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Toronto police trace lead in fatal attack on York University student

Police remove the body of a student from a home at 27 Aldwinckle Hts. near York University

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An ocean away, Toronto police believe they have found a witness to a fatal attack on a York University student.

Investigators said Sunday that the earliest phases of a deadly altercation may have been captured by a Web camera and witnessed by one of the student's friends in China.

The student, a 23-year-old woman from China, was found dead inside her basement apartment in a townhouse in the Sentinel Road and Finch Avenue West area Friday morning.

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She was naked from the waist down, and had been dead for some time.

Hours earlier, from her laptop, a male friend witnessed the student get up to answer a knock at her door, where an unknown man asked to use her cellphone, according to police. A struggle ensued and the intruder turned off the laptop, an IBM ThinkPad T400, which is now missing.

"The online witness became concerned and he contacted several people known to the deceased here in Canada, and appealed to them to go and track down her welfare," Detective Sergeant Frank Skubic said. "It was as a result of somebody responding to that plea by the online witness that she was discovered."

The witness described the man as white, between the ages of 20 and 30, around six feet tall and 175 to 200 pounds. He has a muscular build and medium-length brown hair, which was messy at the front and well-groomed at the back. He wore a blue crew neck T-shirt.

Police have identified the man, consider him a person of interest and are asking him to come forward to speak with them.

An autopsy on the young woman began Saturday but further studies, including toxicology, are required to determine the cause of death. Police say there were no obvious signs of trauma or of sexual assault on the student's body.

Her death is not being ruled a homicide for now, but it is being investigated as a "suspicious death."

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About the Author
Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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