Canadian Man Lynched in Connection With Shooting of Indigenous Leader in Peruvian Amazon
Sebastian Woodroffe was lynched last week by a mob after the fatal shooting of the Olivia Arévalo Lomas, of the Shipibo-Conibo people, in Ucayali
Days after the fatal shooting of a leader of an indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon, the 41-year-old Canadian man suspected by some in her killing was himself found dead in what has been described as a mob “lynching,” according to government officials and news reports.
Olivia Arévalo Lomas, of the Shipibo-Conibo people, died Thursday after being shot twice near her home in Ucayali, in eastern Peru, Reuters reports.
According to the outlet, the body of Sebastian Woodroffe, of British Columbia, was recovered from a shallow grave on Saturday, less than a mile from where Lomas lived.
Video had circulated Friday on social media showing a man believed to be Woodroffe being dragged with a rope around his neck, moaning and crying out before falling silent, according to the BBC, the CBC and Reuters.
PEOPLE could not independently review this footage.
Reuters reports that Woodroffe was thought to have been one of Lomas’ clients before she was killed. According to the Washington Post, Lomas was a longtime practitioner of plant medicine.
A statement on Saturday from Peru’s Interior Ministry, translated from Spanish, confirmed Woodroffe “was killed by a mob” in connection with Lomas’ death. The statement described Woodroffe as the “main suspect” in Lomas’ shooting, though a prosecutor told Reuters no suspects had yet been named in that case and multiple theories were being probed.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that “officials backed away from initial reports that Woodroffe was the principal suspect in Arevalo’s killing.”
Arrests have apparently not been made in Woodroffe’s death. According to the BBC and Reuters, he had been strangled to death while his body also showed signs of physical trauma.
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The state’s Ombudsman’s Office — which monitors and weighs in on possible human-rights infractions for Peru’s citizens — described Woodroffe’s killing as a “lynching” in a tweet posted Saturday and called for a thorough investigation of both slayings.
Further details about both homicides and Woodroffe’s status as a suspected killer were not immediately available.
In a lengthier news release, translated from Spanish, the Ombudsman’s Office described Lomas as a “promoter of the cultural rights of the Shipibo-Conibo indigenous people.”
Lomas’ family history included many other healers, according to the Post. In comments to local TV, her nephew reportedly called her “the mother that protects the Earth in the jungle.”
Peru’s ombudsman linked Lomas’ death to a broader pattern of indigenous activists and leaders being killed while facing groups who wanted to illegally mine and log in the rainforest, among other illicit activities.
The Interior Ministry said Saturday that Woodroffe’s body was taken to the city of Pucallpa and that further testing was needed to confirm if he shot Lomas.
“We will not rest until both murders, of the indigenous woman as well as the Canadian man, are solved,” Ricardo Palma Jimenez, a prosecutor in Ucayali, told Reuters.
A friend of Woodroffe spoke to the CBC and said he was skeptical Woodroffe was a killer. According to the CBC, Woodroffe was the father of a 9-year-old son.
News reports show Woodroffe wanted to study plant medicine in Peru. He apparently wrote on a fundraising page several years ago, in part: “I feel responsible trying to support this culture and retain some of their treasure in me and my family, and share it with those that wish to learn.”
In an interview with the CBC, his friend Yarrow Willard said, “He is … 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.”
PEOPLE’s efforts to reach Peruvian authorities were unsuccessful on Monday. Emails sent to government officials and the national police were not immediately returned.
Canadian authorities confirmed one of their citizens had died but could not identify Woodroffe specifically.
In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for the Global Affairs Canada said, “We are aware of this case and actively seeking further information. Our officials are in touch with the family of the Canadian who has died as well as Peruvian officials.”