Autopsies solve strange case of two French friends who dropped dead simultaneously during beef dinner
When two men enjoying a summer dinner of roasted beef and canned beans dropped dead in Authon-du-Perche, the French village found itself at the centre of what seemed to be a sinister mystery that gripped the country.
Olivier Boudin, 38, was found lying on his back on the ground. Lucien Perot, 69, was found at the terrace table before a half-finished plate, some camembert, a baguette and a glass of wine. There was no sign of an attack or a fight and there was no indication of a break-in or robbery.
A neighbour who spotted them at 6am last Thursday at Perot’s home assumed they were sleeping off the effects of the boozy evening before and left them be.
“At first, I told myself they must have been pretty drunk to still be sleeping, then when I saw Lucien still sitting at the table a bit later … I thought it must have been an extremely drunken evening,” the unnamed woman told the local newspaper L’Echo Républicain.
At midday, the same woman realised the two men had not moved a muscle and tried without success to rouse them only to discover they were both dead.
Perhaps, speculated neighbours and police, the tin of preserved beans was contaminated, bringing on a swift and fatal case of botulism. Detectives dispatched it, along with the camembert, beef, bread and wine, to the Pasteur Institute in Paris for analysis. The tests for botulism came back negative.
The local mayor, Patrice Leriget, told journalists the dinner scene looked as if “as if time had suddenly stopped”.
On Wednesday, after days of speculation across France, the cause of the apparently simultaneous deaths was revealed to be more prosaic.
Postmortems suggested the older man, had choked after trying to swallow a 44g piece of beef rib without chewing it properly, reportedly due to having several teeth missing. Doctors suggested the younger man, who had a genetic heart condition, had a heart attack seeing his friend dying.
At the local Au Bon Coin bistrot, the owner said the pair regularly dined and drank together and were like “father and son”.
Locals told Le Parisien newspaper it was a “stupid death” but said they were reassured the cause of the men’s demise was finally known.
“They hadn’t any enemies and led simple lives. They were certainly not the sort of people to be picked off by the mafia,” said one neighbour.