‘Loving, friendly, gentle souls’: Mother of London attack victim mourns family

The Canadian Press

Published Thursday, January 4, 2024 5:23 am EST

Last updated Thursday January 4, 2024 2:38 pm EST

LONDON, Ont. -The mother of a woman killed in the Nathaniel Veltman truck attack in London, Ont., says she fears for her life every time she goes for a walk, as she vows to make sure the woman’s memories are preserved. loved ones of her murdered of her never fade away.

Tabinda Bukhari, whose daughter Madiha Salman was among those killed by the white supremacist, told Veltman’s sentencing hearing on Thursday that she was in Pakistan when the attack occurred and frantically tried to find out what had happened by phone and text messages.

Veltman, 23, was found guilty in November of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for hitting the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out for a walk on June 6, 2021.

Madiha Salman, 44, her husband Salman Afzaal, 46; her daughter Yumna, 15; and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed, while the couple’s nine-year-old son was seriously injured but survived.

Veltman’s trial was held in Windsor, Ontario, but the sentencing process, including the submission of victim impact statements, is taking place in London.

Bukhari said she was “stunned and shocked” that someone had attacked her family, calling them “the most loving, friendly, gentle souls.”

“It was outrageous,” Bukhari said at the hearing. “They never hurt anyone. Why would someone do that to them?

She said there are reminders of her murdered relatives everywhere and that the circumstances of their deaths haunt her.

“I miss them every second of the day. As I go for a walk I wonder if it will be the last.”

Bukhari, who moved from Pakistan to Canada to be with his family after the attack, vowed to ensure his memories are preserved.

“They’re not going anywhere. “I won’t let them fade away.”

Speaking outside the court before the hearing, the president of the London Council of Imams, Abd Alfatah Twakkal, called for a moment of decisive action to ensure cities are safe havens for people of all backgrounds “for the sake of our common humanity.” ”.

Veltman’s attack devastated the city and sparked national calls to combat Islamophobia.

His trial was the first in which Canadian anti-terrorism laws were presented to a jury in a first-degree murder trial.

Judge Renee Pomerance, who oversaw the trial, told jurors that they could convict Veltman of first-degree murder if they unanimously agreed that prosecutors had established that he intended to kill the victims and planned and deliberated his attack.

He also told jurors they could reach the same verdict if they determined the killings were terrorist activity.

The terrorism component is not a separate charge and jurors do not explain how they reach their verdict, so it is unclear what role, if any, the terrorism allegations played in their decision.

Pomerance can reach conclusions on that issue as part of the sentencing process.

Prosecutors had argued that the attack was an act of terrorism committed by a self-proclaimed white nationalist, while defense attorneys argued that Veltman had no criminal intent to kill the victims and did not deliberate or plan the attack.

During the trial, Veltman testified that he was influenced by the writings of a gunman who committed the mass murders of 51 Muslim worshipers at two New Zealand mosques in 2019.

He also said he had been considering using his truck, which he bought a month earlier, to carry out an attack and searched online for information about what happens when pedestrians are hit by cars at different speeds.

He told the jury he felt a “need” to beat the Afzaal family after seeing them walking along a sidewalk, adding that he knew they were Muslims because of the clothes they were wearing and noticed the man in the group had a beard.

Jurors also saw a video of Veltman telling a detective that his attack had been motivated by white nationalist beliefs. The court also heard he wrote a manifesto in the weeks before the attack, describing himself as a white nationalist and peddling baseless conspiracy theories about Muslims.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2024.

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