French farmer on trial for killing 'truffle thief'

. Rambaud is accused of the fatal shooting with a shotgun of Ernest Pardo, on December 20, 2010, after feeling threatened Image copyright AFP
Image caption Laurent Rambaud said he was surprised by the intruder and feared for his life

A French farmer has gone on trial over the killing of a suspected truffle thief on his land.

Laurent Rambaud, 37, says he felt threatened when he found Ernest Pardo, 42, and a dog while guarding his farm in south-eastern France in 2010.

He shot Mr Pardo, known to sell truffles at local markets, with two blasts from a pump-action shotgun.

Truffles are a prized delicacy in French cuisine, fetching up to $1,000 (£708) per kilogram (2.2 lb).

The killing, in the small town of Grignan, came days before Christmas, with the truffle harvest underway and demand for the luxury fungus at its peak.

'Ordinary man'

With prices high, truffles have long been tempting for thieves - police have even resorted to micro-chipping batches as a deterrent.

Mr Rambaud is a well-known local figure, who has been president of his regional branch of Young Farmers, and worked as a volunteer firefighter.

"This is an ordinary man who committed an extraordinary act," the psychiatrist who examined him told the trial in Valence, Le Dauphine reported (in French).

The lawyer for Mr Pardo's family contested Mr Rambaud's version of events, saying "it's not normal to go in made-up, dressed in camouflage, armed to the teeth, and to fire twice", according to French newspaper 20 Minutes.

The charge against Mr Rambaud has been reduced from murder to manslaughter after the court decided the killing was not premeditated.

If convicted, Mr Rambaud faces 30 years in jail. The verdict is expected later this week.

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