London

Accused in fatal London, Ont., truck attack now has a Toronto lawyer, court told

The man facing murder and terrorism charges in the hit and run of a London, Ont., family earlier this month now has a Toronto lawyer, court was told Monday.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20 — charged with murder, attempted murder, terrorism — in brief hearing Monday

Yumna Afzaal, 15, left, Madiha Salman, 44, centre left, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, right, were out for an evening walk June 6 when they were run over by a man who police say was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. (Submitted by Afzaal family)

The man facing murder and terrorism charges in the hit and run of a London, Ont., family earlier this month now has a lawyer, court was told Monday.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, faces four first-degree murder charges, one attempted murder charge and associated terrorism charges. Police and prosecutors allege the attack involving a truck was an act of anti-Muslim hate. 

The accused's lawyer is Christopher Hicks of Toronto, the hearing from Ontario Superior Court, via video link from the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre, was told.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Salman's mother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed in the June attack by a black pickup truck. The youngest member of the family, a nine-year-old boy, is the only survivor. He's been released from hospital and is being cared for by extended family. 

Veltman was arrested a short drive from the scene of the crash.

No word on bail hearing

During Monday's virtual hearing, his hands were clasped in front of him. Wearing an orange jail-issued T-shirt and pants, Veltman stared straight ahead as lawyers discussed when to schedule his next hearing. 

Federal and provincial prosecutors told the court they would be sending disclosure — the evidence gathered against Veltman by police and the Crown —  to Hicks by July 23 at the latest. 

Veltman's appearance from the detention centre was delayed because he was appearing at the same time in another virtual courtroom, this one to do with his parents' divorce filings. 

When Veltman was first charged after the June 6 attack, reporters — including CBC News journalists — accessed publicly available divorce records from family court. A London court placed what's called a sealing order on those, saying they were released "due to inadvertence." 

On Monday morning, a hearing was held about whether those family law documents should be unsealed. CBC News was not represented at that hearing because it already has the documents. The outcome of the hearing will be updated when it becomes available. 

Federal prosecutors upgraded Veltman's murder and attempted murder charges to include terrorism.

Under the Criminal Code, terror charges can be laid when prosecutors believe a crime is committed for a political, religious or ideological purpose, for the purpose of intimidating the public or a segment of the public. 

Veltman hasn't had a bail hearing yet or entered a plea. Asked Monday if any thought had been given to a bail hearing, a law student representing Hicks at the hearing said she didn't have any instructions about that yet. 

Hicks said Monday it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the case at this time. 

Flag-wrapped coffins are seen outside the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, during a funeral June 12 for the Afzaal family, killed in what police describe as a hate-motivated attack. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

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