Man accused of murder used to attend York

The Toronto man accused in the slaying of a York University student once studied global politics at the school.

TORONTO — The Toronto man accused in the slaying of a York University student once studied global politics at the school.

Brian Dickson, 29, is charged with the first-degree murder of 23-year-old Qian Liu of China. He has been remanded in custody to April 26 following a brief court appearance Thursday morning.

Liu was found dead last Friday in her basement apartment, and the case has gained international attention after authorities said she was last seen on a webcam struggling with an unknown intruder.

Police announced Dickson’s arrest Wednesday around the same time as Liu’s parents touched down in Toronto from Beijing.

York University said in a statement Thursday that Dickson is not a registered student there and does not have a degree from York.

But a December 2008 newsletter from the Atlantic Council of Canada, a think-tank where Dickson worked as an executive assistant until March 2009, says he is a former York student who was twice re-elected vice-president of the undergraduate political science council. He also represented McLaughlin College in the York Federation of Students.

On his Facebook page, he lists McLaughlin College Alumni and York University among his activities and interests.

The bio in the Atlantic Council’s newsletter also says he was involved in Developments in Literacy, a Pakistani aid organization that raises funds for school children in rural Pakistan, and has spent time as a running instructor.

Dickson was clean shaven and wore a white shirt tucked into jeans during his court appearance.

Investigators have said Liu was chatting with a friend in China by webcam last Friday morning when an unknown man arrived at her apartment and a struggle took place.

The online witness reported the struggle lasted for several minutes before the man turned off Liu’s laptop. Police said the webcam images were live-streamed, not recorded, and they were searching for the laptop and a cellphone missing from the apartment.

Liu’s father said earlier this week that the person in China who witnessed the attack on the webcam was his daughter’s boyfriend.

Liu Jianhui, a researcher at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, said his daughter studied at Beijing City University before coming to Canada.

An autopsy failed to reveal how Liu died and police say it may be weeks before the results of toxicology tests are known.