Warning: This story contains distressing details:
More than 12 hours after a Muslim family was struck by a truck in London, Ont., on June 6, 2021, their accused killer sat shivering in a police interrogation room, telling a detective he didn’t have particularly strong connections with anyone in his life.
The murder-terror trial of Nathaniel Veltman in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor is in its second week. On Monday, the jury watched a police video of the accused speaking to London police Det. Micah Bourdeau the morning after the attack.
Bourdeau was in the witness box Monday as the video was playing.
In the footage, the accused says, “I would say I didn’t feel like I had much to lose at all. If I did, I wouldn’t have done it because there would have been someone else, but I didn’t have much to lose.”
Veltman said he spent a lot of time on the internet doing “research” about what he called media dishonesty and the role of Western governments in covering up crimes committed by minorities against white people. Even online, the accused said, he didn’t interact with people who shared his views because he was worried about being put on a government watch list.
“I was very paranoid about the feds,” he told the detective.
Veltman, 22, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terror charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents, Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A boy who was nine years old at the time survived.
Prosecutors allege they were targeted because they were wearing traditional Pakistani clothing and were Muslim.
Bourdeau had interviewed the accused — the detective balked when defence lawyer Christopher Hicks suggested it was an interrogation — two separate times following the attack: for about 2½ hours until close to 4 a.m., and again starting at around 9:30 a.m.
Questioned about why the interview was so urgent given the accused was in custody and his truck was secured, Bourdeau said it was impossible to tell if Veltman had been working with anyone or what else the accused may have been planning.
“Our city has never seen anything like this and I would venture to say we didn’t know what exactly we were dealing with,” Bourdeau told Hicks under cross-examination. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We didn’t know if there was further danger to the public, and I and the investigative team felt that it was imperative to find that out as soon as possible.”
Bourdeau denied Hicks’s suggestions that the overnight interview was an attempt to keep the accused “as uncomfortable as possible: giving [those in custody] no food, no water, a cement bed, keep them cold.”
“Whether he was exhausted or afraid, that was not by my design. I spoke to him then because I thought it was urgent to do so,” the detective testified.
He said he repeatedly asked the accused if he needed something to eat or drink, and during the second interview brought him a blanket, which can be seen on the interview video played for the jury.
Being in police custody brought a “huge sense of relief,” the accused says in the video to the detective.
“I went through with it — it’s over. I’m going to jail now. It’s done. I’m relieved that I finally did it, that I followed through with it,” he said. “At first I felt sick, I always feel sick, because it wasn’t a very pleasurable thing to do, but the fact that I had followed through was a relief. But still, it doesn’t seem real.”
Veltman confirmed to Bourdeau that the one friend he had was Muslim. That baffled the detective, who said he was confused how he could be friends with a Muslim person and also set out to kill people who follow Islam.
“He’s secular,” the accused explained about his friend. “And I doubt he wants anything to do with me now, but yeah, he’s probably the closest friend I’ve ever had. He technically comes from a Muslim family but he’s not really Muslim.”
T-shirt taken as evidence
A police video of an interview earlier on the night he was arrested was played to the jury last week. In it, the accused appears confident and happy to talk about his motivations for killing the family, including revenge and to send a warning to others who practise Islam.
By the second interview, at around 10 a.m., he’s cold and sits hunched over, often hugging himself. He tells the officer, “I feel like I’m having a dream.
“Look, I didn’t want to do this — I just felt like I had to,” he tells Bourdeau. “This was very, very, very distasteful, but I just felt like it was the only way I could send the message I had to send. I felt like I had no other option.”
Eventually, the T-shift he’s wearing, which is white and spray painted with a large black cross, is taken as evidence. The accused told the detective the shirt is a joke, meant to look like a “crusader shirt.”
He also told Bourdeau he made a point to flash the “OK” sign with his hand when he was arrested, a benign symbol that in some circles has come to symbolize white power.
“It was a successful troll,” he explained. “The stupid liberals call everything racist all day every day, and people thought, ‘I bet we can make them think the OK symbol is racist,’ and it worked.”
He noted he doesn’t use the term white power because he doesn’t want to “enslave the Blacks,” but rather, he wants “ethnic autonomy” and to “not give over everything to minorities.”
The defence’s cross-examination of Bourdeau is expected to continue on Tuesday.