Canadian Sebastian Woodroffe who travelled to Peru to study hallucinogenic medicine was killed by a mob in a remote corner of the Amazon rain forest. Facebook photo

Peru authorities order arrest of two suspects in B.C. man’s killing

On Monday, officials backed away from reports that he was the principal suspect.

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of a Vancouver Island man who travelled to the Amazon rainforest to study hallucinogenic medicine, officials said Monday.

Authorities said over the weekend that a mob dragged Sebastian Woodroffe by the neck to his death shortly after people accused him of killing Olivia Arevalo, an octogenarian plant healer from the Shipibo-Konibo tribe of northeastern Peru.

Prosecutors said Monday the two suspects were identified in a video shot on a cellphone showing the moment Woodroffe, who was 41, was killed last week.

Officials said forensic experts were studying Woodroffe’s body to determine whether he had any involvement in Arevalo’s killing, as was initially suggested. On Monday, officials backed away from reports that he was the principal suspect.

Arevalo and Woodroffe were both killed Thursday in the Indigenous community of Victoria Gracia, officials said. But police did not begin to investigate until a cellphone video appeared in local media showing a man purported to be Woodroffe begging for mercy while being dragged between thatch-roofed homes. He was then left motionless on the muddy ground.

On Saturday, officials dug up Woodroffe’s body from an unmarked grave where he had been hastily buried.

Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell said Monday the department was aware of the case and had been in touch with the man’s family and Peruvian officials but no further information would be provided due to privacy concerns.

Every year thousands of foreign tourists travel to the Peruvian Amazon to experiment with ayahuasca — a bitter, dark-coloured brew made of a mixture of native plants.

The hallucinogenic cocktail, also known as yage, has been venerated for centuries by indigenous tribes in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia as a cure for all sorts of ailments. It’s also increasingly consumed by Western tourists looking for mind-altering experiences, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Arevalo was a staunch defender of Indigenous people’s rights in the region. She also practised a traditional form of singing medicine that the Shipibo believe removes negative energies from individuals.

Woodroffe, who was from Cumberland on Vancouver Island, said before going to Peru that he hoped an apprenticeship with a plant healer from the Shipibo tribe would help his goal of changing careers to become an addiction counsellor using hallucinogenic medicine.

“A recent family intervention for a relative with an alcohol addiction has opened my eyes to what I should be doing for work,” he wrote on the Indiegogo crowd-funding website seeking financial help to advance his studies.

“The plant medicine I have the opportunity of learning is far deeper than ingesting a plant and being healed. It is not about getting ‘high’ either. It is true some of the plants I will be learning about do have a perception-altering effect, but these are a few plants out of thousands I will be working with,” he said.

Friends of Woodroffe have posted messages of condolences on social media pages, and Woodroffe’s Facebook profile has changed to ‘Remembering Sebastian Woodroffe.’

Yarrow Willard, a close friend of Woodroffe, said in a Facebook message he was a loving father and kind man, “who was not capable of the crimes he was accused of.”

Friend Brodie Dawson echoed Willard’s statement.

“(Sebastian) was well-loved in the community and he was a sweet and loving person, and … this was very out of character for him,” she noted.

-With files from Erin Haluschak

Just Posted

Police warn Barriere residents about suspicious prowlers on private property late at night or early morning hours

Residents advised to secure their vehicles and remove all valuable contents

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

African Children’s Choir making a difference in the world

Waroto Children’s Choir celebrate Christ and caring for community on six month world tour

Snowpack at normal levels, but El Niño is lurking

Despite a warmer than usual winter that has produced a dearth of… Continue reading

Letter: New party with a strong platform could form majority government in B.C.

Voters fed up with BC’s political parties open the door for a new party to enter BC politics

Self serve doggy-wash poised to change dog grooming industry

Add money, start spraying to wash dog in the K9000

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

For two decades, significantly more of the whales have died in even-numbered years than in odd years

Burnaby byelection turmoil sparks debate about identity issues in politics

The Liberals still have not said whether they plan to replace Wang, who stepped aside Wednesday

B.C. woman planned to donate a kidney to her husband, then found out she has cancer

Richard Stuart needs a kidney, his wife Tracy has been diagnosed with cancer

Rookie Demko backstops Canucks to 4-3 win over Sabres

Young Vancouver goalie makes 36 saves to turn away Buffalo

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered B.C. girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

Most Read