British Columbia

Murder trial begins in slaying of B.C. model in China

A trial began Monday in China for the 18-year-old Chinese man accused of murdering B.C. model Diana O'Brien in Shanghai in July.
Chen Jun, 18, was arrested in Xuancheng city, several hundred kilometres west of Shanghai, four days after Diana O'Brien's body was found on July 6. ((Dongfang 110))

A trial began Monday in China for the 18-year-old Chinese man accused of murdering B.C. model Diana O'Brien in Shanghai in July.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that the hearing for the accused, Chen Jun, lasted about two hours.

"So far, no sentence has been issued," the agency said.

The No. 1 Intermediate People's Court of Shanghai described Chen as a native of nearby Anhui province, who earned a monthly wage of about 1,000 yuan — equivalent to about $180 Cdn — at a restaurant in Shanghai.

Prosecutors said he ran out of money after quitting his job.

Chen has confessed that he followed Obrien to her apartment in Shanghai on the night of July 6. O'Brien was said to have resisted when Chen asked for money, and the accused allegedly stabbed her to death, according to Xinhua.

Diana O'Brien, 22, of Saltspring Island, B.C., was found dead in her apartment building in Shanghai. ((CBC))

Her body was found the next day in the building where she lived. O'Brien, 22, was from Saltspring Island, B.C. She entered China on June 24 and worked for Shanghai-based JH Model Agency, Xinhua said.

Prosecutors said Chen took her laptop, a digital camera and some money before going back to his home in Langxi County, Xuancheng City, a few hundred kilometres west of Shanghai.

The accused was arrested in an internet cafe five days later, Xinhua said.

After his arrest, Chen described his confrontation with O'Brien in a televised interview with the popular Shanghai crime news show, Dongfang 110, which was produced by Shanghai's police force to showcase real-life investigations.

In the interview, Chen said he was in O'Brien's building when he saw the door to her apartment open. He said he didn't see anyone around and was taking a laptop when O'Brien came out of another room.

"While I wasn't looking, she hit me and knocked me to the floor," Chen said.

He said he took out a knife and stabbed her, then followed her when she ran out of the apartment screaming and stabbed her again in the stairwell, fearing the neighbours would come out to look.

Chen did not actually confess to killing O'Brien during the broadcast.

Chen also said in the interview that he left the apartment building empty-handed after the stabbing but came back a few hours later to get the laptop so he could sell it and have money to escape home to Anhui.

Killing a foreigner in China usually results in the death penalty.

O'Brien's friends have said she was unhappy with her overseas assignments and planned to return to Canada before the end of her three-month contract.