York U murder trial underway

Murder victim Qian Liu (file)


It sounds like something from a Hollywood thriller — but it happened in Toronto three years ago. A young woman attacked, and killed in her apartment — while having a webcam conversation with her helpless boyfriend — on the other side of the world.

Monday the trial of the accused in that case, Brian Dickson, began in Toronto. And it opened with images and testimony that were both gruesome and disturbing.

The Crown opened its case, by claiming that 23-year old Qian Liu was murdered by her neighbour Dickson. Crown Attorney Christine Pirraglia told the jury that they will hear DNA evidence placing long odds against the innocence of the accused. For example, a one in 2.7 quintrillion chance that DNA from the groin belongs to someone other than Dickson.

In a video-tour of the crime scene, Liu’s naked body could be seen lying face down in a small pool of blood. Her nightgown and sweater pushed up above her shoulders. Liu’s parents wept quietly through the difficult images — while a translator explained the evidence.

Much of that evidence centred on the last moments of Liu’s life. At one o’clock in the morning on April 15th, 2010 she was chatting to her boyfriend in China, Xian Meng, on her computer. There was a knock at the door. According to the Crown, Meng told police that a man forced his way inside; a brief struggle ensued, and Liu was pushed off-camera.

Meng, no longer able to see any images heard Liu saying the word “no” in both English and Mandarin. He heard then what to him sounded like two muffled bangs. He never heard a sound from Ms Liu again.

And the last image Meng saw was the most disturbing of all. The next, and last time the man appeared on the screen, he was naked from the waist down. He approached the computer and turned it off.

Dickson’s lawyer told the jury this is not a “who done it? But rather, a what happened?” and he will be asking them to return a verdict of manslaughter.

Outside court a lawyer from the Chinese consulate briefly addressed reporters on behalf of Liu’s parents. Grant Guo of OMNI-TV translated his remarks: “They can see the crime scene, and it’s very hard. It’s three years already passed, it’s a little bit concerned about maybe some of the witness already forgot some details. Yeah, because it’s too long.”

The jury will hear more evidence from the crime scene when the trial resumes.