A British expat, whose body was found at the bottom of a well, may have been killed following a fight over stolen vegetables, French police say.
David King, 70, originally from Newham in east London, was found by sniffer dogs near 500m from his home in the Normandy hamlet of Pierres, southwest of Caen.
Police charged an unemployed Frenchman, 28, with murder, after he admitted to having a “quarrel” with Mr King and dumping his body in the well.
Carole Etienne, the local prosecutor, said that the suspect, who was reportedly living rough, had admitted to killing the pensioner, but claimed he could not remember how it had happened.
“Among the vague attempts at an explanation given by the accused, we are looking at the possibility of an altercation over the theft of foodstuff,” the prosecutor told Le Parisien newspaper.
It is thought the suspect may be behind a string of thefts in the area, which had led locals to complain.
Sarah Anne, the mayor of Pierres, said: “In one night, a whole plot of leeks might disappear. One person saw four rabbits vanishing overnight.
"People were getting more and more angry, and some were even threatening to defend their plots with shotguns.”
Friends and relatives of Mr King, who retired to France 15 years ago, attacked the police for their slowness and apparent bungling of the investigation.
Police had refused to open a missing person’s case because they thought the pensioner had travelled to Australia to visit his daughter, leaving the murderer at large for six months.
Neighbours paid to tribute Mr King after his body was discovered. One, Ivor Widdison, told The Independent: "Dave was a wonderful man. He had lived in Normandy for 15 years and had many British and French friends.
"He was never well off and added to his two small pensions by selling plants and shrubs that he had grown in his garden. He was a wonderful gardener."Reuse content