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French farmer gets eight years for killing suspected truffle thief

Published on May 29, 2015

A French court Friday sentenced to eight years in prison a farmer who shot dead a man he thought was stealing his truffles.

Laurent Rambaud, 37, had grown increasingly frustrated with a spate of thefts in the southeastern region of Drome, and on the night of December 20, 2010, headed out into his fields armed with a shotgun.

He came across 43-year-old Ernest Pardo, who was known as a truffle hunter and had previous indictments for theft, who was walking with his dog.

Taking him for a thief and believing him to be armed, Rambaud fired two shots at Pardo, killing him almost immediately.

The prosecutor Gilbert Emery had sought 12 years imprisonment for Rambaud, arguing that the farmer was “conscious of his actions” and that he had an “obsession of chasing away the (suspected) truffle thief, of catching him and of eliminating him”.

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

Rambaud, who was president of the young farmers’ association in the region and a volunteer fireman, had repeatedly complained about thefts.

Truffles are a delicacy in France, known as “black diamonds” and worth around 1,000 euros ($1,100) per kilo during the holiday season.

“This is a man who felt he was in danger that night. He was scared,” said his lawyer Alain Fort in opening remarks at the trial, who added local farmers had been confronted by armed thieves.