French truffle farmer held in intruder's death

Wed Dec 22, 2010 5:26pm EST
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LYON, France (Reuters Life!) - A French truffle grower was detained on Wednesday on charges of shooting dead a man he believed had stolen some of his prized fungi, prosecutors said.

A court in Valence, southern France, ordered 32-year-old Laurent Rambaud to be held in custody and placed under judicial investigation for the fatal shooting of an intruder at his truffle plot.

The suspected thief was shot in the leg and the head, according to investigators.

About 200 fellow-growers protested outside the court during Rambaud's appearance. A day earlier, 250 people marched through his home village in a show of support for the farmer.

Growers in the theft-prone industry said the killing came as little surprise, noting that farmers devoted years of hard work before their plantations yielded any of the mysterious underground fungi, which can fetch between 800 and 1,000 euros ($1,000 and $1,300) per kilogram.

"We thought that this would happen one day," said truffle grower Didier Chabert from a nearby village. "We knew that one day there would be a tragedy."

The subtle nutty taste of truffles makes them an exclusive and expensive delicacy at top restaurants around the world.

(Reporting by Catherine Lagrange; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Andrew Dobbie)