Nathaniel Veltman, a Canadian man accused of deliberately running over and killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday as jury selection for his trial began. Veltman is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for allegedly hitting the Afzaal family members with his truck on the evening of June 6, 2021.
During the court proceedings, defense lawyer Christopher Hicks entered not-guilty pleas on Veltman’s behalf. Veltman, dressed in a long-sleeve white shirt and black pants, sat quietly between his defense lawyers Hicks and Peter Ketcheson, during the jury selection process. The trial, expected to last 12 weeks, will continue with jury selection on Wednesday.
Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance ruled last year that a change of venue was necessary, moving the trial from London to Windsor, Ontario. The reasons for this decision, as well as the evidence and arguments presented in court, are subject to a publication ban.
The victims of the attack were Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah, and Salman’s 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal. The couple’s 9-year-old son was also seriously injured but survived. Pomerance stated that the prosecution alleges Veltman, who was 20 at the time of his arrest, was motivated by extremist right-wing views associated with white supremacy when he intentionally drove his truck over the curb to strike the Muslim family members. It is important to note that none of these allegations have been proven in court.
The attack on the Afzaal family sent shockwaves of grief and fear across Canada, prompting calls for measures to combat Islamophobia in the country. In honor of the victims, the City of London dedicated a garden to the Afzaal family.