A man accused of attacking a Chinese student in her Toronto apartment as her ex-boyfriend watched via webcam from China was convicted of first-degree murder on Monday after jurors deliberated for four hours.
Brian Dickson, 32, had offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, but the prosecution rejected the lesser charge in the death of Liu Qian (柳乾). Justice Anne Molloy imposed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Liu was found dead in April 2011, just a few hours after her former boyfriend in China watched via webcam as she tried to fend off an attacker who appeared at her door. The boyfriend told police he saw Liu struggling with a man before her computer was shut off.
Robert Nuttall, Dickson’s lawyer, said his client has been “absolutely remorseful for a very long time.”
“He didn’t say anything. He just accepted the verdict,” Nuttall said, adding that it was too early to say if Dickson will appeal the verdict.
The prosecution presented the theory that Dickson forced himself on Liu, then killed her by asphyxiation to cover it up.
Liu, who was 23, had moved to Canada to study English. Dickson lived in an apartment in the same house as Liu, just outside the campus of York University.
Police said Liu’s laptop computer, webcam and mobile phone were taken from the apartment the night of the attack. Police said the online chat was on a live streaming camera and was not recorded.
Liu’s father wiped away tears as the verdict was read.
Dickson forced his way inside Liu’s apartment while Liu was pushing at his chest and saying “no,” Liu’s ex-boyfriend, Meng Xian (孟憲), testified.
Dickson pushed Liu down off camera and after the sound of two muffled bangs Meng said he heard no more sounds from Liu.
After a period of silence he heard Dickson breathing heavily and moments later he appeared naked in front of the webcam and turned off the computer, Meng testified.
The jury saw video and photographs of Liu’s body, lying face down next to her bed, naked except for a nightgown and sweater, which were pulled up to her shoulders.
The prosecutor said semen found on Liu matched DNA evidence collected from Dickson.