Warning: This story contains disturbing details:
Data from a Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by Nathaniel Veltman on the day in 2021 that members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., were trapped, show him turning right five seconds before impact, with the accelerator pedal depressed to 100 percent, the court heard. Monday.
On the first day of testimony in the 22-year-old’s murder trial in Windsor, Crown prosecutors called three witnesses and laid out evidence they will present to the Ontario Superior Court judge and jury.
Veltman is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terrorism charges after the June 6, 2021, vehicle attack on the Afzaal family. He has pleaded not guilty.
Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A nine-year-old boy survived.
In her opening statements, prosecutor Sarah Shaikh told the jury that the defendant went to work on June 6, 2021 in Strathroy. Two weeks earlier, he had bought a Dodge Ram pickup truck, the court heard.
He returned to his bachelor pad in central London and “left before 8pm with a specific purpose in mind: to find Muslims to kill”, Shaikh said.
“He accelerated, with the goal of hitting the family. You will hear him say, in his own words, that he was stepping on the accelerator,” he said.
Jurors also heard that the defendant told police he had been inspired by others with similar political views, that he wanted to inspire others, and police found two versions of a document, titled “A White Awakening,” On your computer.
Throughout the day, several agreed statements of fact were read: evidence that the Crown and defense agree on and that will not have to be argued before the jury. They include:
- The defendant was driving his pickup truck north on Hyde Park Road when he saw the Afzaal family and made a U-turn. He drove south toward the North Carriage Road intersection where the family was located and accelerated. “He ran his truck off the road, went onto the sidewalk and hit the five family members,” Shaikh said.
- Data from the truck shows that it turned directly toward the family five seconds before impact, that its accelerator pedal was 100 percent compressed, and that it never stepped on the accelerator pedal.
- He drove his truck at excessive speeds along Hyde Park Road, running several traffic lights and weaving in and out of lanes before turning east onto Oxford Street, where he continued to weave in and out of traffic and run red lights.
- Many passersby called 911 and many noticed the damage to the front of their vehicle.
It is also not in doubt that the family lived in London and was returning from a local park when they were hit.
“Three generations of a family went for a walk: a grandmother, a father, a mother and two children. They went to a park near their house and this would be their last walk together,” Shaikh said as part of the Crown’s inauguration. statements.
“Why did he do this? You will hear it in his own words,” Shaikh said, referring to the accused. “He made two statements to detectives after turning himself in and you will hear both statements. You will hear him say he did it on purpose…he said he did it because they were Muslims.”
On the day of the incident, the two women in the family were wearing traditional Pakistani clothes, he added.
A family member testified that the Afzaals were a “peace-loving Muslim family” who came to Canada in 2012. The youngest member of the family was born here. A photograph of the family presented as evidence shows the two women and the teenager wearing a salwar kameez: baggy pants and a long colorful shirt.
Another witness, a college student who was walking through the area where the Afzaals were hit, spoke of calling 911 moments after the incident.
Several friends of the Afzaals, as well as family members, were in the Windsor courtroom to hear opening statements. The trial is expected to last about eight weeks, less than originally planned because defense and Crown lawyers were able to reach an agreement on those facts that will not have to be disputed.
‘Let go of prejudices’
Before hearing from the Crown, Judge Renée Pomerance reminded jurors that their primary job is to analyze all the facts logically and with common sense.
“All jurors must be impartial. We all have beliefs and assumptions that inform our perception of our world and we may be aware of some of these biases and ignore others,” Pomerance said.
“We look at others through the lens of our experiences, no matter how impartial we may think we are. All humans experience unconscious bias, but we can overcome it. It is not a character flaw, it is the function of being human. But stereotypes They should have no place in our justice system.
“In this case, [the accused] He is charged with several counts of first-degree murder. The Crown alleges he set out to murder a family because of his Muslim beliefs. These are just accusations. The Crown must prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The reasons for the change of venue of the trial to Windsor are under a publication ban. Jury selection was the week of September 4.