Nathaniel Veltman guilty on all counts in London, Ont., attack

The weeks-long trial of Nathaniel Veltman in the murders of four members of London, Ontario's Afzaal family has come to an end. Reporter Ziad Araboughly describes the reactions of the victims' family, and of the accused, as the verdicts were read.

By News Staff and The Canadian Press

Nathaniel Veltman has been found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the killing of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont.

The jury delivered its verdict following roughly five hours of deliberation after receiving final instructions from Justice Renee Pomerance.

It was the first case where Canada’s terrorism laws were put before a jury in a first-degree murder trial.

The 22-year-old had pleaded not guilty to deliberately hitting the Afzaal family with his truck on June 6, 2021, while they were out for a walk.

Forty-six-year-old Salman Afzaal; his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna; and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed in the attack, while the couple’s nine-year-old son was seriously hurt but survived.

Prosecutors argued that Veltman carried out a terrorist act and should be convicted on all charges.

The defence argued Veltman was not guilty of first-degree murder, nor did he commit an act of terrorism, because he didn’t have criminal intent to kill the victims and didn’t deliberately plan the attack.

Sentencing for Veltman will be held at a later date.

Justice Renee Pomerance, left to right, Nathaniel Veltman, and Crown Prosecutor Kim Johnson are seen as the verdict is read in the Superior Court of Justice in Windsor, Ont., in a courtroom sketch made on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

Outside the courthouse, defence lawyer Christopher Hicks said Pomerance “can take her own view of the facts” in regards to the terror element during the sentencing process.

He said his client is “in shock” because first-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

“So that’s a shock to him and he’s absorbing that,” Hicks said.

Family members say while they are pleased with Thursday’s decision, the trial and verdict are a reminder that there is still much work to be done to address hatred in all forms.

“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 is indeed a murderer and a terrorist,” said Tabinda Bukhari, the mother of Madiha Salman. “He intended to instill fear and terror in our hearts. However, this wasn’t just a crime against a Muslim community but rather an attack against the safety and security of all Canadians.”

Omar Khamissa, chief operating officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said Veltman’s name “will end up on the trash pile of history,” adding he would never forget “the evil that was revealed inside that courtroom.”

“And if I will never forget, what to say of the family? What to say of the London community? What to say of the Muslim community of Canada?”

The NCCM released a list of recommendations to fight anti-Muslim hate across Canada, including calling on the federal and provincial governments to commit to anti-Islamophobia strategies in education and provide resources.

The federal government hosted a summit on Islamophobia in July 2021 to hear Muslim Canadians’ ideas and insights on how Ottawa could prevent attacks targeting their community. In January, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed journalist and human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby as Canada’s first special representative to combat Islamophobia

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