Murderered York University student could have died from a 'neck compression'

A pathologist took the stand on Wednesday, in the first degree murder case against Brian Dickson....

A York University student found dead hours after her boyfriend in China watched via webcam as a man entered her apartment may have died from neck compression, a pathologist testified Wednesday.

Qian Liu, 23, was found dead April 15, 2011 in her off-campus basement apartment, mostly naked and face down on the floor.

The Chinese student had been chatting with her boyfriend when he saw her open the door to a man who tried to hug her, then forced his way in and later turned off the computer while naked from the waist down, court has heard.

Dr. Jeff Tanguay couldn't arrive at a definitive cause of death for Liu, but he said the best overall explanation is mechanical asphyxiation, which could be her neck or chest being compressed or something interfering with the intake of air through her nose or mouth.

Brian Dickson, who was a tenant in the same building as Liu, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, but his lawyer has told the jury he'll be urging a finding of manslaughter.

Liu did not have many external injuries, Tanguay said, but the autopsy revealed internal bruising on her right temple, in a muscle on her left shoulder blade and on her triceps.

She did, however have multiple petechial hemorrhages in her eyes, which appear as dots and are the results of blow flow backing up in the veins and a rise in pressure, Tanguay said.

Those hemorrhages could be caused by pressure being applied to the neck or chest, or if the upper airways are blocked, Tanguay said. He ruled out heart disease.

Since there were no external marks to go along with the bruising under the skin of Liu's temple, shoulder and triceps, Tanguay couldn't say how they were caused, though he did offer some possibilities.

The injury to the muscle in the back could have been caused either by a forceful impact, firm pressure applied by an object such as a knee or an elbow or, since it's part of the rotator cuff, it could have happened if the arm was moved outside of its normal range of motion, Tanguay said.

The tricep bruises could have been caused by impacts or by forceful grasping or squeezing, he said. There was no evidence the bruises had started to heal, which means they happened shortly before Liu's death, Tanguay said.

Liu's tongue was clenched between her teeth, which could be the result of either a seizure, if her tongue was sticking out and she was hit on the head or chin, or if her jaw was forcibly closed, he said. A bruise on her tongue also could have been caused by pressure if she had been in a choke hold, Tanguay said.

Bleeding that the pathologist found in Liu's neck either could have been the result of an injury or could be from pooling of the blood after death, he said.

Forensic experts also found semen on Liu's abdomen and groin area, but Tanguay said they found no evidence of injury to her genitals.

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