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Guerlain, the master of perfume, shot by raiders

JEAN-PAUL GUERLAIN, one of the world's leading perfumers, was shot and wounded yesterday by a gang of masked raiders who pillaged his chateau west of Paris.

Mr Guerlain's estate manager was shot in the chest and two other employees were slightly injured during a four-hour raid on the sprawling property near Versailles. The gang of 10 to 12 men, who ransacked several buildings on the estate, "Mesnuls", near Montfort-l'Amaury in the Yvelines, escaped with cash, jewellery and silverware worth several hundred thousand pounds.

Mr Guerlain, 62, is known as one of the last "noses" - or old-style scent designers - in the business. He sold the 170-year-old family firm, which claims to be the first specialist perfume house, to the French luxury goods group LVMH four years ago.

However, Mr Guerlain remained the company's chief adviser on perfumes.

On the day before the raid, he had launched his newest creation, Guerlinade, at a media show on the Champs-Elysees.

Police said that the raiders, armed with revolvers and pump-action rifles, shot Mr Guerlain in the thigh and his estate manager in the chest as they left the property. It is thought that the perfumer tried to raise the alarm or grab a gun. Mr Guerlain was said to be recovering and his manager was "in critical condition" last night. Two other employees were slightly injured; one was beaten up by the raiders; the other jumped from a window to try to escape.

The chief public prosecutor of the Versailles area, Yves Colleu, described the raid as a "savage attack" in which several members of the family and staff were threatened and beaten in order to force them to reveal and open the safes. Forty police officers were assigned to the case.

Last year, the Guerlain label was involved in a brief fracas with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, after it claimed in advertising that he regularly used its men's cologne, Habit Rouge. The company withdrew the advertisements after Downing Street issued a denial.

The perfume house was founded by Pierre Guerlain on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris in 1828.

Jean-Paul Guerlain, the fifth generation of the family to head the business, says he can distinguish between 3,000 scents, which he personally scours the world to buy. He created his first perfume in 1959, and his best-known creations include Chamade (1969), Nahema (1979) and Heritage (1992).