Warning: This story contains disturbing details.
After several days of legal arguments with no jury present, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Julian Gojer returned to the witness stand in the trial of a man accused of killing a Muslim family two years ago in London, Ont.
Nathaniel Veltman, 22, admitted that he ran his truck into the Afzaal family in northwest London, Ontario on June 6, 2021. He has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder , as well as associated terrorism charges that were filed because prosecutors say he was motivated by far-right ideology.
“If we accept what he is saying as truth, then he is describing an experience in which he is in a severe state of anxiety, his judgment is impaired and he is not rationally evaluating the situation and what is going to happen next, but is instead focusing on his obsession,” Gojer told jurors Thursday of the defendant’s testimony earlier in the weeks-long trial.
Four family members died after being hit by the accused’s van: high school student Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents, Madiha Salman, 44, an engineer, and Salman Afzaal, 46, a physical therapist, along with the matriarch of the Talat Afzaal family. 74 years old, teacher and artist. A nine-year-old boy was seriously injured but survived.
Thursday was the first time the jury was in court since Monday afternoon, as Judge Renee Pomerance and attorneys discussed legal matters that the media cannot report.
During his testimony, Gojer continued to talk about the defendant’s state of mind,
In the hours after his arrest, Veltman confessed to police and told a detective that he planned the attack because he had gone down a “rabbit hole” of far-right content online. He was wearing a Crusader t-shirt that he made during the attack, as well as a military helmet and a bulletproof vest. In his apartment, police found notes about the speeds at which a vehicle hit was most likely to kill a pedestrian, as well as a document titled “A White Awakening,” called a manifesto by prosecutors.
Testifying in his own defense, the defendant previously told the jury that he did not plan the attack and that he made up the story while waiting in his cell as a way to justify his attack to himself and the detective. He said he was in a “dream state” and couldn’t resist driving toward the family, who he knew were Muslims by the way they were dressed.
Christian beliefs were ‘psychological brakes’
“It talks about needing to hit the accelerator to get rid of your impulses. There is a certain degree of awareness of the consequences of your actions,” Gojer testified. “His Christian beliefs acted as psychological brakes and he understood that there could be more serious consequences, but he tells himself: ‘I can give up my Christian beliefs, I can remove the brakes.'”
The accused is “removing his moral restraints” to complete his “heinous act” or to “get rid of his obsessions,” the psychiatrist said.
The defendant testified that he consumed magic mushrooms about 40 hours before his vehicle hit the family.
Gojer has testified that the drugs leaving his system may have prevented him from resisting his urge to drive to the family.
“You have to look at the language. The need is to drive towards them, drive towards them. It doesn’t talk about the need to kill,” Gojer said. “She is not a normal person who clashes with people. She is someone with multiple disorders who thinks irrationally.”
Gojer has diagnosed the defendant with obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorder, depression, anxiety and a personality disorder. He took the mushrooms because his great-grandmother, a mother figure to him, had just died.
Gojer’s testimony is expected to continue Friday.