Warning: This story contains disturbing details.
The man accused of deliberately running over a Muslim family in London two years ago was trying to send a strong “brutal message” when he drove his van toward Afzaals, a Crown prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments in court Wednesday. Superior of Ontario in Windsor.
“That brutal message was intended for everyone, but there were two particular audiences it was aimed at: Muslims and white nationalists,” Fraser Ball said before the judge began explaining the law to the jury in Nathaniel’s trial. Veltman.
“They were very public murders. That was the point,” Ball said. “A brutal message is not whispered, it is shouted. By attacking some Muslims, he intended to intimidate all Muslims. He wanted all Muslims to fear for their loved ones, their children. He wanted to send the most brutal message of intimidation that he could manage.
“By killing some Muslims, I wanted to inspire other white nationalists to kill more. It was passing the baton. I wanted notoriety. I wanted to go from being inspired by others to being an inspiration to others.”
Veltman, 22, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terrorism charges.
That means prosecutors believe he was motivated by political, ideological or religious ideas when he ran over the Afzaal family with his truck while they were on a nighttime walk on June 6, 2021. Prosecutors also say he intended to intimidate a segment of the population: Muslim people, which is part of the definition of terrorism in the Penal Code.
The defense and the Crown have different theories
The Afzaals were taking a night walk through the London suburbs when they were hit by a van. High school student Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents Madiha Salman, a 44-year-old engineer, and Salman Afzaal, a 46-year-old physical therapist, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, a teacher and artist, were murdered. A nine-year-old boy was seriously injured but survived.
In his closing arguments Tuesday, defense attorney Christopher Hicks told jurors that his client had no intention of killing the family. He told jurors they should find his client guilty of involuntary manslaughter, not first-degree murder, which is planned, deliberate and includes intent to kill.
The defendant testified in his own defense and said that he had felt the aftereffects of the magic mushrooms in the hours before he visited the family. A psychiatrist testified that the defendant had a complex web of mental and developmental disorders affected by mushrooms.
But prosecutors say the defendant began planning his attack in March 2021, when he decided to put his suicidal thoughts aside and take them outside, Ball said.
“The rage was there, but focused outward. There was a determination to kill, but he was no longer his own target.”
Veltman wrote his manifesto to make sure people heard his message and left two copies in his apartment for police to find, Ball told jurors.
“His political thinking, his ideology, his religious beliefs are consistent everywhere: coherent and disturbing. He thought that different races and cultures should not mix. That multiculturalism does not work… That white people need to be warriors, inspire each other . other.”
The defendant fitted his truck with a grill and researched the speeds at which pedestrians are most likely to die when hit by a vehicle, the court heard. He spent up to 12 hours a day online watching far-right content and was wearing a bulletproof vest and a military helmet, as well as a homemade double-breasted T-shirt, when he was arrested on the night of the attack.
The judge addresses the jury
After closing arguments ended Wednesday, Judge Renee Pomerance began walking the jury through the law and facts of the case, and how jurors can apply the law to the facts. She reminded them to “use their collective common sense” and be dispassionate and unemotional in reaching their verdict.
“Mr. Veltman is not being judged for his beliefs. He is being judged for his actions,” Pomerance said. “His beliefs are in question only because it must be determined whether they were what led him to act. He should not be found guilty because of his beliefs or because he wants to take a stand against racism.”
Once the judge’s accusation is finished, the jury will be isolated to deliberate with the aim of reaching a verdict. It is not immediately known when the kidnapping will occur.