A young woman found dead in her apartment near Toronto’s York University on Friday was involved in an online video chat with someone who may have witnessed her being attacked before her assailant turned off her computer, police said Sunday.

The woman, a 23-year-old Chinese national studying at York, was having an online video chat at about 1 a.m. ET with someone overseas who has since spoken with police.

Police were told the online chat was interrupted by a knock at the door. She opened the door, a man entered and a struggle ensued, the online witness told police, who say that some of the attack happened beyond the view of the laptop's camera.

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"There was a physical struggle between the deceased and this male, and this male turned off the deceased’s laptop computer," said Det. Sgt. Frank Skubic of the Toronto police homicide department.

Police found the woman in the apartment at 11 a.m. ET on Friday, after an official from the Chinese Consulate called to express concern. The woman’s mother called the consulate, saying something had happened to her daughter, and asked officials to go to the basement apartment located just south of the York campus to check on her.  

No evidence of 'substantial' trauma

Police say the woman was found unclothed from the waist down, but there were no obvious signs she was sexually assaulted. Cause of death hasn't been determined.

"There is no evidence of substantial trauma to her body which could readily identify the manner of her death," Skubic told reporters on Sunday.

Police said members of the woman’s family are travelling to Toronto to identify the body.

Police found a cellphone in the apartment believed to be the victim’s. It is undergoing forensic examination. Her missing computer is described as a Lenovo Thinkpad T400.

The suspect is described as a white male:

  • 20 to 30 years old.
  • About six feet tall and between 175 and 200 pounds with a muscular build, and medium-length brown hair, messy at the front and well-groomed at back.
  • Wearing a blue crew-neck T-shirt.

Police couldn't say for sure whether the woman knew the man who came to the door. The person she was chatting with did not know him, police said.