Terror charges laid against Nathaniel Veltman, accused in London, Ont. vehicle attack
LONDON, ONT. -- Federal and provincial Crown attorneys have laid terror charges against the man accused of intentionally driving into a Muslim family in London, Ont. killing four and injuring a child.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was facing four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in relation to the alleged vehicle attack.
At a court appearance Monday morning in London, Ont. prosecutors informed Veltman that they received consent to pursue terrorism charges under section 83 of the Criminal Code.
Veltman appeared before the court at 10 a.m.
Shortly after federal Crown attorney Sarah Shaikh spoke to the court saying that on June 9 prosecutors received consent to go ahead with terror proceedings.
Provincial Crown attorney Jennifer Moser also said that they had received consent on June 9 on the provincial level.
Veltman appeared in court last Thursday but the case was put over in order for him to apply for legal aid and obtain counsel.
At Monday's appearance Veltman still did not have legal counsel and the case was put over until June 21.
A publication ban has been placed on the proceedings.
The deceased have been identified as 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal.
The four family members were laid to rest over the weekend, meanwhile the couple’s nine-year-old son Fayez Afzaal has been recovering from serious injuries sustained in the attack. He was unable to attend the weekend funeral but has since been released from hospital.
Mubin Shaikh, a professor of public safety at Seneca College, says the decision represents a significant development.
“I'm pleasantly surprised, I thought they would not go ahead with terrorism charges. I thought, look its easier to prosecute homicide charges.”
Police have alleged that the attack on the evening of June 6, was a planned and premeditated act against Muslims.
The family had been out for an evening walk along Hyde Park Road at South Carriage Road when they were hit by a driver in a black pickup.
In a statement, London police say they worked in conjunction with the RCMP, Ministry of the Attorney General and Public Prosecution Service of Canada to determine the charges also "constitute terrorism offences."
Police are also reassure the public that "there is no further known or suspected threat to the public associated to the accused at this time," but added the investigation is ongoing.
Murray Faulkner, retired chief of the London Police Service, says he wants the public to focus on the bigger, more severe murder charges, as Canada's terrorism laws are designed to apply primarily prior to an event happening.
For a conviction under terrorism laws, Faulkner says three things must be proven.
“One, is it a criminal offence, and if he’s found guilty, that’s proven. Two was it for political, ideological purposes. And then three, which is a big step, is the intent, and that word is important, was the intent of the individual committing the crime for the purpose of intimidating the public or their safety.”
None of the charges have been proven in court. Veltman's next court appearance is set for June 21.
The London Muslim Mosque, which the family belonged to, has called for a national summit on Islamophobia between all levels of government.
A vigil for the family and a separate multi-faith walk each saw thousands of Londoners pour out to show support to the Muslim community.
- With files from CTV News London's Sean Irvine