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Allison Jones, Toronto — The Canadian Press
A man charged with first-degree murder in the death of a York University student from China had both anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication on him when he was arrested, a jury heard Thursday.
Brian Dickson was arrested about a week after Qian Liu, 23, was found dead in her off-campus apartment, mostly naked and face down on the floor.
As a tenant in the same building and someone who matched the description of a man Liu’s ex-boyfriend saw on her webcam shortly before she died, Dickson was interviewed by police on April 19, 2011.
Detective Sergeant Frank Skubic testified Thursday that Mr. Dickson was arrested the next day, after results from DNA tests gave Skubic “reasonable grounds” to believe Dickson was responsible for Liu’s death.
There were a number of medications in Dickson’s room, and when Dickson was arrested he had anti-psychotic medication, a drug typically used for depression or anxiety and one that reduces the production of stomach acid, Skubic said under cross-examination from Dickson’s lawyer, Robert Nuttall.
Dickson has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, but his lawyer has told the jury he’ll be urging a finding of manslaughter.
The jury on Thursday watched Dickson’s 3 1/2-hour interview with Skubic, in which he admitted he was briefly in Liu’s room the night before her body was found.
Liu had been chatting with her ex-boyfriend in China via webcam when some time after 1 a.m. he saw Liu answer a knock on the door to a man who tried to hug her then forced his way inside and shoved her off camera, the Crown has said.
He heard two muffled bangs and the last image he saw was the man turning off the computer while naked from the waist down, the Crown alleges.
He then logged into Liu’s account and sent frantic messages to her contacts, the trial has heard.
Yang Qiao, one of Liu’s fellow students in a preparatory program, said she saw the message around 2 a.m.
“She was asking for help,” Qiao testified Thursday. “It said Qian Liu is in danger. Can someone else help her? Call the police.”
Dickson only met Liu a month prior, when he was doing laundry, which was located outside her room in the basement, he told Skubic in the interview.
“She was very friendly,” Dickson said. “She was a very sweet person. …That was my first impression, that she’s nice. You could tell.”
On the night in question they chatted about cooking at around 10 p.m. as Dickson put clothes in the washing machine and he was briefly inside her room, he said.
He then left the building to go to a restaurant on campus, he said, and told Skubic several times that people could verify he was there. Dickson got home around 12:30 a.m. and went downstairs to put his clothing in the dryer, but he didn’t see Liu, he said.
He had taken the drug Seroquel as a sleep aid around 11:40 p.m. so he could fall asleep soon after he got home, Dickson said. Skubic asked how much alcohol he had consumed that evening and Dickson said he had three beers at home then a pitcher of beer at the restaurant.
A server at the restaurant testified Thursday that Dickson was there until closer to 1 a.m.
She served him two pints of beer, but as he was a regular customer she would have allowed him to pour his own beer from time to time, she said. His bill came to $10 and he said he would pay her back the next time, she testified.
Dickson estimated he fell asleep five minutes after going to bed, but he complained to Skubic that despite having taken the sleeping pill he was awoken several times by other residents of the house using the kitchen, stairs and front door. He only left his room once, around 5 a.m., to use the washroom and turn off the kitchen light, Dickson said.
Dickson speaks quietly, almost inaudibly, through much of the interview, and professes a desire to help with the investigation. He considers calling a lawyer, after Skubic reads him his rights for a second time following Dickson’s admission he was outside Liu’s room around 12:30 a.m., but he ultimately decides against it.
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Webcam murder: Brian Dickson found guilty of murdering York student — (Toronto Star)
Mon., April 7, 2014
After just a few hours of deliberating the jury found Brian Dickson guilty of the first-degree murder of Qian Liu.
Rain mixing with the tears on her face, Zheng Yaru clutched a photo of her only child as her husband praised the Canadian justice system.
The smiling picture was taken before the petite literature graduate moved away from her parents in Beijing to study English at York University.
Qian “Necole” Liu, 23, had been in Canada for seven months before she was killed by Brian Dickson, a fellow tenant in a rooming house south of the York campus, as her ex-boyfriend watched helplessly over a webcam.
On Monday, a jury found Dickson, 32, guilty of first-degree murder after deliberating just a few hours.
“This is a very fair decision from the court,” Jianhui Liu said through a translator outside the downtown Toronto courthouse.
The verdict came two days after the Chinese day of remembrance for the dead, he added. “Maybe I can have some good news for my daughter.”
The jury came to its decision without knowing that Dickson “advocated having sex with children” on online message boards, had faced a sexual assault charge that was later withdrawn and had made a sexual advance on another young rooming house tenant, according to police.
The jury was not told that a police search of Dickson’s room found 103 pornographic DVDs, about half involving “Asian pornography” and a quarter involving teenagers.
The defence countered that Dickson is only guilty of manslaughter because he killed Liu unintentionally as she resisted his sexual advances around 1 a.m. on April 15, 2011.
Dickson’s plea to manslaughter at the start of the trial was rejected by the Crown.
Dickson showed no reaction as he stood to be handcuffed after Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy sentenced him to life in prison with no parole for 25 years, the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder.
Dickson has been in custody since his arrest days after the murder and was denied bail in January 2012 as the circumstances of the murder were “quite disturbing,” Molloy had said.
The court heard during the bail hearing that while Dickson had no criminal record, he faced a sexual assault charge in 2006 that was withdrawn by the Crown. The details, covered by a bail hearing publication ban, were kept from the jury and can now be revealed.
The woman alleged she met Dickson at a nightclub in January 2006 and invited him back to her residence, Det.-Sgt. Frank Skubic told the court at the bail hearing.
She alleged Dickson forced her to have intercourse and later told her “he had never had a mock rape before.”
In the message boards, Dickson’s posts “obviously advocated having sex with children and sharing children for sex,” Skubic said.
A former girlfriend alleged Dickson choked her after an argument in 2008, though she did not proceed with charges, court heard in the bail hearing.
A young woman who lived in the same rooming house as Liu and Dickson described him as being “weird and creepy” Skubic testified.ice interview)
Liu’s former boyfriend, Xian Meng, who lived in Beijing at the time, testified he and Liu were video-chatting when he heard a knock at her door.
He told the court he saw a man shove his way into the apartment and attempt to embrace her, he said.
Liu resisted, pushing at his chest, Meng said.
She said “no” in both English and Mandarin, he told the court. After two muffled bangs, there was silence from Liu, he said.
He could hear heavy breathing and then saw a man naked from the waist down approach the webcam and disconnect it, he said.
Liu’s body was found lying face down on her bedroom floor later that morning after Meng managed to alert one of her friends. Semen that overwhelmingly matches Dickson’s DNA profile was found on her mostly naked body. Liu’s blood was also found on a blue T-shirt belonging to Dickson.
The likeliest cause of Liu’s death, according to pathologists, was “mechanical asphyxiation,” the Crown said during the trial. This could include neck compression through something like a chokehold.
Defence lawyer Robert Nuttall maintained a cause of death has not been established. He suggested a scenario where a sexually aroused Dickson was sitting on Liu’s chest, her head cricked against the wall. This would have unintentionally prevented Liu from breathing and could explain her neck injuries, he said.
This scenario was dismissed by a pathologist because it did not explain the bruises on Liu’s neck.
Dickson “has been absolutely remorseful for a very, very long period of time,” Nuttall said following the verdict.
He added it’s too early to say if Dickson will appeal the verdict.
Dickson’s parents, who have been present every day of the trial and offered to act as sureties for their son at the 2012 bail hearing, declined to comment.