UPDATE: This story has been updated with new information from Temple of the Way of Light.
A Peruvian judge issued orders on Monday for the arrests of two men suspected of being involved with the lynch mob killing of a Canadian man, Sebastian Woodroffe.
Woodroffe, 41, of British Columbia, had gone to Peru initially on a quest years ago to study plant medicine in hopes of becoming an addictions counsellor. But last week, after a beloved healer who was part of an Indigenous group, 81-year-old Olivia Arévalo, was shot dead in the Ucayali region, locals accused Woodroffe of murdering her. His name and face were printed on a wanted poster.
A day after her death, a cell phone video captured a lynch mob attacking Woodroffe, dragging him by a noose around his neck on the ground as a group of people watched. Peruvian officials referred publicly to the killing as a “lynching.” Woodroffe's body was found in a makeshift grave.
Arévalo was part of healing centre that offers ayahuasca retreats, Temple of the Way of Light between 2009 and 2011. Woodroffe was one of her clients, according to Peruvian officials, though this was not at the temple.
The head of a prosecutor group in Ucayali, Ricardo Jimenez, said Arévalo’s family believes Woodroffe killed the respected shaman because she refused to conduct an ayahuasca-related ritual on him, according to Reuters. Arévalo was part of the Shipibo-Conibo tribe.
On his 2013 Indiegogo page to fund his travels to Peru, Woodroffe listed his intention to study with a Shipibo plant healer. “I feel responsible trying to support this culture and retain some of their treasure in me and my family, and share it with those that wish to learn,” Woodroffe wrote on the page. “I feel this is my path of being a responsible, accountable human being.”
A friend of Woodroffe’s in Canada, Yarrow Willard, expressed disbelief surrounding the accusations against his friend by village people in Ucayali. He told CBC Woodroffe never owned a gun or talked about anything related and described him as “a gentle person.” But, he said that Woodroffe had returned from Peru “troubled” after taking ayahuasca.
In a statement about Woodroffe’s death, Global Affairs Canada said, “We are aware of this case and actively seeking further information.”
Peruvian officials are also investigating Arévalo’s death. Tensions in the Amazon have been increasing as other Indigenous people’s killings have gone unsolved.
According to Jimenez, no one witnessed Arévalo’s murder, though locals accused Woodroffe. Her body was found with gunshot wounds nearby her home. No murder weapon has surfaced as of yet. A theory investigators are looking into involves another foreign national killing her due to a personal debt.
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