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Toronto man charged in murder of student witnessed on Webcam (UPDATES)

Canadian police charged a man with first-degree murder Wednesday in the death of an exchange student slain in her Toronto apartment while her boyfriend in China watched via webcam.

Webcam toronto murder 2011 4 19 Enlarge
A conversation via webcam similar to that used by Chinese student Qian Liu, 23, reportedly killed in her Toronto apartment while having an online chat with her boyfriend in China about 1 a.m. (Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images)

Canadian police charged a man with first-degree murder Wednesday in the death of 23-year-old York University student Qian Liu, slain in her Toronto apartment while her boyfriend in China watched helplessly via webcam.

Brian Dickson, 29, was to appear in court on Thursday in connection with the slaying of the Chinese student late last week, according to the Star.

Liu, of Beijing, was reportedly having an online chat about 1 a.m. Friday to the friend back home when a man knocked on her door and asked to use her phone.

Liu was being stalked by a rejected suitor, according to the Toronto Sun, quoting a posting by a friend on a Toronto-based Chinese-language chat room.

Liu's boyfriend of seven years said he saw Liu and the "muscular" man struggle for a period of time before he turned off her laptop, according to police news release reported by CNN.

Thousands of miles away, in China, the friend sent panicked emails begging family members and friends to rush to her aid, and used social networking sites to contact others who knew the woman in Toronto and China. Liu's mother even called the Chinese Consulate, according to CBC, and asked authorities to find her daughter.

But it was too early in Toronto, and the reportedly emails went unread until mid-morning Friday. Police didn’t arrive at Lui's apartment until around 10 hours later.

Liu's body was found naked from the waist down, police said in a statement. They also said there were no immediate signs that she had been sexually assaulted, but they are waiting for lab results in the case. 

The victim’s father, Jianhui Liu, a senior Communist Party official, reportedly said that his daughter had spoken to her mother on the webcam just an hour before the attack.

"The child’s mother was very upset. She had just spoken with her daughter on webcam and she was murdered shortly after. You can only imagine how a mother feels," he reportedly told Chinese newspaper Ming Pao.

Liu, a professor and director at The Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China — the highest education institution to train party officials in the country, also reportedly said: "We just hope the police can locate the murderer as soon as possible and give justice to my daughter."

Toronto police spokesman Const. Tony Vella told CBC News Network on Monday afternoon that the case remained a suspicious death investigation.

"Her body was taken to the coroner's office for a post-mortem investigation and they still need to do further tests … and at that point we'll have a better understanding once we get the results back if it's a homicide or not, but still classified as a suspicious death," he said.

The online witness has described the suspect as white, between 20 to 30 years old, 6 feet tall, between 175 to 200 pounds, with a muscular build and medium- length brown hair, messy at the front and well-groomed at the back, the Sun reported. He wore a blue, crew-neck T-shirt.