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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 15:35 GMT
Rock star lover 'lost control'
Bertrand Cantat in court in Vilnius
Cantat: Girlfriend's death was a tragic accident
French rock star Bertrand Cantat broke down in tears on Tuesday as he went on trial accused of murdering his girlfriend, actress Marie Trintignant.

Mr Cantat, 40, is accused of causing Trintignant's death during a violent incident in their hotel room in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius last July.

Mr Cantat admitted slapping 41-year-old Trintignant four times, but told the court her death was an accident.

"Marie lost control, I lost control..." AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

Trintignant, daughter of veteran French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, died in Paris from swelling to the brain, five days after the incident in Vilnius. Doctors performed two operations on her brain, but were unable to save her.

We are concerned about revelations about the private lives of Bertrand Cantat and especially Marie Trintignant, who cannot defend herself
Ramutis Jancevicius
Prosecutor

Mr Cantat, lead singer from France's top-selling rock group Noir Desire (Black Desire), says Trintignant's death was a tragic accident.

"I should have left, should never have done that of course. I lost control," he is quoted by AFP news agency as saying in court on Tuesday.

The singer, remanded in custody in Lithuania since his arrest, told judges he slapped Trintignant four times while he was drunk - contradicting prosecutors who said he punched her at least 19 times.

"Everything happened very fast," he said. "Never, never did I want things to happen that way. This hand should never have risen. And I do not accept myself having raised this hand," The Associated Press quoted the singer as saying.

He was also allowed by the court to address Marie Trintignant's family.

"I love Marie's children," he said. "This was a moment that was completely beyond us.

"I want to tell them that Marie did not die of hate and I also want to say that there are other people in this story... my wife, my children," the singer said, before starting to cry.

Later, Trintignant's mother, Nadine, testified in court.

"My impression [of Bertrand Cantat] was false. I thought he was a gentle man."

Open trial

Judges are expected to hand down a verdict and sentence this week.

Marie Trintignant
Marie Trintignant had been filming in Lithuania
Mr Cantat faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Earlier, the court in Vilnius rejected a prosecution request for the trial to be held behind closed doors.

"We are concerned about revelations about the private lives of Bertrand Cantat and especially Marie Trintignant, who cannot defend herself," prosecutor Ramutis Jancevicius told AFP.

But the court said that if the debates were held publicly, this would allow mistakes made in the press relating to the case to be rectified, AFP says.

"With respect to the children, both the children of Bertrand Cantat and those of my daughter, they have unfortunately read everything about Marie's life in the press... I am against" a closed-door hearing, Nadine Trintignant told the court.

More than 200 reporters, mostly French, have descended on Vilnius to cover the proceedings.

Family and friends of both Mr Cantat and Marie Trintignant attended, with Nadine Trintignant arriving at the court house dressed entirely in black.

Mr Cantat's mother and father, as well as members of his band, sat nearby.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"The case has split the nation"



SEE ALSO:
Trintignant lover wins slur case
08 Oct 03  |  Europe
Hundreds mourn French actress
06 Aug 03  |  Entertainment
Actress' boyfriend is 'suicidal'
05 Aug 03  |  Entertainment
French actress Trintignant dies
01 Aug 03  |  Europe



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