Windsor court has heard 19 witnesses, including London residents, police, cab driver
Warning: This story contains distressing details.
Just under four weeks into the Nathaniel Veltman murder-terror trial, the Crown on Thursday rested its case against the 22-year-old accused of killing a Muslim family in London, Ont., in a targeted attack on June 6, 2021.
Proceedings in the trial, which is expected to last eight weeks, began Sept. 11 after jury selection in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor. Prosecutors called 19 witnesses, including residents of northwest London who witnessed the attack, the cab driver who was approached by the accused and told to call 911, police officers who dealt with Veltman after his arrest and the detective who interviewed him for hours at police headquarters.
The jury also heard testimony from officers who searched the accused's downtown London apartment and seized electronics, as well a sergeant who's an expert in digital forensics and analyzed the contents of a laptop, external hard drive, two USB thumb drives and a cellphone that investigators found in his apartment.
The trial is breaking until after the long Thanksgiving Day weekend and will continue Tuesday, when the jury will hear whether Veltman's defence lawyers, Christopher Hicks and Peter Ketcheson, will get into any evidence.
The defence doesn't have to call any evidence or witnesses because in the Canadian justice system, the burden is on the Crown to prove their case.
Veltman is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terrorism charges.
The defence has conceded that he was driving a black Dodge Ram pickup truck that struck the Afzaal family at the intersection of Fanshawe Park and South Carriage roads in London.
Four members of the family were killed: Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74. A nine-year-old boy survived.
The accused was arrested at Cherryhill Mall following the attack, after approaching a cab driver and asking him to call 911. A video of the encounter as well the 911 call made by the cabbie were played for the jury during the Crown's presentations of their case.
What jurors have heard so far
Here's what else has been presented to jurors:
- The Crown believes the killings were planned and deliberate, and they were acts of terrorism because they were guided by an ideology.
- In the four months before the attack on the Afzaal family, the accused downloaded videos of two shootings and two manifestos left by men later convicted of terrorism.
- Prior to leaving his apartment on June 6, 2021, the accused watched a video of a mass shooting in New Zealand and read a manifesto written by the convicted terrorist who perpetrated that crime. In a video played of his police interview, Veltman told police he was inspired by this man and his actions, and he himself hoped to inspire others.
- When he was arrested, the accused was wearing a military-style helmet and bulletproof vest, as well as a T-shirt with a large cross spray-painted on both the front and back. He told the police in an interview that the shirt was a nod to the Crusades.
- During a police interview hours after the attack, the accused laid out his reasons for killing the family, rooted in white supremacy and the belief that mass immigration and Muslim crimes perpetrated against white people had to be stopped.
- In his own manifesto, titled "A White Awakening," parts of which were read to the jury, the accused rails against globalism, multiculturalism, cancel culture and crimes against white people, and advocates for a society of white Europeans.
Before closing its case Thursday, prosecutors showed the jury videos of the accused on June 5, 2021, as captured on surveillance cameras in his apartment building. He is seen taking boxes, a wooden pallet and other items to the garbage room in the building.
Justice Renee Pomerance has cautioned the jury against reading any media coverage of the trial or discussing it with anyone.
Pomerance has also told the jury that despite the fact the accused's views of the world are offensive, they must not convict him simply because he holds those views. Rather, the judge added, jurors must weigh the evidence presented to them without bias or emotion.
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