TORONTO, CANADA — On April 15, 2011, 29-year-old Brian Dickson knocked on the apartment door of Qian “Necole” Liu, his 23-year-old neighbor and fellow York University student.
Dickson initially asked to use Liu’s phone, but, once inside, he came on to her sexually. When Liu said, in effect, “thanks but no thanks,” Dickson attacked and fatally strangled the young woman who had relocated to Toronto from her native Beijing, China.
While all this went down, Xian Chao Meng, a former boyfriend of Liu’s back in China, watched helplessly from half a world away. He and Liu had been video chatting online, and Meng witnessed the deadly incident live, via webcam.
Meng said he watched Liu get up to answer the door. He then saw Dickson enter and try to embrace Liu. She said “no” twice and tried to push Dickson away. Both figures went out of the frame.
From there, Meng said he heard a struggle that included two muffled bangs. Finally, Dickson, now naked, returned into frame and shut off the webcam. He then stole Liu’s laptop and cellphone before taking off.
In a panic, Meng contacted anyone and everyone who could possibly help. His action led police to Dickson, who arrested him on charges of first-degree murder.
When the case came to trial in 2014, Dickson’s lawyer’s conceded that their client did kill Liu, but they maintained it was an accident. They pushed the jury to convict Dickson of the lesser charge of manslaughter. The trial hinged on exactly how Dickson choked the life from Liu.Specifically at issue was determining whether Dickson consciously held his hands around Liu’s throat and squeezed with lethal purpose or perhaps whether death might have just been a tragic byproduct of an attempted sexual assault. Some choice.
What the jurors did not hear about were Dickson’s online posts regarding incest and underage sex, his numerous volumes of Asian pornography, and the complaints that had been previously registered against him for attacking women.
Regardless, following a mere four-hour deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict for first-degree murder. In Canada, that conviction carries a mandatory life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
Necole Liu’s father, Jian Hui Liu; and mother, Ya Ru Zheng; had flown in from China for the trial. They cried tears of relief upon hearing the verdict, and her dad told the press:
“We believe the Canadian judicial system is very good and very fair. This is not simply a crime against my daughter, but also against the whole society.”
Dickson quickly filed an appeal against his first-degree murder verdict. He continues to maintain he should only be locked up for manslaughter. In 2016, Dickson filed for a taxpayer-funded lawyer to take up his case. The Ontario Court of Appeals shot him down.
Twenty-two years remain until he can possibly come up for parole. That ought to keep him off anybody’s webcams for a while.
Main photos: Brian Dickson mug shot; Qian “Necole” Liu/police handout [Toronto Police Department]