A Crown prosecutor at the trial of a man accused of killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., is telling jurors the 22-year-old committed an act of terrorism.
Closing arguments are underway 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 in London.
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 says Veltman planned his attack for months, bought a large pickup truck on a loan and installed a heavy grill guard on it.
Ball says 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.”
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.”