Nathaniel Veltman, a 22-year-old from London, Ontario, admitted his deep remorse during his trial for the murder of a Muslim family. The horrific attack on the Afzaal family left four dead and one survivor, a nine-year-old boy. As the trial unfolds, it offers a harrowing look into the mind of the accused, who has pleaded not guilty to four counts of terrorism-motivated first-degree murder and one count of terrorism-motivated attempted murder.
Its Immediate Aftermath
On June 6, 2021, Nathaniel Veltman intentionally struck the Afzaal family with his vehicle, later admitting that he had looked directly at his victims, Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha Salman, their daughter Yumnah, and grandmother Talat Afzaal, before accelerating. Veltman, however, started to doubt the justification of the attack after being informed by the arresting officer that someone had died. He struggled to find reasons to rationalize the violence, ultimately realizing that there was no way to justify such a senseless atrocity.
During his testimony, Veltman painted a picture of a deeply troubled mind. He recounted that he felt detached from reality, as though he was in a dream, before the attack. He admitted to battling conflicting feelings, as his Christian faith did not condone murder. In a moment of desperation, he decided to stop identifying as a Christian. Veltman’s inner turmoil and confusion manifested in his inability to resist the urge to carry out the attack.
A Cry for Help
Veltman revealed that he needed to turn himself in to prevent further harm. After the attack, he parked in a mall lot, knelt on the ground, and waited for the police to arrive, signaling his desire to end the violence. This act seemed to be a cry for help, a desperate attempt to put an end to the chaos that had consumed him.
Awakening of Radical Ideologies
The trial also shed light on the radical ideologies that seemed to have played a significant role in Veltman’s descent into extremism. He confessed to being the author of a manifesto titled “A White Awakening,” a document that vented about the perceived “Islamization of the West” and alleged cultural and religious conflicts. He subscribed to the conspiracy theory that non-white immigration was replacing White populations due to lower birth rates. He admitted to consuming right-wing materials, watching the Christchurch, New Zealand mass shooting, and harboring racist beliefs.
Veltman’s troubled past and history of mental health challenges came to the forefront during the trial. He disclosed that he had been suicidal at the age of 12 and again at 19. Diagnosed with autism and other mental health issues, he revealed that his parents initially dismissed his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) behavior at a young age. He sought counseling and was prescribed medication for OCD and depression, which he claimed numbed his emotions.
Substance Abuse and Social Isolation
In his testimony, Veltman acknowledged a history of substance abuse, including the use of magic mushrooms, daily marijuana consumption, and alcohol. He shared that these substances had become problematic for him by the age of 16. His life had been marked by social awkwardness, and he moved out of his parents’ house at the tender age of 15.
Nathaniel Veltman’s trial is a grim reminder of the devastating consequences of radicalization and extremist ideologies. It also underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing mental health issues and substance abuse in vulnerable individuals. The tragedy that unfolded in London in 2021 serves as a stark example of how extremism can lead individuals down a dark and destructive path. While Veltman has admitted his remorse, the pain and suffering inflicted on the Afzaal family and their community remain immeasurable, a somber reminder of the importance of combating hatred and extremism in all its forms.