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Toronto webcam killing suspect makes first court appearance

From Katie Silver, CNN
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  • NEW: A man suspected of killing a university student makes his first court appearance
  • Long-distance witness: "I was cursing him from my webcam"
  • A friend in China sees the woman attacked in her Toronto apartment
  • Police later find Qian Liu dead in the apartment

(CNN) -- A Canadian man suspected of killing a university student who was last seen alive via webcam made his first court appearance on Thursday, officials said.

Brian Dickson, 29, remains in custody after Toronto police arrested him Wednesday afternoon and charged him with the first-degree murder of a 23-year-old exchange student from Beijing.

His next court appearance is set for April 26, said Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the ministry of the attorney general's office. Crawley described Dickson's court appearance Thursday as "procedural" but he would not elaborate.

Authorities have not said how they tied Dickson to the death of the student, Qian Liu.

Police said early last Friday, Liu was talking via webcam to a male friend in China when a man allegedly knocked on the door of her Toronto apartment, asking to use her phone.

Student killed; attack caught on webcam

The online witness said he saw Liu and the unknown man struggle for a time before the attacker turned off her laptop, police said.

"The man tried to hurt (Qian Liu)" the witness told CNN affiliate CTV. "She was resisting and saying 'No, no, please don't.' At that time my mind went blank. And I was cursing him from my webcam."

"I was so far away I couldn't reach her," he added. "I felt helpless and I couldn't calm down."

Ten hours later, police arrived at the basement apartment to find Liu's body, naked from the waist down. Her laptop was missing.

There were no obvious signs of sexual assault or severe physical trauma, and police have said they were awaiting toxicology reports.

Liu's father, Liu Jianhui, told CNN affiliate CTV that he had trouble believing the incident.

"At the beginning I did not believe it was true," he said. "She was a very hardworking, outstanding girl."

This is not the first time a crime has been captured by webcam. In the most notorious incident, Meleanie Hain of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, was shot dead in 2009 while talking to a friend via webcam. The friend was looking away when he heard a shot and a scream, police said.

Upon looking back at the screen, the friend saw Hain's husband firing a handgun at where his wife had been, authorities said.

Police later found both Hain and her husband dead in their home.