Image: Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Frank Skubic
Darren Calabrese  /  AP
Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Frank Skubic presents a photo of a missing laptop believed to belong to York University student Qian Liu, during a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday. staff and news service reports
updated 4/20/2011 12:06:34 AM ET 2011-04-20T04:06:34

Canadian police said they still don't know what caused the death of a student from Beijing who was last seen alive on a webcam by her boyfriend in China, who witnessed her struggling with a man before the camera was abruptly shut off.

Liu Jianhui, the father of 23-year-old York University student Liu Qian, said his daughter's boyfriend witnessed the attack on the webcam.

Liu Jianhui said he was headed to Toronto on Wednesday.

"She was our only child," said Liu, the research director of Communist Party history at the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC, which trains party officials.

Police said the body of Liu was found Friday in her apartment in Toronto a few hours after he witnessed the attack. She was naked from the waist down and there were no obvious signs of sexual assault or trauma that would have led to her death, police said.

An autopsy failed to show the cause of death and it could be weeks before the results of toxicology tests are known, Police Sgt. Frank Skubic said. He said the death has yet to be classified officially as a homicide, though police were investigating it as such.

Liu was chatting with her boyfriend, Meng Xianchao, by webcam at about 1 a.m. Friday when an unknown man knocked on the door, police said.

Meng reported seeing a struggle break out between the two before Liu's webcam was shut off. The friend contacted other friends in Toronto who in turn called police.

Police said they have spoken to the witness.

Liu Jianhui said his daughter studied at Beijing City University before going to Canada where she met her classmate and boyfriend Meng Xianchao.

"She was interested in media and wanted to study for an MA in it. She already applied for several universities in Toronto and elsewhere including the University of Windsor," Liu Jianhui said.

"After hearing the news about Liu Qian, our family and friends were all very worried. But we were praying for the possibility that the victim was a different person with the same name ... soon we found that we could no longer reach my daughter. Then the Canadian police made it quite clear that it was indeed my daughter."

Liu Qian's laptop computer, webcam and mobile phone are missing, Skubic said. He said the online chat was a live streaming camera and was not recorded, though investigators were trying to figure out if there was any way they could recover it.

The witness told police the man who assaulted Liu appeared to be in his 20s with a muscular build.

Skubic said it was not clear if Liu knew her attacker. He said a former roommate was interviewed as a person of interest, but he declined to call the man a suspect.

Skubic said she lived alone and had been at York since last September.

"Our entire community mourns the loss of a promising young student," York University President Mamdouh Shoukri said in a statement.

York student James Gibson, 24, lives next door to Liu's apartment but said he had never met her. The neighborhood, just south of the campus, is known for crime, he said.

"I've heard there's been a lot of criminal activity going on around here, a lot of robberies ... but I never thought there would be a death," Gibson said.

Shanta Poonai, who lives a few doors down, said the neighborhood is mostly students who often hold parties.

A friend of Liu Qian wrote in a Toronto-based Chinese-language online chat room that Liu was being stalked by a rejected suitor, The Toronto Star reported.

The friend, who has not been identified, said he was at the scene when the landlord opened  found Liu dead in her room. “I called 911 but I couldn't spit out one single word,” he wrote, adding that he ran upstairs to get help from her housemates.

"The suspect once shared the same house with Liu,” the friend wrote online, according to the Star.

“The suspect was chasing after her, but she refused, then he started stalking her by texting her all the time,” the man wrote.

Investigators say they have no information that Liu was being stalked.

The friend said he was interviewed by police.

The Associated Press and staff contributed to this report.


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