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, 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 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 Jimenez.
Police found Woodroffe’s body buried about 1 km (0.6 mile)from Arevalo’s home on Saturday, after a cellphone video recording of the Friday lynching was shared on social media, said 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.
Jimenez said prosecutors were exploring several hypotheses related to 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 Jimenez in a phone interview.
Jimenez said 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’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 extends its deepest condolences following the reported assassination of Olivia Arévalo Lomas, an Indigenous elder and human rights defender,” Global Affairs Canada, which manages Canadian foreign relations, said in a statement.
“We are also aware that a Canadian was killed in a related incident. Consular services are being provided to the family of the Canadian,” it added.
(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)