London, Ont. attacker Nathaniel Veltman guilty of all charges
Nathaniel Veltman has been found guilty on four counts of first-degree murder and guilty of one count of attempted murder.
Veltman, 22, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for a June 2021 attack on a Muslim family. Veltman pleaded not guilty.
Thirteen jurors heard evidence over the last 11 weeks but one juror was chosen at random Wednesday afternoon to be removed from deliberations because a verdict can only be decided by 12 according to the Criminal Code.
The jury began its deliberations Wednesday around 6:30 p.m. and started again Thursday morning around 9 a.m.
They returned to the courtroom at 1:15 p.m. with the following verdicts:
Count 1 – murder Salman Afzaal : Guilty
Count 2 – murder Madiha Afzaal : Guilty
Count 3 – murder Talat Afzaal : Guilty
Count 4 – murder Yumnah Afzaal : Guilty
Count 5 – attempted murder (young boy) : Guilty
Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha Salman, their daughter Yumnah Afzaal and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother Talat were killed June 6 as they were out for an evening stroll. Nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal survived. (File)
Statement from Mayor Josh Morgan
"No amount of justice can ever bring back Our London Family.
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. It is one that continues, and it is one that we will undertake together. Each of us has an obligation, as individuals and as a society, to combat and confront hatred in all its forms. 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.
It is my sincerest hope that Londoners, and all Canadians, will continue to support and care for each other as we did in the days, weeks, and months after June 6th, 2021, and throughout the duration of this trial. The City of London is unwavering in its dedication to dismantling Islamophobia, racism, and hate. We will spread to other communities lessons in understanding, inclusivity, and love.
It is through all of these actions that we will continue to honour the memory of Our London Family."
Summary of the case
In closing arguments, the defence asked the jury to consider manslaughter or second degree murder, arguing the Crown had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Veltman planned and deliberated his attack and that he intended to kill.
They also relied heavily on the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist who believed Veltman was in a "depersonalized" state at the time of the attack because of his mental illnesses, was suffering from "adverse effects" of consuming psilocybin and grief over the lost of his great-grandmother.
The prosecution on the other hand, asked the jury to dismiss all of the psychiatrist’s evidence, arguing it was based almost entirely on self-reporting of symptoms by Veltman himself and that the "adverse effects" are an "educated guess" and aren’t based on science but supported by one online survey.
The Crown asserted that Veltman planned his attack for months by purchasing a vehicle he couldn’t afford, body armor that was difficult to purchase, researching vehicle speed versus injury equations and writing a hateful manifesto outlining his "toxic beliefs" about Muslims.
Statement from the Afzaal Family:
"We, the relatives of our beloved 'Our London Family,' Salman, Talat, Madiha, Yumnah, and Fayez, wish to convey our gratitude for the support and solidarity expressed during these last 2.5 difficult years. We have felt this immense support from friends, family, and strangers throughout Canada from all walks of life, including those from various colours, creeds, and religions. We can never truly convey how meaningful everyone’s outpouring of support has been. The affirmation that our neighbours and friends stand with us is valued beyond measure.
We want to thank each, and every person involved in this process. From the first responders, the police, those at the scene, the witnesses, the team of crown attorneys, the jury, the judge, and to all those involved in the pursuit of justice, we cannot thank you enough.
While this verdict does not bring our loved ones back, it is a recognition by the justice system that the perpetrator of these heinous crimes is indeed a murderer and a terrorist. He intended to instill fear and terror in our hearts. However, this wasn’t just a crime against the Muslim community, but rather, an attack against the safety and security of all Canadians.
The enduring grief, trauma, and the irreplaceable void left by the loss of multiple generations has pierced us profoundly. The victims, who were valuable contributors to the Canadian society through their hard work and education, were taken away abruptly, leaving a 9-year-old orphaned. Their loss and our pain will always remain palpable. This tragedy underscores the critical need for urgent societal reflection and action.
This trial and verdict are a reminder that there is still much work to be done to address hatred in all forms that lives in our communities. His actions were intended to drive people apart. This trial forced us to return to that intersection once again. That dreadful crossroad where the very best & worst of humanity converged two and a half years ago. That juxtaposition between the diabolical intentions of a hell-bent criminal, and the love expressed by beautiful, teary-eyed strangers has become a catalyst for unity and justice.
This verdict represents to us, some solace for the crimes that were committed on that fateful day, June 6, 2021, which will forever be imprinted in our memory.
We have not been grieving alone. We are not healing alone. We pray that we can move forward to build a decent and just society.
We remember. We mourn. We heal. We will move forward together."
— With files from The Canadian Press