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Veltman sentencing: justice to deliver ruling for Ontario mass killer

The case of a man who killed four members of a Muslim family and injured a fifth in London, Ont., will wrap up Thursday with the judge’s sentencing decision.

Nathaniel Veltman, 23, was found guilty on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in November, with jurors returning to a packed courtroom in Windsor, Ont., after less than six hours of deliberation. The crimes come with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, but the question of what role, if any, terrorism played in the attack may be addressed on Thursday.

Veltman purposefully drove his truck into the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021. 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.

Three days of sentencing submissions were set aside with over 70 victim impact statements read into court in January, including one from the little boy who survived the attack.

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In the boy’s statement, he said he was left with a broken leg and collarbone and would eventually have to get a metal plate taken out of his leg and have to re-learn how to walk. He said since the attack, he’s had to leave the family home he lived in since he was three years old. He will never again get to enjoy any of the wonderful food his mother would cook, nor get to enjoy his father’s butter chicken, his sister’s pasta, or his grandmother’s potato wedges.

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The final day of sentencing submissions, on Jan. 23, saw Veltman apologize, telling the court “I want to take this opportunity to express my regret for the loss of the Afzaal family.” His words were dismissed by the victims’ family as the “strategic words” of a “killer.”

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Before Veltman spoke, the court heard arguments on whether his attack amounted to terrorism, with the Crown arguing he was a white supremacist with a plan to commit violence while the defence claimed he kept his beliefs to himself.

While the jury found Veltman guilty, Justice Renee Pomerance had instructed that there were two pathways to reach that decision: by way of deaths occurring during the commission of terrorism and/or by way of planned and deliberate deaths. Jurors did not disclose how they reached their decision. It is expected that Justice Pomerance will discuss the terrorism aspect in her sentencing decision on Thursday.

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Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse before the Jan. 23 hearing began, defence lawyer Peter Ketcheson said Veltman faces a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years on his first-degree murder convictions. The issue of a terrorism designation could become significant if and when Veltman applies for parole, he said.

A decision on the terrorism issue will also be significant for future cases, he said.

With files from The Canadian Press’ Maan Alhmidi. 

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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