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Canadian man was ‘hunting for Muslims to kill,’ prosecutors say

Families pay their respects in June 2021 at a makeshift memorial near the site where a man driving a pickup truck struck and killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, Canada
Families pay their respects in June 2021 at a makeshift memorial near the site where a man driving a pickup truck struck and killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, Canada - Copyright AFP Nicole OSBORNE
Families pay their respects in June 2021 at a makeshift memorial near the site where a man driving a pickup truck struck and killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, Canada - Copyright AFP Nicole OSBORNE
Michel COMTE

A Canadian man was “hunting for Muslims to kill” when he slammed his pickup truck into a family out on an evening stroll, the prosecution said in closing arguments Tuesday.

Nathaniel Veltman, now 22, is on trial for wiping out three generations of the Afzaal family in June 2021 in London, Ontario.

He pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder, which prosecutors say were premeditated, as well as one count of attempted murder. 

The case marks the first time a Canadian jury has been asked to consider a terrorism motive related to white supremacy.

While acknowledging Veltman’s responsibility for the killings, the defense said he should be convicted of a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Prosecutor Fraser Ball told the jury they have “everything you could possibly need to convict in this case,” including the defendant’s confession to police.

He said Veltman had penned a “terrorist manifesto,” found on his computer, in which he espoused white nationalism and described his hate for Muslims.

The accused “dressed like a soldier” wearing body armor and a helmet, and “pumped himself up” before the attack. “He was hunting for Muslims to kill,” Fraser said.

– ‘Pedal to the metal’ –

When Veltman passed the Afzaal family on a London street, the Crown attorney said, he turned his pick-up truck around and accelerated “pedal to the metal,” jumping the curb as he drove into them.

Bodies flew into the air.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah and her grandmother Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A nine-year-old boy orphaned in the ramming suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Veltman was arrested in a nearby parking lot and told police he wanted to “send a strong message” against Muslim immigration.

Ball said that message was “brutal and terrifying: Leave this country or you and your loved ones could be next.”

Defense lawyer Christopher Hicks argued that Veltman suffered from mental disorders and childhood traumas that led to “depression and anxiety.”

He also consumed three grams of hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms prior to the attack that, according to Hicks, left him feeling detached or disconnected from reality “as if in a dream or surreal state, a state of extreme confusion wherein his brain was in turmoil.”

“He is responsible for the deaths of these people,” Hicks concluded, but added that Veltman did not have the necessary “mental acuity for planning and deliberation” for murder or terrorism.

Veltman faces up to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

This was the deadliest anti-Muslim attack in Canada since a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017 that left six dead. The perpetrator of that shooting was not charged with terrorism.

AFP
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