A Canadian man inspired by white nationalist beliefs has been found guilty of murdering four members of a Muslim family by running them over with a pick-up truck in an attack that sent waves of shock, grief and fear across the country and spurred calls to tackle Islamophobia.
On Thursday, 22-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, who had railed against immigration and Islam, was convicted of attacking the family in the Ontario town of London in June 2021.
“He was hunting for Muslims to kill,” prosecutor Fraser Ball said in closing arguments, adding that Veltman had donned body armour and a shirt bearing a crusader emblem.
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Salman Afzaal, 46; his wife, Madiha Salman, 44; their daughter Yumnah, 15; and Afzaal’s mother, Talat, 74, were killed. The couple’s nine-year-old son suffered serious injuries but survived. The family, originally from Pakistan, had been out for a walk near their home.
Prosecutors called the attack an act of “terrorism”, and Veltman, convicted on four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder, faces life imprisonment with no chance for parole for 25 years.
During the 10-week trial, the jury heard that Veltman had authored a far-right screed in which he described his hatred of Islam and opposition to mass immigration and multiculturalism.
After driving directly into the family, Veltman gave himself up to the police and said he had wanted to “send a strong message” against Muslim immigration.
In the manifesto, Veltman wrote, “I am a white nationalist,” and said white people were “facing genocide”. Prosecutors said he also repeatedly watched the video of a mass shooting by a white supremacist in New Zealand that killed 51 people.
For members of Canada’s vibrant Muslim community, Ball said, that the message was terrifyingly clear: “Leave this country or you and your loved ones could be next.”
The attack, which left three generations of the family dead and pieces of the victims’ clothing stuck to the front of Veltman’s truck, was the deadliest against Canada’s Muslim community since 2017 when a man, who had consumed far-right anti-Muslim material, gunned down six people in a Quebec City mosque.
The defence argued that Veltman suffered from numerous mental health issues and had asked that his charges be downgraded to manslaughter.
A sentencing hearing was scheduled for December 1.
“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,” London Mayor Josh Morgan said in a social media post on Thursday.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims posted on X that it was “relieved that justice has been served”, adding, “We have to reflect deeply on the violent Islamophobia that has gripped our country.”
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.
This is a time for reflection and solidarity. With the family. With the community in London, Ontario.
We have to… pic.twitter.com/a8woB2EDK1
— NCCM (@nccm) November 16, 2023