I was more shutting down and in shock because I couldn’t process what I had done,” he said.

With every hour that passed, the accused said he became tormented with his actions. “It was torture. I was no longer the person I used to be. I had to accept this new identity and reality and every hour that went by, the mental agony became higher and higher and I shut down after a while.” 

Five members of the Afzaal family, originally from Pakistan, were out for a late-evening stroll on a warm spring evening on June 6, 2021, in suburban London, Ont., when they were struck by a black truck driven by the accused, a detail the defence and prosecution agree on. The family developed the nightly walking habit during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Yumnah Afzaal, 15, a Grade 9 student who loved art, had many friends, and had painted a mural in her elementary school, was killed. Also killed were her parents, Madiha Salman, 44, a Western University graduate student described as generous and loving and who loved engineering and research, and Salman Afzaal, 46, a physiotherapist who worked with seniors in care homes across southwestern Ontario.

Three women wearing pastel colours and one man stand looking at the camera.

Yumnah Afzaal, 15, Madiha Salman, 44, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, left to right, were out for an evening walk on June 6, 2021, when they were run over by a truck in what police say was an attack motivated by anti-Muslim hate. (Submitted by the Afzaal family)

Talat Afzaal, 74, Salman’s mother, was also killed. She was staying with the family and also lived with another son in the Greater Toronto Area. She was an artist and teacher.

The accused told police in the hours following the attack that he targeted the family because they were Muslim, which he could tell because of the clothing they were wearing. 

Three days of his testimony ended mid-afternoon on Tuesday and his cross examination by Crown prosecutor Jennifer Moser began with questions about whether he admitted that he killed the Afzaal family and left a nine-year-old boy injured and orphaned, and that he wrote a manifesto called A White Awakening, where he laid out his white-supremacist views.

“You held racist ideas when you killed the family and left the boy injured and orphaned, correct?” Moser asked. 

“Yes,” the accused replied. 

Moser took the accused through the evidence he gave to his defence lawyer, Christopher Hicks. She pointed out he used words in his manifesto that depersonalized and dehumanized Muslims so he could “get into the headspace” to kill them.

He said he “didn’t know” if that was the case, but agreed that what he said was “hateful and dehumanizing.”  

Gave into an ‘urge’

Earlier this week, he testified that he had two previous urges to kill Muslim people, once earlier on June 6 and also the previous day, in Toronto, that he was able to resist. 

Prosecutors say he was motivated by far-right ideology, which he consumed for more than 12 hours a day, including mass shooting videos and manifestos of those convicted of anti-Muslim crimes. 

On June 5, 2021, he consumed three grams of psychedelic mushrooms, and testified he felt the urges to kill after their effects wore off the next day. 

The accused told the jury on Thursday that he saw the family walking along Hyde Park Road and slowed down because he felt an urge similar to the previous two. “My mind, things didn’t feel like they normally did. I felt like I was having some kind of dream. This obsession about the content on the Internet had gone on so long, I felt like if I gave in to the urge, it would go away,” he said. 

As he did a U-turn and drove toward the family, he tried to fight off the urge but “it came on too strong, but stronger than before,” he said. “I tried to say to myself, ‘I am a Christian. I can’t reconcile this with Christianity. I saw a young person and I thought, I can’t justify endangering him but then in a split second, horrifically, I thought, ‘Collateral damage.'”

As he accelerated toward the family, he looked directly at Salman Afzaal, he said. “I know that a split second before it happened, I tried to change my mind, to turn the other way, but it was too late.” 

He sped away from the scene, not wanting to see what he had done, he said. 

Trying to justify actions

During his arrest, he considered running at the police so officers would shoot him, but decided against it, he said. 

Later, after being booked at London police headquarters, he paced his cell prior to an interview with a detective, trying to “justify my actions and placate my conscience,” he said.

“I was determined to come up with reasons to make it morally justifiable…I was very agitated. When he told me four counts of murder, I thought ‘Oh my god, the kid probably died, so now I have to justify the death of four people and also the death of a child as well.'” 

He decided to “spew out” his thoughts about Muslims and trying to save white girls from supposed attacks. “I was desperate to say everything that I could to make it morally justifiable.” 

He said he wasn’t lying to the detective, by trying to justify his actions. “My conscience was tormenting me so much that I had to justify it, to make it not some senseless atrocity.” 

The cross examination is expected to continue on Wednesday. 


Kate Dubinski is a radio and digital reporter with CBC News in London, Ont. You can email her at


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