A man who witnessed his girlfriend being raped and killed by an intruder in her Toronto apartment via webcam from China has told her murder trial exactly what he saw and heard the night she died.
An emotional Xian Chao Meng explained through an interpreter on Friday how a man burst threw the door of the basement studio while he remained on Skype to the victim, 23-year-old Qian ‘Necole’ Liu, before the sound of two ‘muffled bangs’ and then silence.
Moments later a stranger naked from the abdomen down appeared in front of the computer and quickly turned it off.
Brian Dickson, a one-time actor and resident of the building, has been charged with Liu’s first-degree murder, The Star reported.
While he has pleaded not guilty, he unsuccessfully tried pleading guilty to the lesser offense of manslaughter last week.
Raped and murdered: Qian Liu, 23, as seen in her funal program from 2011. Her naked body was found face down and covered in blood and semen in her studio apartment April that year.
Star witness: Xian Chao Meng was on Skype with his girlfriend Qian Liu when she was murdered. He has told her murder trial exactly what he saw and heard that night.
Brian Dickson fancied himself a model and friends claim that he could ‘have any girl he wanted’. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Qian Liu.
He also admitted to police he had met Liu for the first time in the laundry room of their building earlier in the night that she died.
Her naked body was found covered in blood and semen on April 16, 2011.
According to Meng, the night before he had been talking to Liu for hours on both Skype and QQ, which is China’s version of MSN.
He was on his laptop in Beijing, where it was about noon, while Liu was doing homework in Toronto, where she attended York University and it was about midnight.
The couple had broken up three months earlier but remained friends, catching up every couple of weeks.
Meng told the court he could see Liu, wearing a headset, sitting in front of the computer in her apartment just south of the university campus.
Also visible in the frame was the door, to about knee level.
‘She said to me that somebody was knocking on the door. She would check,’ he said.
Liu rose to answer the light knock, saying something through the door first in English, which Meng couldn’t understand.
As Liu opened the door partway to her visitor, Meng caught sight of a man standing in the door frame.
‘A foreigner, not a Chinese,’ he said.
Slain York University student Liu Qian’s father Liu Jianhui and mother Zheng Yaru, right, arrive at court in Toronto on Monday, March 24, 2014 for the trial of Brian Dickson.
A jury in a Toronto murder trial is hearing that a young man in China was chatting via webcam with his girlfriend at York University when he saw a man force his way into her room. Qian Liu was found dead the next day, April 15, 2011, in her off-campus basement apartment and the Crown says she was naked except for her nightgown, which was pulled up around her chest. Crown attorney Christine Pirraglia laid out the prosecution’s case against Brian Dickson (pictured).
Qian Liu was discovered dead on the morning of April 15, 2011, face down and covered in blood in her basement apartment.
The man, his hair mussed in the front, was wearing a half-sleeved dark-colored crewneck T-shirt and loose shorts.
‘After the door was opened, the two had a chat close to the door frame,’ Meng told court.
It seemed to Meng that the male asked to see Liu’s cellphone.
The jury heard earlier that Liu had been having Wi-Fi issues and had asked other tenants — the building was full of student residents — for help resolving them.
Liu, said Meng, got her phone and handed it to the man.
‘He did some operation on the cellphone.’
While the visitor was thus occupied, Liu sat back down at her computer.
Meng saw her face in profile as she spoke to the male.
‘The man was in and out of the door frame,’ Meng testified.
‘It seemed that he was hesitant.’
They appeared to be parting when ‘all of a sudden, something abnormal took place,’ said Meng.
‘That male tried to force his way in. Liu was trying hard to push the door, not to let him in. She could not prevent him from entering. He wanted to embrace Qian Liu. (She) was all the time pushing at his chest.’
Meng heard Liu say ‘No’ in Cantonese.
‘Maybe she felt he did not understand. Then she said ‘No’ in English. But that person did not listen.’
There was a struggle, visible to Meng.
‘Qian Lu was pinned.’
Up to that point, Meng had been composed in his testimony, as Liu’s parents watched from the front room of the Toronto courtroom.
Now he became upset.
‘May I just take a moment?’ he asked Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy.
Resuming his account, Meng continued: ‘When Qian Liu was pushed down, I could see one of her feet. It was shaking. She was still saying no in Cantonese.’
Brian Dickson, pictured in a photo from his Myspace account, pleaded not guilty to killing Qian Liu.
Liu fell out of camera range.
‘Then I heard two muffled bangs. From then, I heard no more sound from Qian Liu.’
In the silence that followed, Meng said he heard the man breathing heavily and, shortly afterwards, what he thought sounded like furniture being moved.
The light in Liu’s room was shut off.
Meng thinks he heard what may have been the jingle of keys.
The male next appeared directly in front of the computer.
‘He was already naked. I could see the part of his body below the abdomen to the knees. He leaned forward to shut off the computer.’
When the webcam was turned off, Meng continued to make an audio recording; he and Liu had simultaneously been communicating by cellphone.
That connection was still open and the tape was played for the jury.
What Meng thought was keys jingling might also be the sound of a belt unbuckling.
Meng is also heard swearing in Cantonese.
‘This is the only way I let out what I was feeling . . . I was stunned.’
Meng logged onto to a chat room he knew Liu used to send out messages, hoping friends who knew the young woman would see the SOS and send help.
‘I’m afraid her life is in danger,’ he wrote.
The night of the murder, Liu was chatting with her boyfriend Xian Meng using both a webcam and an instant messaging service.
Meng was contacted by one of Liu’s contacts the following morning.
Eventually, the building’s superintendent was reached.
He and another tenant opened Liu’s door and found her dead.
When police arrived, they found no computer — only the cables and mouse left behind.
The computer has never been recovered.
An autopsy could not determine definitively how Liu died, though a pathologist has testified it was likely by ‘mechanical asphyxiation,’ with compression applied to her neck.
Male DNA from swabs of a substance lifted from Liu’s breasts was matched — to a degree of probability estimated to be 1 in 25 trillion — to Dickson.
Semen found on Liu’s groin area matched Dickson to a probability of 1 in 2.7 quintillion, and DNA from a small blood stain on a blue T-shirt seized from Dickso’s first-floor apartment matched Liu to a probably of 1 in 140 quadrillion.
In a statement given to police on April 19, 2001, Dickson admitted going briefly into Liu’s room earlier on the night of her death after they met while he was doing laundry in the basement.
He denied killing her.
‘No, I did not. I had nothing to do with it at all.’