A Canadian man named Sebastian Woodroffe was lynched by an angry mob in the Peruvian Amazon for allegedly murdering local 81-year-old shaman, Olivia Arévalo. However, Woodroffe’s longtime friend, Yarrow Willard, has doubts about what really happened. CBC reported that Woodroffe had a history of visiting Peru in order to take ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drug. Recently, the shaman had been offering guided ayahuasca consumption for tourists, and Woodroffe is believed to have hired her for this purpose. Some believe he was seeking to use ayahuasca to help him combat drug addiction. Woodroffe financed his trip using Indiegogo to raise over $2,000.
According to Willard, Woodroffe was looking for “deeper meaning,” and was on a journey to find personal enlightenment. Willard remembers that Woodroffe had changed after he took ayahuasca, and was “not broken, but troubled.” He described his friend’s personality.
[He was] one of these people who likes to poke, and likes to test the boundaries of people’s beliefs, but is very much a gentle person underneath all that. This man has never had a gun or talked about anything along that line.
Recently, other Indigenous activists have been murdered after receiving death threats for speaking out against illegal loggers and oil palm growers who are encroaching on native-owned land. Willard believes that Arévalo was killed because of her activism, not by Woodroffe. He sourced contacts in Peru, saying Arévalo was getting plenty of money and was a political target.
A friend fears that a man allegedly lynched in Peru is his friend of 12 years, Sebastian Woodroffe, who he describes as a gentle person on a journey to find enlightenment. https://t.co/4i4YfJpWFf pic.twitter.com/IEDzagdEDF— CBC British Columbia (@cbcnewsbc) April 23, 2018
Woodroffe’s death was captured on a video that has since been distributed to the local press and social media outlets. The Guardian reported that the leader of the Shipibo-Konibo people said that the lynching happened when the men “acted on the spur of the moment and resorted to traditional justice.” In short, the people did not want to wait for police to take action against Arévalo’s murderer, and instead decided to kill the man they believed was guilty.
Police are considering several motives, one of which is the possibility that the shaman’s son owed money to Woodroffe, although the details of that motive are unclear at this point. Another possibility is that the person or people that murdered Arévalo were looking for her son, who owed them money.
Ayahuasca is a Schedule II drug in Canada, and cannot be taken legally there. However, there is a booming tourist industry in other parts of the world, including South America, where shamans or retreats offer tourists the opportunity to take the hallucinogen.