Nathaniel Veltman is a killer from London Ontario Canada who was convicted of the murders of a Muslim family
According to court documents Nathaniel Veltman planned the attack for months before the murder of the Afzaal family in 2021. On the day of the murders Veltman would drive a pickup truck into the Afzaal family killing four people and injuring one more. Salman Afzaal, 46; his wife, Madiha Salman, 44; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna; and 74-year-old grandmother Talat Afzaal would be killed and their nine year old son was badly injured. Veltman hoped the brutal attack would convince Muslims to leave Canada
Nathaniel Veltman would be arrested and convicted of four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Due to Canada law he faces a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for twenty five years
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Nathaniel Veltman Case
The Ontario jury in the Nathaniel Veltman trial in Windsor has found him guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the truck attack on a Muslim family in London in 2021, a verdict that drew tears and intense reaction, including from relatives of the victims.
The 12-member jury in the more than 10-week trial began deliberations on Wednesday and released its verdict Thursday afternoon after just six hours
The Afzaals were out for an evening walk in suburban London when they were struck by a truck — which was driven by Nathaniel 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 also injured in the attack survived.
Shortly after the verdict, the family released a statement that the mom of one of the victims read to reporters outside the courthouse.
The family expressed gratitude to everyone who supported them and showed solidarity over the last two-plus years.
“While this verdict does not bring back our loved ones, it is a recognition by the justice system that the perpetrator of these heinous crimes … intended to instil fear and terror in our hearts,” said Tabinda Bukhari, the mother of Madiha Salman.
“However, this wasn’t just a crime against the Muslim community, but rather an attack against the safety and security of all Canadians.
“This trial and verdict are a reminder there is still much work to be done to address hatred in all forms that lives in our communities,” Bukhari added.
In the wake of the attack on a warm June 6, 2021, day, it was condemned across Canada and around the world, after police labelled it a hate crime related to anti-Muslim sentiments.
The 22-year-old had pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder and associated terror charges in the attack on the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021. First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
The defence had argued Nathaniel Veltman didn’t intend to kill the family, so made a case for him to be convicted of manslaughter.
Judge acknowledges emotional trial
The public gallery in Ontario Superior Court was full Thursday as people waited for the jury, the lawyers and the 22-year-old to enter. Members of the Muslim community cried and hugged as they awaited the verdict. One person handed out tissues for those walking into the courtroom.
Before the jury delivered its verdict, Justice Renee Pomerance told the packed courtroom she knew the trial had been an emotional and difficult one, but asked that the public refrain from reacting visibly to jurors’ findings.
Despite the urgings of the judge, gasps could be heard in the courtroom and many people cried as the jury foreperson said, “We find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder.”
Nathaniel Veltman stared straight ahead as the decision was delivered and showed no emotion.
A court date has been set for Dec. 1, when it’s expected a sentencing hearing date will be determined. That hearing will be held in London at the Afzaal family’s request, during which there will be victim impact statements and the judge will speak.
Outside the courthouse Thursday, defence lawyer Christopher Hicks told reporters that his client is in shock and absorbing the idea of at least 25 years in prison.
Hicks also said it’s not clear if terror played any role in the jury’s verdict, and the judge may speak about that aspect of the case at the sentencing hearing.
“The judge can take her own view of the facts — the jury’s decision doesn’t say whether they found him guilty of first-degree murder according to the Criminal Code … or because of the terrorism allegations. We don’t know. We can’t ask the jury any questions. We’ll see what the judge says at the sentencing hearing.”
The trial was moved to Windsor well before proceedings began. Until the jury went out for deliberations, reasons for the relocation were under a publication ban, but they can now be reported. Pomerance ruled in August 2022 that the trial should be moved from London because of the intense media coverage of the incident, including comments from the prime minister, Ontario premier and London mayor that condemned the attack.
In reacting to the verdict, London Mayor Josh Morgan said, “While this represents an important step towards closure for the Muslim community, and our city at large, it is by no means the end of that journey.
“No amount of justice can ever bring back Our London Family.
“Each of us has an obligation, as individuals and as a society, to combat and confront hatred in all its forms,” Morgan said in his statement. “This verdict does not absolve us of that responsibility. Instead, it must serve as an eternal reminder of the need to remain committed to this effort so that it never happens again.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “justice was served” and encouraged people to continue to fight Islamophobia.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution argued it was a terrorist act, one defined in the Criminal Code as an intentional killing motivated by a political, ideological or religious purpose, objective or cause, and one intended to intimidate the public or a segment of the public.
NCCM relieved ‘justice has been done’
The National Council of Canadian Muslims posted on X: “We are relieved to see that the man who killed four members of #OurLondonFamily has been convicted on all counts. We are relieved that justice has been served.”
London’s three NDP members of provincial parliament issued a release saying, “Today’s verdict brings well-deserved justice for the Afzaal family and the London community. Our community’s loss, with multiple generations of a family lost to hate, is irreparable.
“Our hearts are with the Afzaal family and their loved ones today. We are thinking of everyone in the community as we continue to mourn this loss together,” added the release from MPPs Teresa Armstrong (London—Fanshawe), Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre) and Peggy Sattler (London West).
Pomerance told jurors they could find the accused guilty of first-degree murder if they agree the attack was planned and deliberate, or if it was a terrorist act, or a combination of the two. 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 came to their decision. They do not need to specify if terrorism was a factor in their decision.
Agreed facts vs. defence, Crown arguments
During the trial, the defence conceded the accused struck the family. According to the prosecution, the accused was motivated by political, ideological or religious ideas when he drove his truck into the family. They also say he intended to intimidate a segment of the population — Muslim people — which is part of the Criminal Code definition of terrorism.
“The Crown must prove that he planned and deliberated,” Pomerance told jurors in a three-hour charge explaining how to apply the law to the facts of the case before they began deliberations.
“He didn’t know the members of the Afzaal family. He might not have planned to kill them as individuals. The question is, ‘Did he formulate a plan and deliberate about whether he would kill Muslims that he would come across in his travels?'”
Court heard that on two other occasions in the days before running over the Afzaal family in 2021, the accused had urges to drive into a group of Muslim people:
On June 5, when he went to Toronto, which he knew had a large Muslim population. On June 6, while driving home from work.
Prosecutors usually don’t have to prove motive, but they do in the case of terrorism, Pomerance told the jury.
“Terrorism need not 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 as it relates to their security, she said.
“To intimidate is to frighten, to disrupt the feeling of safety, stability and belonging that is ordinarily enjoyed by citizens in a free and democratic society.”