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Trintignant murder trial opens

Published on 16/03/2004

VILNIUS, March 16 (AFP) - French rock singer Bertrand Cantat went on trial here Tuesday for the murder of his girlfriend, actress Marie Trintignant, who died following a heated argument between the two in their Vilnius hotel room.

Cantat, the 40-year-old lead singer of French group Noir Desir, is accused of causing Trintignant’s death by beating her during the violent dispute last July, in a case that shocked and riveted France.

But in emotional testimony before a three-judge panel, a tearful Cantat said Trintignant “did not die out of hatred”, professing his love for the actress and saying their row, sparked by jealousy, spun horribly out of control.

The singer testified that the couple had argued about the contact each had with their former partners: Cantat with his estranged wife Khristina and Trintignant with her ex-boyfriend, director Samuel Benchetrit.

“Marie was out of control, I was out of control. I should have left… I was beside myself,” he told the court.

After several attempts to discuss her relationship with Benchetrit, Cantat said, “She exploded. I didn’t recognize her anymore. She was very nasty, her words were incredibly cold, insulting to me, Khristina, my children.”

When asked by the court, he admitted slapping the actress four times.Trintignant, daughter of veteran French movie star Jean-Louis Trintignant, died in Paris on August 1 of swelling to the brain, nearly a week after the violent row.

French medical experts said she had been struck in the face and repeatedly shaken, which left her in a coma, but Cantat has said he only slapped her with his palm or the back of his hand, and that she later fell and hit her head.

The 41-year-old actress was in the Lithuanian capital to shoot a television film about the French writer Colette, directed by her mother Nadine.

Cantat pleaded with the Trintignant family to listen to his testimony, saying, “I would simply like to tell them of my despair. I know how they are suffering,” before turning to Trintignant’s mother, who looked away.

“I want to tell you this even if you are incapable of hearing it. I want you to know: I loved Marie.”

Asked by the court if she wanted to respond, Nadine Trintignant said: “I’ve heard too many lies and if I had to speak, I would express myself poorly.”

Later, she testified about Cantat: “My impression was wrong. I thought he was a gentle man,” adding that in her lifetime, she had never seen her daughter angry.

Remanded in custody in Vilnius since being charged, Cantat could face a maximum penalty of 15 years if found guilty.

His attorneys said they would try to show that a “crime of passion” was committed, sparked by Trintignant’s own violent behavior. If the judges rule that such a crime occurred, the French singer would face six years in prison.

After making her debut at the tender age of four, Trintignant starred in more than 30 French-language films and enjoyed a healthy career on the French stage. She earned five nominations for the Cesar award, France’s Oscar, but never won one.

Trintignant was the mother of four sons. She and Cantat did not have any children together.


                                                              Subject: France news