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    FRENCH STAR MURDERER IN THE DOCK

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    VILNIUS, MARCH 16 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Sensational hearings opened at the Vilnius district court today. Bertrand Cantat, top-notch French rock singer, is accused of beating to death his beloved, movie star Marie Trintignant, of even greater renown.

    Close on a thousand press reporters and photographers, TV journalists and cameras have flocked in from France, Germany, Switzerland and many other countries. French ambassadorial officers and the defendant's relations are among the public. The hearings are too ticklish for publicity, insists prosecutor Vladimir Sergeyev, who is determined to apply to court for closed-door sessions.

    A verdict of "guilty" will bring the Noir Desir solo a prison term of five to fifteen years.

    Marie Trintignant, 41, was sharing hotel rooms with Cantat last summer in the Old Town, a tourist-infested medieval site in Vilnius, Lithuanian capital. In a violent scene, the man dealt her no less than nineteen bad punches, in the face and head, for the most part. Urgent neuro-surgery was no use and, after two operations in Vilnius, the comatose actress was taken to Paris by an emergency flight. She died in hospital a few days later to orphan four children. A post-mortem revealed numerous fatal cerebral injuries.

    Bertrand Cantat denies premeditated murder to allege drunken violence - which the prosecution qualifies as an aggravating circumstance. Meanwhile, district attorney Ramutis Jancevicius says tests made immediately after Cantat's detention revealed no drugs and mere traces of alcohol in his blood - 0.4 pro mille, that is, within the driving norm in Lithuania.

    The woman spent the last months of her life in Vilnius to star "Colette", a television serial Nadine Trintignant, her mother, was directing.

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