How a B.C. man's healing journey ended in two murders
This is a CBC podcast. Hi. I'm Jamie puzzle. In April this year, a young father from British Columbia was drawn to the jungles of Peru by the promise that psychedelic drunk could give his life meaning and direction. Instead, it may have led to his psychological unraveling and two killings, including his own Sebastian Woodruff's death has been shrouded in mystery. But today, we know way more after months of investigating powerful details emerged about how Sebastian came apart at the seams and about the people who were hurt in the process, whatever he was doing that day, he was taking his life in his own hands. And you could get a feeling just being in that village that this was not going to end. Well, that's today on front burner. Mark kelly. I'm co host to the fifth estate. And I was following the story for several months this summer looking into the life and death of Sebastian Woodruff in that took me in my investigation to the jungles of Peru, and the the forests of Vancouver island as to try to piece together Sebastian's life, Mark, what got you into this story in the first place. What was it that made you want to dig into this? I was captivated the minute. I saw this video that surfaced. And this was video of Sebastian Woodruff in the last moments of his life. After he had been beaten by villagers. And then eventually he is approached by somebody with what looks like a belt from a seatbelt from car wrapped around his neck. And then he's dragged as he pleads for his life dragged to his death. And the minute. We saw that story. I wanted to know the story of what happened in the in the hours and days leading up to that moment. And then what happened afterwards? How did he end up in that situation? I I remember this video it was so difficult to watch. I almost had to actually turn off my computer, the first time I watched I didn't even finish it. I went back later watched it, and I was really struck especially by all of the bystanders around him. Nobody doing anything. And also just to watch another Canadian citizen pleading for their life. It was really really hard to watch and was her onc-. So what do, you know now of Sebastian, which we we spoke to family members, we spoke to friends of his, and they all gave us a very consistent portrait of Sebastian as being a dreamer seeker as somebody didn't quite fit into mainstream society growing up in Vancouver island. Always looking for a new experience was working on fishing boats was a diver for Sears chins, loved loved to forage for mushrooms. And a man we were told with intense compassion. He's always been a very outgoing loving caring individual. He would give whatever he could to. Help you in any way, shape or form your shirt off his back, and he's a father t right? He was a father. He had a young son. So then if you have a family at least a child in in Vancouver. What brings him to Peru enlightenment? Brought him to Peru as he was seeking something more. I mean, he recorded a what we refer to as a bit of a manifesto online. My name Sebastian that that he posted with part of a gofundme campaign where he was looking for some money. I decided to just drop what I was doing. Make a career change to become addictions, counselor everything that I've ever done has been trying to achieve this normalcy. That doesn't exist in his family. There was some addiction issues that he mentioned that. There was somebody who had a drinking problem. He had learned it heard about Iowa in Iowa being a potential way to treat people with addictions. So what he wanted to do was raise this money. Go down to Peru. Go down to the jungle and learn about this jungle medicine and bring that back with him to Vancouver island to see if he could not only help those close to him, but become a healer himself this with just saying that I have a lot of of ingratitude for the process of life. Things could've went sideways for me. Lot in my life. And they didn't like to just think. University spirits God whoever's looking out for me. Just say that thank you. I'm going to pay back out. One thing I'm trying to wrap my head around. What exactly is Iowa ska? And what does it do to a person? So I ask is is the combination of taking specific plant and a specific vine. You you chop them down. You put him into a big pot. You had some water. And then you boil it for about three days, and what comes out of this is it's a sort of almost like a molasses type who we mixture. Some people say it tastes like the jungle. It's it's kind of bitter brew. But when you reheat that room. It activates a natural occurring hallucinogen called D M T. So when you're first when you consume tea, it will purge you nasty to be around people are like Easter lack you will. It'll come out often bottom, you cleared out, and that's being seen as a way of purging, the bad things that are inside you as a purging process is a release of some of the bad things that you have inside you shortly thereafter, that sounds horrible. Yep. And most people will tell you you do not do I o s ca for kicks. This isn't a recreational drug very little fun votive. It's the hardest work that I've done in my life. And every time I go to ceremony. I I dreaded you know way. If there was a way not to do it and still yielded the same. As also totally go, Fred. And there after you the the visions as they call it. The vision set in these are the hallucinations in these loosen Asians can last for hours and witnessed a few of these ceremonies for some people that can be something light. And they find themselves, you know, seeing incredible things drifting through the clouds other people tell you, it's terrifying. Let's talk about the village. What is village like that? He's in well the village where he would end his life. It's an indigenous community called, Victoria, aggressive and that village is threadbare village without electricity village without running water. Said that the people are scared of what? Foreigners. I scared to foreigners. They have been practitioners of the IRS Casero Monet's for some we'll tell you thousands of years. This is where his life would end. He was staying in a village culpa Kupa, which is about a fifteen minute motorcycle ride away from there. And that's where he landed. And he started his voyage because in these communities around there. It's now become a hub for tourism. Okay. For westerners who were going down there to go to these Iowa retreats? So that's what drew him down there to goad way retreat, and that was the first of several trips that he would make to Peru to find out more about about Iowa. And that's where he would meet a Livia Arab bills. How did Sebastian Woodruff come to meet this woman shaman of when he was down there? He really wanted to find the best person who could enlighten him and educate him about Iowa. All it is and all that it can do and really discover the power of the plant Livia seen. She's very respected was very respected elder. She held a huge amount of knowledge shaman of her level would know five hundred six hundred plants second address, a wide range of huge huge amount of malady. What would this shaman take someone likes to Basham Woodrow through? How would something like this unfolds? Well, the ceremony itself I mean, once you've you've got to do sort of there's a series of steps you've got to go through you're supposed to refrain from from alcohol refrain from any kind of drugs you're supposed to refrain from sex. You're supposed to go through this whole sort of. It's almost a monastic experience where you're going down there, and and being cloistered in this environment that you're giving your body overti- awas ska, you'd spend typically for a lot of people down there you spend weekend retreat and a lot of that is preparing for the sitting down to have try the Iowa. And then it's the experience yourself where you actually sit down in a ceremony, and then everything happened. So Sebastian is having these ceremonies, and how is it affecting his life? After the first his first trip to Peru. His friends and family would say he did come back a change person if this actually occurred as indicated he was no longer himself. He was no longer the person that we knew here something drastically. He seemed to be more enlightened. But what it did what people saw as took hold of his life. So now everything he was doing on Vancouver island was just a prelude to going back to Peru. It all becomes about him wanting to get back to peruse that he could do more Wasco. I gotta go back to the jungle and part of it is the Iowa. But I think you know, speaking to people that there's there's a sense of connectedness. So remember, this is a guy who was sort of a bit of a drifter, and this is. Trouble finding meaning in his life. Yup. And connections and relationships that everything's seem to be a bit temporal. And now he was feeling connected. Obviously things got bad at some point. So is there any lead up to this awful combination? So what we would learn is he would start having incidents where he was he was a sneaking back into this this indigenous community, Victoria grass ya and show up asking for more for another ceremony asking her for Wasco and people in the village started to get a little freaked out by this guy. You know, he was like a what they felt was a as one woman said to me we felt he was a danger to everyone. He wasn't a normal person. Some neighbors found him prowling around there in the darkness. What was he trying to do? Get in there. He was to them a dark. Gringo who was a bit unhinged. So Steph was he doing he would be hiding in the trees, he would be spying to see where you know, where was Libya on at least three occasions that we know that the villagers got together, and and corralled him and took him to the police until what do, you know now having gone there about this last trip to Peru. He was looking to buy a gun. And did he tell anyone why he needed it? He said he needed it for protection. So on his last trip to Peru. He would walk into a police station and ask people around there is anyone here can anyone? Here's so me gun in the police station right in the middle of the busy police station. We within certain thing. His could this be true? The local who tear. We had seen a Bill of sale for the gun. In fact, he found a police officer who sold him his weapon nine millimeter tourist pistol sold him that weapon. It was the the deal was had a receipt, it was notarized witnessed, and he told that police officer he was going into the jungle and he needed protection the reality is, and I know you understand people are dead dead because of his decision to sell this weapon. Jeff from sense of responsibility culpability apartment off air. He has the gun. And he says he's heading into the jungle. What do we know about? What happened? He takes his gun. He goes the fifteen minute motorcycle ride borrowed a motorcycle from somebody in the village, and then writes into Victoria grass ya approaches alleviates house and a live your walks out of the house. As you the house had fired fired the pistol a warning shot in the air. Okay. And at that point the villagers start to come out. And then when all this commotion about Livia, we're told his berating him. He is desperately asking something from her. And for whatever reason he points, the pistol at her according to witnesses pulls the trigger twice and shoots. Her twice in the chest. And people say they saw this happen. Yes. Now. Doc is where he killed it. That's where she was. She was standing right in front of her house people saw this happen. And then he jumped on his motorcycle to try to leave and could not get it started. That's when the villagers approached him. Where he was pulled off his motorcycle. And then. Badly beaten. And then we know the rest from there after they killed him. They buried his body in very very shallow grave two days later after his death that the video of his death was posted online. And then that's when the police descended on the community, Victoria, grass ya looking for him. And they would eventually find his body. We spoke to several people in that village. Not one person told us they were there that day. Okay. It was very uncomfortable situation when we were there with people trying to open up to six for the current mayor. She was one person before we could before we could speak to her the whole community had come out, and they didn't want us there. And they didn't want her talking to us. We have to go through a long negotiation. Don't want us to don't want us to go to the house now, and they draw that we come back tomorrow. And I take it from that, very hostile environment. It was an uncomfortable environment because at the end of the day, these poor people living, very simple life, and they feel that their world was turned upside down. And while they blame Sebastian they believe they've. Blamed the family. They said, you know, they they were bringing in these these gringos these westerners for these experiences, and it it some how tainted their lives prior even prior to this terrible incident. What do you think explain Sebastian's Raveling? So he was taking at least to go into prescription drugs as well as taking sleeping pills. And what we believe at the time was that he was definitely suffering mental illness could have been schizophrenia could be an oppression. And we don't know because even his family didn't know he was on prescription drugs when we told them that that was new news to them. And then with spoken with several experts who've who looked into Iowa ska, and they're trying to see, you know, how can this be harnessed for for therapeutic purposes? Because a lot of people are just did here in Canada in in the west to see if there's something if there's some power in the plant of that plant that can be right. If you can fill in some of the holes what what traditional medicine is myth. Yeah. For people who don't want to take prescription drugs. Is there something in nature that could help? But what we've been told repeatedly as that mixing these meds with Wasco can create psychotic experiences can create severe paranoia can create a Radic behavior. So if we look at all those species tha. -gether? And then we look at this bizarre behavior that that Sebastian was exhibiting. I think we we feel very safe that that we believe was the catalyst for for all the bad that had happened. So he you know, he under something within himself. That could never really be contained. And I think it's the heartbreaker for the family because he went down there with all the best intentions what he found something completely different. As of today. No one has been charged with killing Sebastian or Olympia are Avello and talks college test is being done to figure out what kind of drugs could have been in Sebastian system. On TV. Plus this is from burner St. tomorrow. For more CBC podcasts. Go to CBC dot CA slash podcasts.