Peru Prosecutors Say Canadian Killed by Lynch Mob May Have Shot Ayahuasca Shaman
Locals in the Amazon appear to have taken justice into their own hands after a tourist was accused of killing a revered Indigenous healer.
Sebastian Woodroffe (left) via Facebook; Olivia Arévalo via YouTube
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with new information from the Temple of the Way of Light.
The story about the Canadian man who was "lynched" by a mob in Peru has taken yet another turn. Prosecutors in the country now suspect the Canadian whose body was found in a makeshift grave in Ucayali region, Sebastian Woodroffe, may have been responsible for the death of the revered Indigenous shaman Olivia Arévalo, according to a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, Reuters reports.
The two men with arrest warrants for allegedly being involved in Woodroffe’s lynching seem to have fled, according to Ucayali region prosecutor Ricardo Jimenez. In a blurry cell phone video, a man (Woodroffe, as identified by officials) was seen being dragged by a noose around his neck through a puddle of mud amidst a crowd of onlookers.
Woodroffe, 41, of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, had originally gone to Peru on a journey to become an addictions counsellor via studying plant medicine, including ayahuasca. Several years ago, he had a crowdfunding page where he raised thousands of dollars for his travels. But, last week, he was accused in the shooting death of Arévalo.
Arévalo, 81, was a member of the Shipibo-Conibo tribe and part of a healing center that offered ayahuasca retreats, the Temple of the Way of Light from 2009 to 2011. Reportedly, Woodroffe was one of her patients, though this would not have been at the temple.
The dominant hypothesis prosecutors are looking at now alleges that Woodroffe may have killed Arévalo because of a debt. According to a Reuters report, Arévalo’s son may have owed Woodroffe about $5,565 [$4,335]. The report also claims that authorities located a document dated April 3, indicating Woodroffe bought a gun from a cop, according to Jimenez. That police officer is also now wanted for questioning.
“We want to see if that weapon actually existed. We haven’t found it yet, but we’re looking,” Jimenez said. “With the new evidence that has appeared, [Woodroffe] is the main suspect.”
A supposed witness claimed that he saw a silver pistol fall from Woodroffe’s backpack when he was being attacked by the lynch mob, according to Jimenez.
Investigators were also considering alternate theories in Arévalo’s death, including that a different foreign national could have been involved.
A friend of Woodroffe’s in Canada, though, Yarrow Willard, does not believe the accusations. He said Woodroffe went to Peru “seeking healing as he was feeling troubled and slightly lost.”
“He was a loving father and kind man who was not capable of the crimes he was accused of,” Willard told Reuters.
Peruvian authorities have now ordered lab tests on Woodroffe’s body to be expedited to aid in the investigation. Results are expected this week.
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