A Canadian man who used his truck to run down a Muslim family out for a walk has been found guilty in Canada's first murder trial in which jurors were asked to consider a terrorism motive related to white supremacy.
Nathaniel Veltman, 22, was convicted on Thursday of four counts of first-degree or premeditated murder and one count of attempted murder.
He faces up to life in prison when sentenced.
He acknowledged striking the Afzaal family with his pick-up truck in June 2021 in London, Ontario, which left three generations of the family dead and a young boy orphaned.
The prosecution argued at trial that he was motivated by white supremacist ideology and sought to intimidate or terrorise Muslims.
The defence said he'd suffered a mental decline — which did not, however, meet the requirements for an insanity plea — and was in "a state of extreme confusion" after consuming hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms that weekend.
"Today's verdict is a monumental step in the fight against hate and Islamophobia," Imam Abdul Fattah Twakkal said outside the courthouse.
"It sets a precedent against white nationalist terrorism," he said. "It sends a clear message that such hate has no place in our society."
But he added, "the evidence that came out of this trial shows us that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the next radicalised young man is not out there."
Tabinda Bukhari, the mother of one of the adult victims, told reporters: "The enduring grief, trauma and the irreplaceable void left by the loss of multiple generations of one family has pierced us profoundly."
The verdict, she added, provides "some solace."
'Muslims to kill'
The jury, in the almost 10-week trial, heard Veltman had penned a "terrorist manifesto," found on his computer, in which he espoused white nationalism and described his hate for Muslims.
He "dressed like a soldier," wearing body armour and a helmet, with a "crusader T-shirt" with a red cross, prosecutor Fraser Ball said in closing arguments earlier this week.
"He was hunting for Muslims to kill," he said.
During the trial, Veltman testified he was influenced by the writings of a gunman who committed the 2019 mass killings of 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand.
He told jurors he had been considering using his pickup for an attack and looked up information online about what happens when pedestrians get struck by cars at various speeds.
He told the jury he felt an "urge" to hit the family when he saw them walking on a sidewalk, saying he knew they were Muslims from the clothes they were wearing.
'Brutal and terrifying'
When Veltman passed the Afzaal family on a London street on that warm Sunday evening, the Crown attorney said, he turned his pick-up truck around and accelerated "pedal to the metal," jumping the curb as he drove into them.
Bodies flew into the air.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah and her grandmother Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed.
A nine-year-old boy orphaned in the ramming suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries.
Bits of the victims' clothing were found embedded in the grill of Veltman's truck after he surrendered in a nearby parking lot.
He told police he'd wanted to "send a strong message" against Muslim immigration.
Ball said that message was "brutal and terrifying: leave this country or you and your loved ones could be next."
The defence argued that a combination of mental disorders, childhood traumas and drug use left Veltman feeling detached or disconnected from reality.
The attack two years ago "changed Canadian Muslims' relationship with their country," said Omar Khamissa, head of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
"For the first time for many of us, we felt unsafe and targeted just for walking down the street."