TORONTO – A Chinese man says he watched in fear through a webcam as his ex-girlfriend struggled with an intruder in her apartment — the terrifying scene ending with two muffled bangs, heavy breathing and a naked man turning off the computer.
The night before York University student Qian Liu, 23, was found dead in her off-campus basement apartment, mostly naked and face down on the floor, she was chatting with her ex-boyfriend, Xian Meng.
Brian Dickson, who was a tenant in the same building as Liu, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, but his lawyer has told the jury he’ll be urging a finding of manslaughter.
Meng and Liu started dating as young teenagers in China, but broke up in early 2011, a few months after she moved to Canada to study, Meng testified Friday in court.
But they would still chat using a webcam and an instant messaging service, and on the night of April 14, 2011, into early the next morning, Liu messaged him, asking him to “keep her company online,” Meng said.
At one point Liu answered a knock at her door, retrieved her cellphone and handed it to the man standing in her door frame, Meng said.
They were talking in English and he was pressing buttons on her phone, Meng said. All of a sudden the man tried to force his way inside, he said.
“Qian Liu was trying hard to push the door not to let him in,” Meng testified through a translator. “Eventually she could not prevent him from entering.”
The man came inside and closed the door behind him, with Liu pushing his chest the whole time, Meng said.
“She said ‘no’ in Chinese,” he said. “Maybe she felt that he could not understand. Then she said ‘no’ (in English).”
During the struggle Liu was pushed down off camera, though Meng could see one of her feet lift up and she was still saying “no” in Mandarin, he said.
“Next I heard two muffled bangs and from then I heard no more sound from Qian Liu,” Meng said. “After silence for a while I heard the man breathing heavily.”
The man locked the door to Liu’s apartment and turned off the lights, then again walked out of view in the direction of where Liu fell, Meng said. He could also hear sounds like furniture being moved around and like the jingling of keys.
Then the man appeared again in front of the webcam, Meng said.
“He was already naked,” he said. “He bent forward to shut the computer. This is what I saw.”
Dickson, during a 3 1/2-hour police interview, emphatically denied killing her.
Det.-Sgt. Frank Skubic testified Thursday that Dickson was arrested the next day, after results from DNA tests gave Skubic “reasonable grounds” to believe Dickson was responsible for Liu’s death.
Dickson told police he was briefly in her room several hours prior — they talked about cooking, he said. After spending several hours at a restaurant he came home went down to the laundry room, which was just outside Liu’s bedroom, and transferred some clothes from the washing machine to the dryer, Dickson said.
He had consumed several drinks and a sleeping pill that night, Dickson said, and he told police that he went to bed immediately after using the laundry room and didn’t see Liu again.
When Dickson was arrested he had anti-psychotic medication and a drug typically used for depression or anxiety on him, court heard Thursday.