Canadian man accused of killing medicine woman lynched by Amazonians

The Amazon in Peru.
The Amazon in Peru. Photo credit: Getty

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.

Olivia Arevalo, a traditional healer of the Shipibo-Conibo tribe, was shot twice and died on Thursday near her home in the Amazonian region of Ucayali, said Ricardo Palma Jimenez, the head of a group of prosecutors in Ucayali.

Some villagers had blamed Ms Arevalo's murder on Sebastian Paul Woodroffe, a 41-year-old Canadian citizen who lived in the region and who was believed to have been one of her clients, said Mr Jimenez.

Police found Mr Woodroffe's body buried about 1km from Arevalo's home on Saturday, after a cellphone video recording of the Friday lynching was shared on social media, said Mr Jimenez.

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.

Mr Jimenez said prosecutors were exploring several hypotheses related to Ms Arevalo's 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 added.

"We will not rest until both murders, of the indigenous woman as well as the Canadian man, are solved," said Mr Jimenez in a phone interview.

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

Ms Arevalo'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.

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