Skip to content

Jurors in the London attack trial hear closing arguments from the Crown, defence

 Justice Renee Pomerance, left to right, Nathaniel Veltman, and Crown attorney Jennifer Moser are seen in court in Windsor, Ont. on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

A Crown prosecutor at the trial of a man accused of killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., told jurors during closing arguments on Tuesday that the 22-year-old committed an act of terrorism, while the defence lawyer maintained the accused is not guilty of the charges. 

Closing arguments are ongoing at the trial of Nathaniel Veltman, who has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

The trial has heard that Veltman hit the Afzaal family with his truck on June 6, 2021, while they were out for a walk. 

Salman Afzaal, 46; 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.

In the Windsor, Ont., courtroom where the trial is taking place, Crown attorney Fraser Ball said Veltman planned his attack for months, bought a large pickup truck on a loan and installed a heavy grill guard on it. 

Ball said Veltman had a message for Muslims in Canada that they would be killed like the Afzaal family if they didn't leave the country.

"That message was strong, that message was brutal and that message was terrifying," Ball said. "Actions speak louder than words. Mr. Veltman's actions were louder than a bomb."

Ball said Veltman wore a military-style bulletproof vest and a helmet on the day of the attack. 

"He was dressed like a solider. He wore his crusader shirt underneath," the Crown lawyer said. "He was hunting for Muslims to kill."

He said the evidence presented during the trial that began in September proves Veltman's guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 

"There is a mass of evidence proving Mr. Veltman's guilt," he said. "Eyewitnesses, the video, the murder weapon, the DNA, the crash data, scene photographs, the 911 call, the manifesto, the confession."

Earlier Tuesday, Veltman's defence lawyer, in his own closing arguments, argued his client is not guilty of the charges.

Christopher Hicks said Veltman didn't commit an act of terrorism and is not guilty of first-degree murder because he didn't have criminal intent to kill the victims and didn't deliberately plan the attack. 

Hicks said Veltman suffered from several mental disorders including severe depression, autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder and had ingested magic mushrooms two days before the attack. 

He said the attack was a "drug-induced hypomanic event" and that Veltman's conduct around the time of the attack demonstrates "elevated" and "unpredictable" behaviour. 

Hicks argued Veltman was not guilty of first- or second-degree murder but should still be held responsible for the deaths of the victims. 

"He was not capable of forming ... or did not form the intent necessary to convict for murder in the second degree," Hicks told the jury. 

"If you felt he didn't have (intent) or did not form the necessary intention for murder, he would still be responsible for the deaths of these people ... he would be guilty of manslaughter." 

Veltman has testified that he was influenced by the writings of a gunman who committed the 2019 mass killing of 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand. 

He also told jurors that he had been considering using his pickup truck, which he bought a month earlier, to carry out an attack and looked up information online about what happens when pedestrians get struck by cars at various speeds. 

Veltman testified that he ordered a bulletproof vest and a military-style helmet online in the month leading up to the attack and wore them on the day he ran down the Afzaal family. 

Veltman also told the jury that he felt an "urge" to hit the family with his truck after seeing them walking on a sidewalk, adding that he knew they were Muslims from the clothes they were wearing and he noticed that the man in the group had a beard.

Jurors have previously seen video of Veltman telling a detective that his attack had been motivated by white nationalist beliefs. 

Court has heard that he wrote a manifesto in the weeks before the attack, describing himself as a white nationalist and peddling unfounded conspiracy theories about Muslims.

The case is the first where Canada's terrorism laws are being put before a jury in a first-degree murder trial.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2023. 

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Looking for Ontario News? viewed on a mobile phone

Check out Village Report - the news that matters most to Canada, updated throughout the day.  Or, subscribe to Village Report's free daily newsletter: a compilation of the news you need to know, sent to your inbox at 6AM.