Nathaniel Veltman trial Canadian gets life imprisonment for killing Muslim

Nathaniel Veltman trial: Canadian gets life imprisonment for killing Muslim family

February 22, 2024

Image Source: Courtesy of Saboor Khan

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Left to right: Yumna Afzaal, Madiha Salman, Salman's mother Talat Afzaal and Salman Afzaal were “the best” in their community, friends said

A Canadian who killed four members of a Muslim family has been sentenced to life in prison as a judge ruled his actions constituted “white nationalist” terrorism.

Nathaniel Veltman, 22, was sentenced to five life sentences – four for murder and one for attempted murder.

Veltman was found guilty by a jury in November.

He ran over the family with his truck in 2021 as they were walking in London, Ontario.

Salman Afzaal, 46, and his wife Madiha Salman, 44, were killed by Veltman when he hit them with his truck. Their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Mr Afzaal's 74-year-old mother, Talat Afzaal, also died in the attack. The couple's nine-year-old son was seriously injured.

According to evidence presented at trial, Veltman targeted the family indiscriminately after spotting the two women in the family wearing traditional Pakistani clothing.

Superior Court Judge Renee Pomerance said Veltman was “seeking a place in the spotlight” when he attacked the family.

“I hope that the feeling of fear and intimidation will not be a lasting message from these actions,” she said at his sentencing on Thursday, according to the London Free Press newspaper.

The judge found that Veltman had “selected innocent victims he had never met,” and after the crimes he confessed to police and displayed the OK symbol — an everyday gesture that white supremacists have tried to co-opt.

“He wanted to commit a crime against all Muslims by threatening their safety,” she said.

Veltman is not eligible for parole for 25 years.

The case marked the first time a Canadian jury heard legal arguments about white supremacist terrorism.

An unprecedented number of victim impact statements – nearly 70 – were made in court during a previous sentencing hearing in January.

Many comments highlighted the irreparable harm suffered by the Afzaals' relatives and friends – particularly the family's orphaned son.

“He was robbed of all innocence that day,” said Sayeda Sidra Jamal, a relative of Madiha Salman.

Ms Jamal told the hearing of fears the attack was spreading among the Muslim community in London.

“Will someone else target us? Dehumanize us? Hurt us? Kill us?” she said.

A statement written by the son was also read out at the hearing in January.

The boy said he was “very sad that I can no longer talk to my family and make new memories with them.”

“I will have to have the metal plate in my leg removed, which will be painful, and I will have to learn to walk again,” he wrote.

He ended his statement with a message “to all little children.”

“You may think that your siblings are really annoying, and to be honest I thought the same about Yumnah, but when they leave you would like to argue with them one last time,” he wrote.

The Afzaal family moved to Canada from Islamabad in 2007. Her killing sparked concern in the wider Muslim community in London and Canada following the attack.

In a statement in January, Veltman spoke of his “deep regret” over the killings.

“Over the days, months and years following June 6th … I have seen the extent of pain and suffering that my actions have caused,” he said.

Speaking to reporters outside court Thursday, Veltman's attorney, Christopher Hicks, said he had awaited the judge's ruling on terrorism and left open the possibility of an appeal of the ruling.

Image source: Getty Images

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The Afzaal family's coffins were draped in Canadian flags during a memorial service shortly after the murders

During the trial, Veltman defended himself, saying he was scarred by a strict Christian upbringing and struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

He also said that he became cut off from reality after taking magic mushrooms in the days leading up to the family's destruction.

However, Judge Pomerance rejected those arguments at Thursday's sentencing, saying they did not explain his actions. She said that Veltman “gained his anger from internet sources.”

Evidence presented in court showed that Veltman was working on a document calling for violence a month before the murders and that he was influenced by mass killings in New Zealand and Norway.

“The tentacles of hate can reach a wide audience when they are just a click away,” the judge said.