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article imageToronto man convicted of first-degree murder in webcam killing

By Arthur Weinreb     Apr 8, 2014 in Crime
Toronto - It is known as "the webcam killing," "the webcam murder," and the "webcam case." Now Brian Dickson is known as the "webcam killer" after a jury convicted him in the death of Chinese student Qian Liu, 23.
It took the jury only four hours to convict Dickson, 32, of first-degree murder in the death of Liu. After the verdict was handed down yesterday, Justice Anne Molloy sentenced the 32-year-old to the mandatory sentence of 25 life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
That the young student died at the hands of Dickson was never in issue. At the commencement of his trial, Dickson entered a plea of not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter. That plea was not accepted by the Crown and the trial continued.
Liu, who had been in Canada for seven months, was studying at Toronto's York University. In the early morning of April 15, 2011, she was chatting on a webcam with her ex-boyfriend, Xian Meng who lives in Beijing. Meng, who was called as a witness, testified he heard a knock on the door and Liu went to answer it. A man came in, shoved her and tried to embrace her. Meng heard Liu say "no" both in English and Cantonese while attempting to push the man away. Meng heard nothing more than a couple of muffled noises.
Meng then saw the man, later identified as Dickson, naked and walking towards the computer. He turned it off and the computer has never been found.
Frantic, Meng began contacting Liu's known friends in Canada. He finally made contact with one of them and she called police. Officers entered the apartment and found Liu's partially naked body. Dickson was arrested a few days later.
The major issue at trial was exactly how Liu died. The prosecution argued she was mechanically strangled and her death during the commission of a sexual assault constituted first-degree rather than second-degree murder. The theory of the defence was that Dickson did not mean to kill Liu; he sat on her chest and the position of her neck was such that it caused her death.
The jury heard evidence from three pathologists, ranging from Liu's death resulted from mechanical asphyxiation that did not fit with the theory of the defence to the cause of death being "unascertained."
The most shocking aspect of the case was the evidence called during Dickson's bail hearing. That evidence was not put before the jury and was subject to a publication ban until the trial ended.
Evidence was adduced at the January 2012 bail hearing that Dickson had advocated having sex with children on online message boards. He was in favour of incest and said when he had children he would encourage them to look at porn and engage in oral sex. When police executed a search warrant in his room they found pornography in his room, much of it of Asians and teenagers.
Dickson lived in the same building as Liu did. Another woman who also lived there alleged Dickson made sexual advances towards her. And a former girlfriend said Dickson choked her and stuck his fingers down her throat after she caught him stealing her money to buy cocaine.
In 2006, Dickson was charged with sexual assault after a woman told police Dickson continued to have sex with her for about 20 minutes after she told him to stop. That charge was later withdrawn as the woman did not want to proceed.
Dickson has been in custody since his arrest.
After the trial ended, Rob Nuttall, Dickson's lawyer, said it was a very tough case and that his client was remorseful. Saying Dickson accepted the verdict, Nuttall said, "Mr. Dickson has always had his eyes wide open."
Liu's mother, who came to Canada with her husband for the trial, said, "We are still very sad. The jury system in Canada is very good and very fair."
A decision on whether to appeal the jury's finding has not yet been made.
More about webcam killer, webcam murder, brian dickson, Qian Liu, Firstdegree murder
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