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Trial hears London attack accused was motivated by white nationalism

Jurors at the trial of a man accused of murdering four members of a Muslim family in Ontario are set to hear more evidence today. Nathaniel Veltman is escorted leaving trial outside Ontario Superior Court in Windsor, Ont., Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dax Melmer

The man accused of killing four members of a Muslim family in Ontario told police hours after his attack that he had been motivated by white nationalist beliefs he had kept private in order to avoid detection by authorities, his trial heard Monday. 

Nathaniel Veltman's recounting of his beliefs are part of his statement to police in London, Ont., after his arrest in June 2021. Jurors have been watching video of Veltman being questioned and discussing why he drove his truck into the Afzaal family while they were out for a walk in the city. 

Prosecutors have alleged Veltman – who has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder – committed an act of terrorism. 

In video played at the trial on Monday, Veltman is seen telling London police detective Micah Bourdeau that he is a white nationalist who wants white people to have autonomy over their own countries.

"White people have the right to exist and don't have to give over everything to foreigners and immigrants, and people who are basically replacing us," Veltman is heard saying.  

Veltman, who was 20 at the time of his arrest, is also seen saying he was not a member of a white nationalist group because that would have made authorities in Canada aware of him and his beliefs.

"That would be stupid, because it just (means) going on a watchlist," he said. 

Veltman told the detective he had not discussed his plans for the attack, which he had plotted for months, with anyone nor was anyone else involved in what he had done. 

"That would have been a stupid thing to do. I would have just gotten caught," he said. "This was lone wolf."

Veltman also tells the detective that he made an "OK" symbol, connecting his thumb and index finger in a circle, during his arrest because that was a symbol used by white nationalists. 

Veltman is seen in the video wearing a white T-shirt with what appears to be a hand-painted red cross on the front and back. He told the detective he had tried to make the shirt look like a flag from the Crusades and that it had been hanging in his room for some time before the attack. 

Jurors at the trial were shown video last week of Veltman telling police his attack was politically motivated and "was terrorism." 

Veltman told police he was against Muslims because he did not believe in multiculturalism, was against mass immigration and did not believe cultures could coexist.

Court also heard Veltman telling police he had hesitated before carrying out his attack but decided to get it "over with,'' hoping to inspire other young, white men. 

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 attack. The couple's nine-year-old son was also seriously hurt but survived.

An agreed statement of facts presented to the jury has said Veltman was driving his truck north on Hyde Park Road in London when he saw the Afzaal family and made a U-turn to drive south towards them. Two women in the Afzaal family were wearing traditional Pakistani clothes at the time of the attack.

Veltman accelerated as he approached the family, and data from his truck show he steered to the right, aiming to hit the family, just five seconds before striking them, the statement said.

The trial has heard that Veltman then drove his heavily damaged truck into an almost empty mall parking lot a few minutes after the attack and asked a nearby cab driver to call 911, saying he had intentionally struck several people.

The trial, which is taking place in Windsor, Ont., is expected to last eight weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2023.   

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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