In a significant development at the London, Ont., attack trial, the accused Nathaniel Veltman, 22, is set to testify in his own defence today, as announced by his defence lawyer, Christopher Hicks. This case has gripped national attention, marking the first time Canada’s terrorism laws are being scrutinized in a first-degree murder trial.
Details from the Defence
After delivering his opening statement to the jury this Thursday morning, Hicks declared that Veltman would be the first witness called by the defence. In addition, he mentioned that an expert witness, Dr. Julian Gojer, would contribute to the defence’s evidence.
“Dr. Gojer is qualified to talk about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, OCD, depression, psychosis, complex trauma and other subjects but most importantly as you will see, about hallucinogenic substances,” Hicks informed the jury, also adding, “You can believe all, part, or none of what he says to you.”
Despite acknowledging the gravity of the incident where “four innocent people died,” Hicks emphasized the importance of a rational approach towards the case. He highlighted the concept of “intention to kill” which is crucial for a murder conviction. He stated, “Our position is that an intention to kill was not formed.”
Hicks further reminded the jury of the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty. “The only presumption in the court of law is the presumption of innocence and it exists until you say otherwise,” he asserted.
Revisiting the Prosecution’s Arguments
In the early weeks of the trial, nearly 20 witnesses presented evidence, including police interviews, manifestos, and video surveillance. Federal prosecutor Sarah Shaikh had earlier presented her opening statement, arguing that Veltman was driven by white nationalist beliefs. According to Shaikh, Veltman meticulously planned his attack for three months, culminating in him driving his newly bought Dodge Ram truck straight at the Afzaal family.
Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and grandmother, Talat Afzaal, 74, tragically lost their lives in this assault. Their nine-year-old son suffered serious injuries but managed to survive. On September 27, the official causes of death, listed as “multiple trauma,” were read out to the jury, noting that Talat Afzaal likely succumbed instantly upon impact.
Following the defence announcement, the court session took a brief recess. As the trial continues, all eyes will be on the testimony of Nathaniel Adam Richard Veltman and the subsequent proceedings.