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'Willfully blind': Defence questions London police detention procedures after truck attack

WARNING: The details in the article may be disturbing to some readers

The trial of Nathaniel Veltman, 22, continued Monday in a Windsor court with cross-examination of Det. Micah Bourdeau.

Veltman has pleaded not guilty to four counts of terrorism-motivated first-degree murder and one count of terrorism-motivated attempted murder for a truck attack on the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021.

Four members of the family died, representing three generations, and a fifth family member suffered serious injuries.

Veltman was arrested within 10 minutes and was booked into the detention unit at London Police Service Headquarters less than an hour after the collision.

The jury saw video of Veltman waiting until 1 a.m. on June 7 before his first interview with police.

In the first of two video-taped statements with Bourdeau, the jury heard Veltman admit to police “this was politically motivated. 100 per cent.”

Veltman also told police, “I admit it was terrorism.”

In his second statement, Veltman told Bourdeau “I had this huge sense of relief. It felt like a burden was off my back" after he acted on his beliefs. 

Yet also in that second statement — recorded around 10 a.m. the next morning of June 7 — Veltman appeared less relaxed and isn’t as talkative to Bourdeau.

“Do you regret it now?” Bourdeau asked, to which Veltman replied, “I don’t know how I feel now. I’m still thinking.”

Veltman further characterized his initial interactions with police as “cocky.”

In cross-examination Monday afternoon, defence lawyer Christopher Hicks pressed Bourdeau to explain the timeline of events between Veltman’s arrest and the first interview, approximately four hours later.

“He was treated like everybody else, badly,” said Hicks who argued Bourdeau was “willfully blind” to Veltman’s treatment.

Hicks’ concerns include:

  • Veltman was in a dry cell (no toilet or sink with cement slab as a bed) for approximately three hours
  • The detective didn’t confirm if he had food or drinks before starting the interview
  • Veltman wasn’t given a blanket until the second interview (although he is not seen using the blanket)
  • Veltman was searched three times and photographed twice
  • Veltman’s cell was furthest away from the booking area

The detective didn’t speak with the booking officer before the interview and so he didn’t know Veltman had previous suicidal thoughts. Hicks said “You did this (the 1 a.m. interview) to take advantage of Mr. Veltman,” and argued Bourdeau was “exploiting the vulnerability” of his client.

“I disagree with that,” Bourdeau testified. “He [Veltman] was willing to speak, he wanted to speak.”

Hicks did concede that Bourdeau offered food and brought water to Veltman during the interviews.

Hicks questioned the “urgency” of conducting an interview in the middle of the night.

He noted for the jury, at the time police had the suspect in custody with no indication there were any others involved, the weapon (the pickup truck) was seized by police and Veltman was days, if not weeks away from a bail hearing.

“I’m going to suggest this (a 1 a.m. interview) wasn’t urgent,” Hicks said, to which Bourdeau disagreed.

“Our city has never seen anything like this before,” Bourdeau testified. “I would venture to say we didn’t know what we were dealing with. We didn’t know if there was further danger to the public.”

He added, “I spoke to him at that point because we felt it was urgent to do so.”

After Hicks alluded to alleged mistreatment by London police, Justice Renee Pomerance asked the jury to leave and ultimately asked them to return Tuesday for the resumption of evidence. Top Stories

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