The jury in the trial of a man facing terror-related murder charges in the deaths of four members of a Muslim family in Ontario is set to hear from more witnesses today.
Federal prosecutors are arguing that Nathaniel Veltman was motivated by white nationalist beliefs, branding the attack as an act of terrorism.
Veltman is accused of deliberately hitting five members of the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out for a walk in London, Ont., on the evening of June 6, 2021.
He has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the attack.
Federal prosecutor Sarah Shaikh delivered her opening statement to the jury on Monday, alleging Veltman planned his attack for three months before driving his Dodge Ram truck directly at the family.
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 London attack. The couple’s nine-year-old son was also seriously hurt but survived.
Shaikh said Veltman drove his truck, which he’d bought just over two weeks before the attack, “pedal to the metal,” kicking up a cloud of dust as the vehicle surged over the sidewalk’s curb, striking his victims.
She said Veltman told detectives after he was arrested that his intentions were political, he’d left his home on the day of the attack looking for Muslims to kill and that he’d used a truck to send a message to others that vehicles can be used to attack Muslims.
None of these allegations has been proven in court.
Veltman, who wore an over-sized wrinkled black suit and white shirt, sat quietly in court as proceedings began but his hand was shaking when he tried to pour water into a paper cup on his desk. His lawyer Peter Ketcheson took the jug and filled his cup with some water.
Another of Veltman’s lawyers, Christopher Hicks, told reporters outside the courthouse on Monday evening that his client is “fine” and that he was taking notes during the first day of the trial.
Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance has said the trial is expected to last about eight weeks, not 12, after the Crown and defence agreed on shortening the list of witnesses.
Jury selection for the trial, which is taking place in Windsor, Ont., wrapped last week, with 14 jurors chosen.
Pomerance ruled last year that a change of venue was warranted in the case, moving the trial from London to Windsor. The reasons for that decision, as well as the evidence and arguments presented in court on the matter, cannot be disclosed due to a publication ban.