Peruvian authorities say the gun used to kill an Indigenous shaman and cultural activist matches the weapon purchased a few weeks earlier by a Canadian man who was lynched in a remote village in the Amazon rainforest.
Sebastian Woodroffe, 41, was slain on April 20 after villagers accused him of being responsible for the shooting death of Olivia Arévalo, an elderly plant medicine healer hailing from the Shipibo-Konibo tribe of northeastern Peru.
A harrowing cellphone video showed a bloodied Woodroffe being violently dragged by a rope fastened around his neck, days after Arévalo was shot dead in her home. Two people were arrested in connection with his death.
On Thursday, Peru’s Public Ministry tweeted a photo of the gun that was used to kill Arévalo, saying it matches the weapon purchased by Woodroffe on April 3.
Woodroffe purchased the 9 mm Taurus pistol from a policeman after telling him that he needed it for self-defense, according to Peruvian newspaper El Comercio. The gun was found in the vicinity of Woodroffe’s corpse and his motorcycle.
El Comercio also reported that police were considering a number of motives for Woodroffe’s alleged crime, including that he may have murdered Arévalo because she declined to follow through with promised ayahuasca healing sessions that he had paid for, or that Arévalo’s son owed Woodroffe money.
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive, plant-based brew that has been used in Amazonian spiritual practice for centuries but has gained popularity among Westerners in recent years, with thousands of North American tourists flocking to Peru each year to partake in shaman-led ayahuasca ceremonies.
Woodroffe, who hailed from B.C.’s Comox Valley, was believed to be a student of Arévalo’s and had traveled to Peru to study hallucinogenic medicine.
His friends told Global News they’re certain he was falsely blamed for Arévalo’s death, saying it would have been hugely out of character for him to commit any sort of violent act.
Arévalo’s murder had prompted outrage in Peru following other unsolved murders of Indigenous activists who had repeatedly faced death threats related to efforts to keep illegal loggers and oil palm growers off native lands.
Policing is scant over much of the Peruvian Andes and Amazon and villagers in far-flung provinces often punish suspected criminals according to local customs and without the involvement of state police and prosecutors.
Peruvian authorities say they continue to investigate the killings of both Woodroffe and Arévalo.
— With files from Reuters and Global News online producer Amy Judd