A Canadian man living in the Peruvian Amazon was murdered by locals who accused him of shooting a beloved shaman, according to new reports.
Sebastian Woodroffe quit his job in 2013 to move to Peru and apprentice with traditional healers in the Amazon. In a fundraising page for the trip, the then-36-year-old wrote he planned on staying three months, before going home to become an addiction counsellor.
It’s unclear what happened in the years since, but on Thursday, when Olivia Arévalo, an 81-year-old shaman, was found fatally shot twice in her remote home, some villagers blamed Woodroffe, who lived nearby and was believed to be one of her patients.
A mob of locals in the Amazon region of Ucayali “lynched” Woodroffe and buried him in an unmarked grave, where he was discovered Friday, Peruvian authorities said Sunday.
A gruesome cellphone video shared on social media shows Woodroffe being dragged through the mud by a rubber hose around his neck, moaning and pleading for mercy, before lying still in the dirt, Reuters reported.
A group of people, including children, can be seen looking on.
An autopsy showed Woodroffe was strangled after being hit several times across his body, said Ricardo Palma Jimenez, the head of a local group of prosecutors.
No arrests have been made in either of the cases.
“We will not rest until both murders, of the indigenous woman as well as the Canadian man, are solved,” Jimenez said.
The killing of the elderly medicine woman, a respected indigenous-rights leader, sparked outrage in Peru, where there is little policing over much of the Andes and Amazon. Villagers in isolated provinces usually punish criminals on their own, according to local customs.
Ronald Suárez, the highest authority of the Shipibo-Konibo tribe, told The Guardian that the men responsible for the lynching “acted on the spur of the moment and resorted to traditional justice.”
“But we are a peaceful people who have always lived in harmony with nature,” he insisted. “We have little confidence in the police as, so often, crimes against us go unpunished.”