A top European star insists the death of his girlfriend was a tragic accident...

One of France’s biggest rock stars has begged the family of his late lover, the actor MARIE TRINTIGNANT, to forgive him for the blows that ended her life.

Bertrand Cantat, the lead singer of Noir Désir, wept in the dock on the opening day of his murder trial in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

He said to the victim’s family: “I want to tell them that I know how much they are suffering, that I love them too and that I cannot bear their suffering.

“I know they are filled with hate, and I understand, but there was no hate. Marie did not die of that … It’s derisory, but I just want them to know my despair, even if I know they will not hear me … I loved Marie more than it is possible to imagine.”

The rocker, adored in France as much for his campaigning social conscience as for his hugely successful songs, this week faces being sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in jail for killing Trintignant, an actress from one of the country’s great theatrical families, reports the Guardian.

The pair had been together for 18 months when the violent quarrel that ended in Trintignant’s death took place in a hotel room in Vilnius on the night of July 26 last year.

Trintignant, 41, who was filming a television series directed by her mother, Nadine, about the life of the 19th-century writer Colette, died on August 1 after being carried back to France in a private jet.

Cantat, 40, has admitted striking Trintignant, but insisted her death was a tragic accident.

He said he had been drunk and that he had slapped her hard four times, contradicting the state prosecutors who accuse him of punching her at least 19 times in a jealous rage.

He told the three judges: “Everything happened very fast. 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.”

Cantat added: “Marie was clinging on to me. I wanted to shake her off … She was beside herself. I was beside myself … I threw her on to the sofa.”

The fight had began after Trintignant received an affectionate text message from her former husband, the film director Samuel Benchetrit, Cantat told investigators in court documents released before the trial.

In court yesterday the singer denied any intention to kill or even injure. He spoke of the “quite extraordinary love” between himself and Trintignant, but described too her “passionate” and “extreme” nature and said she had demanded “complete exclusivity”.

Cantat’s lawyers are expected to plead during the trial that he is guilty of a “murder with passion”, defined as “a crime committed under the duress of extreme emotion triggered by the victim’s behaviour”, which would carry a lesser sentence of up to six years.