Toronto van attacker sentenced to life in prison

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The man responsible for a deadly van attack in Toronto four years ago has been sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

The 29-year-old killer was found guilty last year of murdering 10 people and attempting to murder 16.

Justice Anne Malloy delivered her sentence in a crowded Toronto court filled with victims’ loved ones.

Eight women and two men died after the killer ploughed a van down a busy pavement.

Another woman, Amaresh Tesfamariam, 65, died more than three years later in connection with injuries sustained in the attack on 23 April 2018. Justice Malloy said at Monday’s hearing that she considered her the 11th victim of the man’s crimes.

Throughout the ruling last year, Justice Malloy refused to name the attacker, referring to him instead as John Doe, and said she would not give him the notoriety “he sought from the start”.

The man rented the van some three weeks before he used it as a weapon on a major Toronto street. He told investigators he had set out to kill as many people as possible and that he drew inspiration from the misogynistic “incel” movement of mostly online groups of young men who are angry at their lack of sexual activity.

His victims included 80-year-old grandmother Dorothy Sewell, 45-year-old single mother Renuka Amarasinghe and Ji Hun Kim, 22, a student from South Korea.

Asked by investigators how he felt about the harm he had caused, the attacker replied at the time: “I feel like I accomplished my mission.”

Later, facing charges of first-degree murder, his lawyers argued he was not criminally responsible due to his autism spectrum disorder.

Justice Malloy dismissed this claim last year, saying the attack was the “act of a reasoning mind”.

“Lack of empathy for the suffering of victims, even an incapacity to empathise for whatever reason, does not constitute a defence,” she said.

During the sentencing on Monday, over a dozen friends and family members of victims gave impact statements, describing how the crime has affected their lives.

“When I heard about her death, my whole world crashed down around me,” said So Ra, who was walking with her friend, Sohe Chung, when they were both struck.

“I felt empty inside like I had a huge hole in my heart, which could not be filled.”

Another victim impact statement took the form of a drawing made by the nine-year-old son of Renuka Amarasinghe. The image, which appeared to be drawn by crayon and contained no words, showed the boy with his late mother.

Prosecutors had attempted to have each death carry a 25-year sentence consecutively, so that the van attacker would not have been eligible for parole for 250 years.

But a separate Supreme Court case ruled consecutive sentences to be unconstitutional, meaning the van attacker can apply for parole in 25 years.

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