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Canadians "lynched" in the Peruvian Amazon, accused of killing a native shaman

Sebastian Woodroffe, a Canadian father, was killed by a mob in a remote village in Peru on April 20. (Courtesy of Jessica Malchow.)

It was in October 2013 when Sebastian Woodroffe decided to quit his job and leave his home in Canada to study plant medicine in Peru. A relatives' relatives struggle with alcoholism inspired him to "solidify the spirit of the family" and pursue an addiction counseling career, he said in a YouTube video.

Woodroffe, then 36 years old, father of a 4-year-old boy, began raising money for teaching traditional healers in the Amazon. He was committed to "supporting this culture and keeping some of its treasures in me and my family and sharing them with those who want to learn," he wrote on a fundraising page. He was particularly interested in experiencing ayahuasca, a muddy hallucinogenic potion used by native shamans in spiritual exercises.

It is not entirely clear what happened in the following years or whether the Canadian tourist found the cure for which he sought Peruvian Amazon. But last week his name and face somehow ended up on a wanted poster accusing him of murdering a beloved shaman and indigenous activist in a remote rainforest in northeastern Peru.

Angry members of the indigenous community seem to have taken things into their own hands. Peruvian authorities say that a mob of locals in the Amazon region of Ucayali killed Woodroffe before burying him in an improvised tomb. Peru's ombudsman described the murder as "lynching justice".

A cruel mobile video that appeared in local news agencies shows a man later identified by officials as Woodroffe and pulled by a cord around his neck. He groans and asks for mercy before he lies motionless in the dirt.

The police found the body and identified it as Woodrowe's body, told Peru's Home Office in a statement on Saturday and swore an aggressive investigation into both his killing and the shaman Olivia Arévalo Lomas, a respected member of the Shipibo-Konibo tribe in her 80s.

Woodroffe's body was buried less than a mile from Arévalo's house, and an autopsy of the body revealed that he died of strangulation after being beaten. Ricardo Palma Jimenez, head of a group of prosecutors in Ucayali, told Reuters. His body was taken to a morgue in the nearby town of Pucallpa, the Home Office said.

"We want people in the Amazon to know there is justice," Jiménez told a Peruvian television broadcaster, "but not justice through their own hands."

The assassination of Arévalo, a respected indigenous rights activist , caused outrage among her tribe and throughout Peru, especially in view of the many unresolved killings of environmental and human rights activists in the region. The Amazon was cited as one of the world's regions with the most killing of activists, especially indigenous activists, according to a 2016 study by the Global Watching environmental observation group. These disputes often arise in connection with mining, agribusiness, logging and dam projects.

Locals told an indigenous news agency that witnesses Woodroffe had several times shot Arévalo after singing an Ikaro. He then fled, claiming local residents, Arévalo's family members, to publish a "wanted" bulletin online and on Facebook, showing Woodrote's photo, marking him by name and nationality, and offering a reward.

In recent years, Arévalo had worked on a Ayahuasca "retreats" in a traditional healing center called Temple of the Path of Light, after a site for the business. She has been working with traditional herbal medicine since the age of 15 and comes from a long line of healers, the center wrote next to a YouTube video singing one of her heirloom or icarus.

Ricardo Franco, Arévalo's nephew, described her on a Peruvian TV station as "the mother protecting the earth in the jungle" and "the most popular woman" in the tribe.

Ayahuasca retreats have become very popular with foreign tourists. Every year, thousands of people travel to the Peruvian Amazon to experiment with the hallucinogenic concoction, also called yage, which some locals refer to as the "holy vine of the soul".

The potion contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a potent hallucinogen that is legal in Peru only in spiritual practice. Tourists from the United States, Australia, Canada and beyond flock to these jungle villages for Ayahuasca rituals, hoping that treatment for depression can cure childhood trauma, the Washington Post reported in 2010. These retreats have again a booming tourism industry in the region.

But the growing number of tourists in the city has contributed to growing frustrations that a double standard exists in the way indigenous people are treated in criminal justice, local residents said Peruvian news channels. [19659017] "There is justice for those with money," said a resident, Alder Rengifo Torres, opposite TV Peru.

"A stranger can come and kill us day after day, like dogs or cats, and nothing happens to the state," a local woman was captured on television and told a Peruvian deputy minister who visited the indigenous community over the weekend.

A Peruvian ombudsman wrote a series of tweets He condemned the assassination of Arévalo Lomas, "a promoter of the cultural rights of Shipibo-Conibo natives". He called on the government to protect indigenous peoples "in the face of an increase in illegal activities that endanger their lives." But the Ombudsman also expressed its "clear rejection of the lynching and murder of the alleged perpetrator" of Arévalo's killing. "We ask the authorities for a thorough investigation."

In his online fundraiser for study in Peru, Woodroffe said that he wanted to make several trips to the Amazon to "continue to learn to bring them love and friendship and build community." He said he already had Spanish learned, but was "not yet skilled enough to go with me daily without a translator."

"The acceptance of their wisdom power will add value to the Shipibo that is threatened by modernization and industry, helping to erode their rod Conserve Amazon, "Woodroffe wrote.

Reached by the Washington Post, Woodroff's relative said that his family refused to comment. His friend, Yarrow Willard, told Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that Woodroffe grew up in Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. He has been working in odd jobs in recent years and has done professional diving.

Willard said Woodroffe had become more detached after tasting ayahuasca in Peru and returned "from his retreats there".

He described Woodroffe as a person "who likes to poke and likes to explore the limits of people's beliefs, but among all of them is a very gentle person." It was hard to believe that his friend would ever be involved in a violent crime. "He had a nice spark for him that people respected and loved."

"This man never had a weapon or talked about anything in that direction," Willard told the CBC. He suggested that Woodroffe might have become a scapegoat.

"We were in shock right now," said Willard. "It just felt like a scam because there's no way this person can do it."

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