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BC man killed in Peru

A 41-year-old Canadian who travelled to Peru to study hallucinogenic medicine was killed by a mob in a remote corner of the Amazon after being blamed for the slaying of an elderly shaman, authorities say.

Peru's attorney general's office said Sebastian Woodroffe was dragged by the neck shortly after the killing of Olivia Arevalo, an octogenarian plant-healer from the Shipibo-Konibo tribe of northeastern Peru. Officials backed away from initial reports that Woodroffe was the principal suspect in Arevalo's killing.

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.

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.

Woodroffe, from 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.

"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 wrote on the Indiegogo crowd-funding website seeking financial help to advance his studies.

Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell said the government is aware of the case and is actively seeking further information.

"Our officials are in touch with the family of the Canadian who has died as well as Peruvian officials. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed."



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