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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Father of suspect calls London attack ‘unspeakable crime’

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The father of the suspect accused of killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., called it an “unspeakable crime” in a statement Thursday.

“It was with utmost shock and horror that I came to hear of the unspeakable crime committed last weekend,” Mark Veltman said.

“There are no words adequate to properly express my deep sorrow for the victims of this senseless act.”

“As this investigation is ongoing no further comments will be made.”

The emailed statement was the first time the family of Nathaniel Veltman, the 20-year-old accused, had spoken about the attack.

Four family members were killed and a fifth was injured when they were struck Sunday by a pickup truck. The London Police Service has alleged they were deliberately hit because they were Muslims.

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Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother were killed. Nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal suffered serious injuries but survived.

Veltman, a London resident and egg farm employee, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

He appeared in court on Thursday.

A police investigation is continuing that could result in terrorism charges. Veltman returns to court on Monday.

1:59 New details emerge on suspect in London truck attack

New details emerge on suspect in London truck attack Documents released by the court depict Veltman as “combative and argumentative” after his parents began divorce proceedings while he was at a “very impressionable age.”

Veltman and his twin sister are the eldest of six children. According to the court materials, he blamed his mother for his parents’ divorce.

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“Nathan has become increasingly difficult and argumentative with (his mother) and openly blames his mother for his father’s current situation,” the documents said.

His mother said it was so bad she would sometimes have to hide in her bedroom, the divorce documents said.

Veltman left home shortly after the divorce and began working at Gray Ridge Egg Farms in Strathroy, Ont.

There is no mention in the documents of racism or radicalization. An expert on extremism who reviewed the documents said there were still many unanswered questions.

“Millions of children have parents who are divorced, and millions of people experience depression and suicidal ideation who don’t engage in violence against innocent people,” said Amarnath Amarasingam of Queen’s University.

”His struggles growing up are, for sure, important backdrop to understanding why he decided to do what he did, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”

Following the attack, Veltman was seen at a nearby shopping mall wearing a military-style helmet and vest, possibly with swastikas, according to a taxi company employee who spoke to the witness.

He was laughing as he was being taken into custody by police, the employee said.

Chief Steve Williams of the London Police Service has declined to elaborate on the evidence collected by investigators but said it was quickly apparent Veltman had targeted a Muslim family.

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“Without getting into the details of what evidence came from all that, we were fairly comfortable at an early stage attributing this to being a hate-motivated crime, and as I indicated, this family was targeted because of their Islamic faith,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

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