Although it has been more than two years since Sebastian Woodroffe moved from his Tull Avenue home in Courtenay, his death in Peru has affected many of his neighbours, some of whom call him “family.”
Woodroffe, 41, travelled to Peru to study hallucinogenic medicine and was killed last month by a mob in a remote corner of the Amazon rainforest after people blamed him for the shooting death of an elderly shaman, authorities said.
But for those who lived near him for more than eight years, the concept of Woodroffe killing anyone – especially with a gun – is incomprehensible.
“I just don’t believe that he would do that; it’s not his nature,” said Mickey Montgomery, Woodroffe’s neighbour. “You never even saw him raise a hand to his dog. As long as I saw Sebastian, I’ve never seen him do a mean or cruel thing, or even talk that way. He was always trying to help.”
Describing him as “spiritual, loving, kind and polite,” Betty (who asked her last name not be used) lived across the road from Woodroffe for many years.
She says he touched the lives of so many people in the Valley, within her neighbourhood and beyond.
“I remember him willingly helping my very elderly husband – so easily [focusing on] his needs and doing what would be helpful – with such respect and kindness.”
She recalls watching Woodroffe spend countless hours with his son, teaching him about various things in nature.
“He was a beautiful soul … part of our grief is that this was all put on tape – on the internet, on television. And his little son is going to have to live with that. In this day and age, it’s so cruel.”
Peru’s attorney general’s office said Woodroffe was dragged by the neck shortly after the killing of Olivia Arevalo, an octogenarian plant healer from the Shipibo-Konibo tribe of northeastern Peru.
Arevalo and Woodroffe were both killed in the Indigenous community of Victoria Gracia, officials said. But police did not begin to investigate until a cellphone video appeared in local media showing a man purported to be Woodroffe begging for mercy while being dragged between thatch-roofed homes. He was then left motionless on the muddy ground.
Reports suggest Woodroffe’s death was an incident of vigilante justice carried out by the locals.
“He revered (Avrevalo) – he went to study with her,” added Betty. “He was all about healing – why would he do that? It doesn’t make sense. He didn’t have that hatred and anger in him anyway; he was always respectful to everyone. He had gone purposely there to study and help others – there’s no motivation.”
She said her concern is that Woodroffe has been made a scapegoat in an isolated community already under siege by large corporations.
Neighbour Lesley Johnson noted in a written statement Woodroffe’s life was far from ordinary.
“He never became comfortable with a traditional family or the expectations of Western culture on what a man should become. He was not traditional in any sense of the word, and perhaps this isolated him somewhat from the conservative values that surrounded him. He was also strong-willed and opinionated, though never aggressive, and he enjoyed discussions with people who had widely different perspectives from him.”
She said she knew him to display true kindness, for his fellow man and for all creatures large and small. She said he showed love and respect, always cherishing the moment, exhibited a sense of play and experimentation and a “marvelous wonder for the natural world.
“I remember him with fondness and with deep sadness for how he met his end.”
On April 28, the Canadian Press reported two people were arrested in connection with Woodroffe’s death.