Belgian politician Steve Stevaert found dead in canal

Steve Stevaert with Princess Mathilde in 2007 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Stevaert, here with Princess Mathilde before she became queen, was previously a provincial governor

Belgian police have found the body of missing politician Steve Stevaert in a canal, hours after he learnt he was to face trial over a rape allegation.

Stevaert, 60, is a former leader of the Flemish Social Democrat party, and also served as mayor of the city of Hasselt and as a provincial governor.

It is thought he killed himself - Belgian media reported that he left a farewell letter.

The rape case dated back to 2010 and he had vehemently denied the allegation.

Divers retrieved his body from the Albert canal, Hasselt authorities said, after his bike was found by the waterside.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The alarm was raised when Mr Stevaert's bicycle and two jackets were found at the Albert canal

A spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor had announced earlier on Thursday that Stevaert was to be prosecuted for rape, indecent assault and abuse of office.

According to Belgian media, the alleged victim made no complaint until 2013, and Stevaert was then questioned by police.

The incident dated back to a TV programme, on which both Stevaert and the alleged victim were guests.

Although Stevaert had admitted that they had sexual relations, he denied rape, reports said.

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