Warning: This story contains disturbing details.
After less than six hours of deliberations, the jury in the murder trial of Nathaniel Veltman in Windsor, Ont., reached a guilty verdict of first-degree murder and attempted murder in connection with the truck attack on a Muslim family in London in 2021.
The 12-member jury in the trial that lasted more than 10 weeks deliberations began Wednesday and released its verdict Thursday afternoon. He
The attack drew condemnation across Canada and around the world after police called it a hate crime linked to anti-Muslim sentiments. First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The Afzaals were taking a nighttime stroll through the London suburbs when they were hit by the truck, driven by Veltman, information that was part of an agreed statement of facts. 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 who was also injured in the attack survived.
The 22-year-old had pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder and associated terrorism charges in the attack on the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021.
Judge recognizes emotional trial
The public gallery at the Ontario Superior Court was packed Thursday as the court waited for the jury, lawyers and Veltman to enter. Members of the Muslim community cried and hugged each other as they awaited the verdict. One person handed out tissues to those entering the courtroom.
Before the jury returned its verdict, Judge Renee Pomerance told the packed courtroom that she knew the trial had been emotional and difficult, but asked that the public refrain from visibly reacting to the jurors’ findings.
Despite the judge’s insistence, gasps were heard in the courtroom and many people cried when the jury foreman said, “We find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder.”
Veltman looked straight ahead as the decision was made and showed no emotion.
A sentencing hearing will be held at a later date to hear victim impact statements and Pomerance’s factual findings that will ultimately tell whether or not the attack was a terrorist act. That hearing is likely to be held in London at the request of the Afzaal family.
The public reaction to the verdict was immediate.
Each of us has the obligation, as individuals and as a society, to combat and confront hate in all its forms. This verdict does not exempt us from that responsibility. Rather, it should serve as an eternal reminder of the need to remain committed to this effort so that it never happens again.– Mayor of London, Josh Morgan
London Mayor Josh Morgan said: “While this represents an important step towards closure for the Muslim community and our city as a whole, it is by no means the end of that journey.
“No amount of justice can ever bring Our London Family back.
“Each of us has an obligation, as individuals and as a society, to combat and confront hate in all its forms,” Morgan said in his statement. :This verdict does not exempt us from that responsibility. Rather, it should serve as an eternal reminder of the need to remain committed to this effort so that it never happens again.
“The City of London is unwavering in its dedication to dismantling Islamophobia, racism and hate. We will spread to other communities lessons of understanding, inclusion and love. It is through all these actions that we will continue to honor the memory of Our London Family “
Throughout the trial, the prosecution argued that it was a terrorist act, defined in the Penal Code as an intentional murder motivated by a political, ideological or religious purpose, objective or cause, and whose objective was to intimidate the public or a segment of the public.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said on
We are relieved to see that the man who killed four members of #OurLondonFamily has been condemned. in all aspects.
We are relieved that justice has been served.
This is a moment of reflection and solidarity. With the family. With the community of London, Ontario.
We have to… pic.twitter.com/a8woB2EDK1
Pomerance told jurors they could find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder if they agree that the attack was planned and deliberate, or that it was a terrorist act, or a combination of both. Under Canadian law, jury deliberations and the reasons for a verdict are secret, so lawyers and the public will not know how or why the jury reached its decision. They do not need to specify whether terrorism was a factor in their decision.
Agreed facts versus defense, Crown arguments
During the trial, which began on September 11, the defense admitted that the defendant hit the family. According to the prosecution, the accused ran over the family with his truck motivated by political, ideological or religious ideas. They also say he intended to intimidate a segment of the population, Muslims, which is part of the Penal Code’s definition of terrorism.
“The Crown must prove that he planned and deliberated,” Pomerance told jurors in a three-hour argument in which he explained how to apply the law to the facts of the case before beginning deliberations.
“He did not know the members of the Afzaal family. He may not have planned to kill them individually. The question is, ‘did he formulate a plan and deliberate whether he would kill the Muslims he would encounter on his travels?’ ?'”
The court heard that on two other occasions in the days before hitting the Afzaal family, the defendant felt the need to drive toward a group of Muslims: once, on June 5, 2021, when he went to Toronto, where he knew It had a large Muslim population. , and again before, on June 6, while he was driving home from work.
Prosecutors normally don’t have to prove motive, but they do in the terrorism case, Pomerance told the jury.
“Terrorism does not have to be the only motivation, but it has to be, at least in part, the reason for the violence.”
For terrorism, the act of violence is not an end in itself, but rather an attempt to intimidate the public regarding their safety, he said.
“To intimidate is to frighten, to disturb the feeling of security, stability and belonging that citizens normally enjoy in a free and democratic society.”