Canadian Lynched In Peruvian Amazon After Being Accused Of Killing Indigenous Healer

Chantal Da Silva

A Canadian man was killed in a lynching in the Peruvian Amazon on Saturday after community members accused him of killing an 81-year-old Indigenous healer, local officials have said.

Police have said villagers accused Sebastian Woodroffe, 41, of killing local Shipibo-Konibo healer and rights activist Olivia Arévalo after she was found dead with two gunshot wounds near her home in the village of Victoria Gracia in Peru's central Amazon region of Ucayali. 

shaman

A Canadian man was lynched to death in the Peruvian Amazon after being accused of killing shaman and human rights activist Olivia Arévalo Lomas. Reuters

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Woodroffe, who leaves behind a son, who had moved from Victoria, British Columbia, to the Amazon to study natural healing, was believed to have been one of Arévalo's patients.

Police say they found the Canadian's body buried roughly 0.6 miles away from the healer's home on Saturday. General Jorge Lam told The Guardian police had identified Woodroffe's body using fingerprints. 

A graphic video released by local media and shared across social media, which claims to show Woodroffe's final moments, appears to show a man crying out as he lies in a puddle outside a wooden home. 

At least one man can be seen putting a rope around his neck and striking his body several times before dragging him across the ground. The man's body appears to go limp after a short while, as a crowd of people, including children, look on. 

A spokesperson for Ucayali's attorney general's office confirmed to Reuters that the man in the video was Woodroffe, adding that an autopsy of his body showed he had died from strangulation.

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The spokesperson, Ricardo Palma Jimenez, said prosecutors were exploring several theories related to Arévalo's murder and said it was too early to name any suspects in the case. 

He said lawyers would "not rest until both murders, of the indigenous woman as well as the Canadian man are solved." So far, no arrests have been made in connection with either death.

Local media reports say Arévalo's family members had accused Woodroffe of her murder, with indigenous news service Servindi publishing photos of the Canadian and identifying him as the alleged killer.

Arévalo's murder had sparked outrage among Peruvians, as well as environmental and human rights groups around the world, with Amazon Watch calling her death "horrific" and honoring her as a defender of "rights of her people deep in the Peruvian Amazon."

A translated statement from Peru's Ministry of Culture released on Saturday offered its condolences to Woodroffe's family and said the ministry has been working with local authorities in the Ucayali region, as well as the local community and indigenous leaders to determine what happened.

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It said the National Police and Public Ministry would identify those responsible for both Woodroffe and Arévalo's murders as soon as possible.

Woodroffe appeared to have used crowdfunding website IndieGogo about five years ago to try to raise funds to help him travel from Victoria to Peru's Amazon to "learn plant medicine" to aid him in Addictions Counselling.

The Canadian said "a recent family intervention for a relative with an alcohol addiction has opened my eyes to what I should be doing for work," adding that his long-term goal was to "create a platform for this teaching in the form of a healing/detox center based around plant medicine and nature."

A friend of Woodroffe's told Canadian broadcaster CBC that the 41-year-old had travelled to Peru a handful of times to experiment with ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drug used in traditional healing. Yarrow Willard described Woodroffe as a "gentle" and loving father who sought "deeper meaning."

Global Affairs Canada has yet to respond to a request for comment from Newsweek, but told Reuters in a statement: “Canada extends its deepest condolences following the reported assassination of‎ Olivia Arévalo, an indigenous elder and human rights defender of the Shipobo-Konibo people in Peru’s Ucayali region."

“We are also aware that a Canadian ‎was killed in a related incident," the office said, adding: "Consular services are being provided to the family of the Canadian.”

This article was first written by Newsweek

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