Webcam showed last moments of Chinese student's life, Toronto court hears

Jury sees film of murder accused, naked from waist down, turning off computer after killing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 11:27pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 3:37am


The last image a young man in China saw on the webcam while chatting with his girlfriend in Toronto was of a man - naked from the waist down - turning off the computer moments after forcing his way into her flat, a jury heard.

Liu Qian, 23, was found dead the next morning, April 15, 2011, in her basement flat.

Prosecution lawyer Christine Pirraglia laid out her case against Brian Dickson on Monday on the opening day of his first-degree murder trial. He has pleaded not guilty.

The case captured international attention.

Liu, who was enrolled in a preparatory course at York University, was chatting with her boyfriend Xian Meng that night using both a webcam and an instant messaging service. Sometime after 1am there was a knock on her door, Pirraglia said.

Meng watched Liu open the door and briefly chat with a man before he tried to hug her, Pirraglia said. She tried unsuccessfully to get him out but he pushed his way in, shut the door behind him and pushed her in the direction of her bed, which was off camera, Pirraglia said.

He heard Liu say both in English and Putonghua, "No. No," Pirraglia said.

Meng then heard what sounded like two muffled bangs and he didn't hear Liu again, Pirraglia said. He then saw the man lock the door and turn off the lights.

The next time the man appeared on screen - he approached the computer and turned it off - he was naked from the waist down, Pirraglia said.

The jury saw video and photographs of Liu's body on Monday, lying face down next to her bed, naked except for a nightgown and sweater, which were pulled up to her shoulders. Blood could be seen on the floor around her face. Liu's parents, who came from China for the trial, which is expected to last three weeks, wiped tears from their eyes as the scene of their daughter's death was displayed on courtroom screens.

DNA from semen found on Liu matched Dickson, Pirraglia said.

When Dickson was interviewed by police he said he had been at a restaurant on the York University campus that night, leaving around 12.30am and going to sleep soon after, Pirraglia said. He told police he had met Liu a few times and had briefly been in her room twice.

He said he had only ever touched her by shaking her hand and touching her on the shoulder, Pirraglia said.

Dickson's lawyer, Robert Nuttall, told the jury in a brief opening that this case wasn't about who did it, but about what happened, and he would be asking the jury to instead convict Dickson of manslaughter.