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Father of suspect calls London attack ‘unspeakable crime’

Global News logo Global News 2021-06-10 Stewart Bell and Andrew Russell
A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in honour of the four members of a Muslim family that died and the youngest boy who is in hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins © Provided by Global News A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in honour of the four members of a Muslim family that died and the youngest boy who is in hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

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 sent to Global News was the first time the family of Nathaniel Veltman, the 20-year-old accused, had spoken about the attack.

Read more: Police tracing London attack suspect’s ‘online footprint,’ looking at terrorism charges, chief says

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.

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.

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Video: Court appearance for suspect in London, Ont. truck attack (Global News)

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Documents released by the Ontario court depict Veltman as "combative and argumentative" after his parents began divorce proceedings while he was at a "very impressionable age" in 2016.

According to court materials that date back to December 2016, Veltman, who along with his twin sister are the eldest of six siblings, blamed his mother for his parents' divorce.

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

It was so bad his mother would sometimes hide in her bedroom, said the divorce documents, which also briefly refer to his mental health needs, depression, medication and counseling he was receiving.

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.”

Read more: London attack was latest of Canada’s ‘most deadly’ form of extremism, national security adviser says

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 a witness.

Veltman was laughing as he was taken into custody, 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.

“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.

The Bethel Baptist Church said in a statement the Veltman family had been "connected" with the congregation in the past "but have not attended services/programs or been involved in our church community for several years."

"When we heard of the horrific events that transpired on Sunday evening we, like our entire community and nation, were heartbroken and devastated," lead pastor Allan Self said.

We grieve with and have been praying for the Afzaal family and our local Muslim community. Actions of hatred and violence are evil and stand in complete contradiction to our faith in the love and grace of Jesus."

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

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