BRUSSELS, Belgium - A young woman babysitting her four-year-old brother has gone on trial accused of strangling him because she was angry that she could not see her boyfriend, a court in Belgium heard on Monday.
An Italian-Moroccan woman identified as Bouchra F., who is now 20 but was aged 17 when the boy died in 2015, denies murder and is backed by her parents who say she would "not have laid a finger" on him, Belgian media reported.
She was looking after her younger brother on the first day of the school summer holidays while her parents were working in the Brussels suburb of Berchem-Saint-Agathe.
Bouchra, whose family moved to Belgium from Italy in 2012, exchanged mobile telephone messages with her boyfriend to say she could not meet him as planned because she was "stuck at home."
But that afternoon a neighbour alerted emergency services after the young woman called her for help because the boy was unconscious on their sofa. He was declared dead an hour later.
A forensic doctor said the cause was "mechanical asphyxia" apparently following strangulation, as evidenced by lesions on the face and neck.
The boy had previously been hospitalised a month earlier in a state of respiratory distress, also while in the care of his sister, investigators said, and the forensic doctor said it was likely an initial murder attempt.
Bouchra was arrested in November 2015 after a re-enactment of events during which her account was not deemed credible.
Investigators believed that the boy was killed by his sister either because he had prevented her from seeing her boyfriend, or because he threatened to reveal a relationship to her parents that she wanted to keep secret.
Psychiatrists said Bouchra showed "emotional indifference" and had a "high self-image backed by unfailing egocentricity."
But two medical reports ordered by the defence gave differing reasons for the boy's death, with one saying it was linked to a respiratory condition and another to an epileptic fit.
Bouchra, who was released from detention in 2017, appeared at her trial which is expected to last a week.