A CHAMPION grower has been left devastated after his prize gooseberry trees were killed with a poisonous chemical.

Terry Price, 76, claims his precious crop has been deliberately sabotaged.

The veteran has been nurturing his beloved fruit for almost 60 years, after his dad Alf's friend gave him four trees when he was a teenager.

"I could have cried, honestly, I was that upset," said Terry. "My trees were all droopy, 46 out of 50 were killed. It was definitely done deliberately.

"I took samples from all the pots and had them analysed. Tests showed that it was done with a killer for nasty weeds.

"The public can't buy it, it's much stronger, you have to have a licence to buy it."

Terry, president of the century old Goostrey show, suspects the culprit attacked his crop during the night.

"Somebody must have been to my house and seen where I have my good ones," said Terry. "They didn't touch my young ones."

The dad-of-three believes the mystery poisoning happened three months ago when his precious trees were growing in an enclosed pen in the back garden of his home in Tremlow Green.

"They were just coming into leaf, my son noticed them and called me over to take a look," said Terry. "The trees were all droopy.

"I had them in pots. They went brown and all died within 10 days."

Martin de Kretser, secretary of Goostrey Gooseberry Society founded n 1897, said: "Sadly, Terry has reported potential sabotage with the spraying of his trees with weed killer.

"Needless to say if this was another gooseberry grower they would be banned for life but I find this hard to believe someone would do that to Terry."

Terry Price

Terry's prizewinning gooseberry being weighed at last year's show

One of the trees that was attacked had produced a millennium berry of 32 pennyweights 19 grains and won Terry first prize in last year's show.

Terry, who has six grandchildren, started showing when he was 18 and has developed a lifelong passion, competing in local shows.

The season starts with Goostrey show which starts at the Crown Inn at 1pm tomorrow, Saturday.

Normally filled with excitement, Terry will be entering only a handful of berries to defend his title.

"I won Goostrey 11 times, came second 15 times and third 12 times," he said. "I haven't been out of the first four for 10 years.

I'll be putting one or two berries in.

"I'll be picking them tonight. When I last looked at them there were some shooting up but with all this rain I daren't look."