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

Updated | A Canadian man was lynched in the Peruvian Amazon on Saturday after community members accused him of killing an 81-year-old indigenous healer, local officials said.

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

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

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

Police said 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 from his fingerprints.

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

At least one man can be seen putting a rope around Woodroffe's neck and striking his body several times before dragging him across the ground. Woodroffe'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 indicated he died from strangulation.

The spokesperson, Ricardo Palma Jimenez, said prosecutors were exploring several theories concerning Arévalo's murder and that 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 said Arévalo's family members accused Woodroffe of her murder, with indigenous news service Servindi publishing photos of the Canadian and identifying him as the killer.

Arévalo's murder 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 had been working with local authorities in the Ucayali region, local community and indigenous leaders to determine what happened.

It said the national police and public ministry would identify those responsible for both Woodroffe's and Lomas's murders as soon as possible.

Woodroffe appeared to have used crowdfunding website IndieGogo about five years ago to raise funds to help him travel from Victoria to Peru's Amazon to "learn plant medicine," which would aid him in addiction counseling.

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."

This is Olivia Arévalo. May she rest in peace.

— Amazon Watch (@amazonwatch) April 20, 2018

A friend of Woodroffe's told Canadian broadcaster CBC that the 41-year-old had traveled 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 told Newsweek 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 has been updated with a statement from Global Affairs Canada.

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