A disheveled man appeared in court Thursday on charges of murdering a Chinese woman whose scuffle with her assailant was seen on webcam by her helpless boyfriend in China. Police refused to release any details about the crime or its possible motive.
The body of Liu Qian, 23, a York University student from Beijing, was found Friday in her apartment in Toronto a few hours after her boyfriend witnessed the attack, police said.
She was naked from the waist down but showed no obvious signs of sexual assault or trauma severe enough to kill her. An autopsy was inconclusive, and police say results of toxicology tests may take weeks.
Brian Dickson, 29, stood before the court in a wrinkled white shirt and blue jeans as a charge of first-degree murder was read out. He did not enter a plea. His case was held over until Tuesday. The justice of the peace imposed a publication ban on nearly all other details.
Dickson was arrested Wednesday. Police only announced his name and his age and asked the media not to publish any photos of Dickson, saying it could compromise the investigation.
Liu's father, Liu Jianhui, who arrived from China after being notified of his daughter's death, expressed gratitude to authorities for their quick action.
"I sincerely thank the people concerned with my daughter's case," he told reporters after the arrest. "Our daughter was studying very hard."
Police released no motive or details about Dickson, but one friend described the Toronto man as an aspiring actor.
Patricia Tomasi, a Facebook friend of Dickson, told the Associated Press that she acted in a play at a local theater in Toronto with Dickson in 2007.
"He doesn't seem like the type, but that's what they always say," Tomasi said of the allegations. "He's tall with boyish good looks. I don't know much about him except that he wanted to be an actor."
Dickson attended York University, where he studied global politics, but did not earn a degree from there.
He later worked for the Atlantic Council of Canada, a NATO-affiliated think-tank where he served as an assistant to Julie Lindhout, its president.
According to his biography on a newsletter from the Atlantic Council of Canada, Dickson also has been a running instructor and has been involved with Developments in Literacy, a Pakistani aid organization that raises money for children in Pakistan.
Liu was chatting with her boyfriend, Meng Xianchao, by webcam at about 1 a.m. Friday when a man knocked on the door, police said.
Meng reported seeing a struggle break out between the two before Liu's webcam was shut off. Meng contacted other friends in Toronto, who in turn called police.