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Trial for Canadian webcam murder suspect begins

March 24, 2014

TORONTO (AP) — 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 apartment, a jury heard Monday.

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

Prosecution attorney Christine Pirraglia laid out her case against Brian Dickson 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 1 a.m. 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 Mandarin, “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 — expected to last three weeks — wiped tears from their eyes as the scene of their daughter’s death was displayed on courtroom screens.

Pirraglia said there is DNA evidence that says the chances that the semen found on Liu’s abdomen and groin area weren’t from Dickson are calculated as one in 2.7 quintillion.

When Dickson was interviewed by police he said he had been at a restaurant on the York University campus that night, leaving around 12:30 a.m. 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, and that they had never been intimate and he did not kill her, Pirraglia said.

Dickson’s lawyer, Robert Nuttall, told the jury in a brief opening that this case isn’t about who did it, but about what happened, and he’ll be asking the jury to instead convict Dickson of manslaughter. The prosecution has rejected the manslaughter plea.

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