Attacker in a van in Toronto has been sentenced to life in prison
The man responsible for a fatal attack on a van in Toronto four years ago was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
The 29-year-old killer was found guilty of the murder of 10 people and the attempted murder of 16 last year. Judge Anne Malloy delivered her verdict in a crowded Toronto court filled with families of the victims.
Eight women and two men died after the killer rammed a van onto a busy sidewalk. Another woman, Amaresh Tesfamariam, 65, died years later from injuries sustained in the April 23, 2018 attack. Judge Malloy said in a hearing Monday that he considered her the eleventh victim of the man’s crimes. During last year’s ruling, Judge Malloy refused to name the assailant, instead referring to him as John Doe, saying he would not give him the fame “he sought from the beginning”.
The man rented the van for about three weeks before using it as a weapon on one of Toronto’s main streets. He told investigators that his goal was to kill as many people as possible and that he drew inspiration from the misogynistic “Incel” movement, made up mostly of online groups of young men angry at their lack of sexual activity.
Among his victims were 80-year-old grandmother Dorothy Sewell, 45-year-old single mother Renuka Amarasinghe and 22-year-old Ji Hun Kim, a student from South Korea. Asked by the investigators how he felt about the damage he had done, the attacker replied at that moment: “I feel I have accomplished my mission.”
Later, when he was charged with first degree murder, his lawyers argued that he was not criminally responsible for his autism spectrum disorder.
Judge Malloy rejected this claim last year, saying the attack was “the act of a reasoning mind”. “A lack of empathy for the suffering of victims, even the inability to empathize, for whatever reason, is no defence,” she said.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, more than a dozen friends and family members of the victims gave statements describing how the crime had affected their lives. “When I heard about his death, my whole world collapsed around me,” said So Ra, who was with his friend Sohe Chung when they were both beaten.
“I felt empty inside, like I had a huge hole in my heart that couldn’t be filled.”
Another victim impact statement was a drawing by Renuka Amarasinghe’s nine-year-old son. The image, which appeared to be colored pencil and contained no words, showed the boy with his late mother.
Prosecutors had been seeking a 25-year consecutive sentence for each death, leaving the van attacker ineligible for 250 years of probation. But a separate Supreme Court case involving a man who killed six people at a Quebec mosque has ruled consecutive sentences unconstitutional, meaning the van attacker is eligible for parole in 25 years.