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Peru

Canadian lynched in Amazon after being accused of killing 81-year-old Peruvian healer

Police found the 41-year-old man’s body after a video recording of lynching was shared on social media

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 2:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 2:30am

A Canadian man was lynched in the Peruvian Amazon after residents of a remote village accused him of killing an 81-year-old medicine woman a day earlier, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said on Sunday.

Olivia Arevalo Lomas, a traditional healer of the Shipibo-Conibo tribe, was shot twice and dead on Thursday near her home in the Amazonian region of Ucayali, said lead prosecutor Ricardo Palma Jimenez.

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Sebastian Paul Woodroffe, a 41-year-old Canadian citizen who lived in the region, was blamed by some villagers for Arevalo Lomas’ murder and he was believed to have been one of her clients, said Jimenez.

Police found Woodroffe’s body buried about 1km (0.6 mile) from Arevalo Lomas’ home in Ucayali on Saturday, after a cellphone video recording of the Friday lynching was shared on social media, Jimenez added.

The video shows a man groaning in a puddle near a thatched-roof structure as another man puts a rope around his neck and drags him with others looking on.

Jimenez said prosecutors were exploring several hypotheses related to Arevalo Lomas’ murder and that it was too early to name suspects in the case. No arrests had been made yet related to Woodroffe’s death, he said.

“We will not rest until both murders, of the indigenous woman as well as the Canadian man, are solved,” said Jimenez over the phone.

Jimenez confirmed the man in the video was Woodroffe and that an autopsy of his body showed he died by strangulation after receiving several blows across his body.

Arevalo Lomas’ 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.

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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.

Canada’s foreign relations office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.