An ayahuasca ceremony in Peru has gone horribly wrong, after a British tourist stabbed his friend to death whilst tripping on the hallucinogenic drug.
Unais Gomes attacked Goldman Sachs employee Joshua Stevens shortly after drinking the Ayahuasca tea at a spiritual retreat in Peru.
It was reported that the Cambridge graduate suffered fatal wounds from a kitchen knife after Canadian Mr Stevens experienced a ‘bad trip’. However there were conflicting reports that Mr Stevens used the knife in self-defence.
The pair had been taking part in a traditional ayahuasca ceremony near the jungle city of Iquitos on Wednesday. Pictures of the aftermath show a bare-chested Mr Stevens spattered in blood. A large knife can be seen on the floor and the body of a man slumped at the entrance of a wooden hut.
Amazonian tribes make ayahuasca by boiling two plants – the ayahuasca vine and the chacruna shrub, which contains the natural hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine – an illegal drug in the UK. By purging toxins from the body through vomiting, diarrhoea, yawning, crying, shaking and sweating, it is believed the brew has healing qualities and users are said to experience a spiritual awakening.
Its use among tourists in Peru has surged, with dozens of jungle retreats now offering it under the supervision of a guide or shaman. Many travellers believe it will help ease depression and other mental health issues.
Mr Gomes and Mr Stevens were on a ten-day, £800 stay the Phoenix Ayahuasca retreat when the tragedy occurred. Guests at the retreat, run by Australian brother and sister Mark and Tracie Thornberry, take part in meditation, ‘relaxing floral baths’ and the ayahuasca ceremony.
The siblings claim ayahuasca is a ‘purgative’ which ‘removes spiritual and emotional blockages’. Photographs on the retreat’s Facebook page show guests covered in mud, swimming, and relaxing in wooden huts and tents. Some reports said Mr Stevens had started the attack after hallucinating about his wife having an affair with Mr Gomes.
However, a police source said the Briton tried to stab Mr Stevens with a knife from a kitchen area. As the pair wrestled, the Canadian grabbed the blade and stabbed Mr Gomes in the chest and stomach.
Mr Stevens was in police custody last night. Police chief Normando Marques said: ‘It might be folkloric, spiritual or whatever else, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a drug that dramatically alters your state of mind.’
Economics graduate Mr Gomes had held posts in research and sales at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and lived in St John’s Wood, north London before moving to San Francisco 18 months ago. His LinkedIn page described him as an entrepreneur in the field of clean technology.
Former neighbour Connie Glynn, 65, said he was ‘spiritual’ and deeply into meditation, adding: ‘He was definitely not a violent chap, he was very peaceful.’ Celebrity fans of ayahuasca include Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan and Sting. But drug advice charity Talk to Frank said DMT could have ‘serious implications’ for anyone with mental health problems.
In 2012, an 18-year-old American Kyle Nolan died at an ayahuasca retreat in the Peruvian Amazon and the shaman leading the ceremony buried his body in an attempt to cover up the death. Last year, 19-year-old Henry Miller from Bristol died after consuming the drink in Colombia.
In September this year, New Zealander Matthew Dawson-Clarke, 24, died after taking ayahuasca in the same town as Mr Gomes. TV explorer Bruce Parry also drank the brew as part of his BBC series Tribe.