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July 24, 2014

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Canadian convicted of murder seen through webcam

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AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Allison Jones

Ya Ru Zheng holds a photo of her daughter Qian Liu outside a courthouse in Toronto, on Monday, April 7, 2014. A jury has found 32-year-old Brian Dickson guilty of first-degree murder in the death of York University student Liu, from China.

TORONTO — A man accused of attacking a Chinese student in her Toronto apartment as her ex-boyfriend watched via webcam from China was convicted Monday of first-degree murder.

The jury deliberated for four hours before delivering its verdict against Brian Dickson, 32. Justice Anne Molloy imposed a life sentence with a chance of parole after 25 years.

Qian Liu, 23, was found dead in April 2011, a few hours after her former boyfriend in China watched via webcam as she tried to fend off an attacker who appeared at her door. The boyfriend told police he saw Liu struggling with a man before her computer was shut off.

Liu's parents travelled from China for the trial. The father wiped away tears as the verdict was read.

"We are still very sad," Jian Hui Liu said after hearing the verdict through a translator. His wife clutched a picture of their daughter and cried silently.

Dickson had offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, but the prosecution rejected the lesser charge.

Dickson lived in an apartment in the same building as Liu, who had moved to Canada from China to study English. Her boyfriend, Xian Meng, testified that Dickson forced his way inside the apartment while Liu was pushing at his chest and saying "no." Meng said Dickson pushed Liu down off camera and after the sound of two muffled bangs, he heard no more sounds from Liu.

After a period of silence, Meng said he heard Dickson breathing heavily, and moments later he appeared naked in front of the webcam and turned off the computer.

The jury saw video and photographs of Liu's body, lying face down next to her bed, with her nightgown and sweater pulled up to her shoulders. Blood could be seen on the floor around her face. The prosecutor said semen found on Liu's abdomen and groin area matched DNA evidence collected from Dickson.

Police said Liu's laptop computer, webcam and mobile phone were taken from the apartment the night of the attack. Police said the online chat was on a live streaming camera and was not recorded.

Dickson's lawyer, Robert Nuttall, said his client has been "absolutely remorseful for a very long time."

"He didn't say anything. He just accepted the verdict," Nuttall said.

He said it's too early to say if Dickson will appeal.

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