Dec 19, 2015

Canadian who stabbed Cambridge graduate to death in self-defence in Peru because he thought he was the devil during 'bad trip' is released

GERARD COUZENS
Daily Mail
December 19, 2015

  • Canadian Joshua Stevens, 29, reportedly stabbed the Briton in self-defence
  • Fight occurred after Gomes took hallucinogenic plant brew at spirit retreat
  • It is believed that Gomes attacked Mr Stevens believing he was the devil 

A Canadian acted in self-defence when he knifed a Cambridge graduate who believed he was the Devil after taking a mind-bending drug, police investigators confirmed today.

Detectives said Joshua Stevens, 29, had been released from custody after being quizzed over the fatal stabbing of former Goldman Sachs worker Unais Gomes, 26, at a spiritual retreat in the Peruvian Amazon.

Witnesses told police Unais, from London, grabbed a kitchen knife and went for the Canadian tourist during a 'bad trip' after consuming a mind-bending brew called ayahuasca.

But conflicting local reports said Joshua attacked Unais first after hallucinating his wife had cheated on him with the Briton.

One Peruvian paper even reported today the tragedy occurred during a fight around 11pm on Thursday night after Unais tried to have sex with Joshua.

The tragedy happened at an alternative health hotel popular with foreign tourists called the Phoenix Ayahuasca retreat centre near Iquitos.

Normando Marquez, head of Iquitos' Criminal Investigation Department, confirmed today: 'All the evidence we have passed on to prosecutors points to the Canadian acting in self-defence when his own life was in danger.

'He has been freed from custody while his fate is decided as part of an ongoing judicial investigation.

'The dead man had consumed ayahuasca which is a hallucinogenic drug.

'It made him regard the Canadian man as a sort of devil and lead him to attack him.

'Two workers at the retreat tried to stop him but they were very slightly-built and couldn't control him.

'He got hold of a knife and the Canadian wanted to avoid being attacked. He got another knife and the knife broke, it was that sort of chaos.

'There's no evidence to suggest the Canadian was the aggressor and he doesn't appear to have taken ayahuasca.

'I'm from the Iquitos area and I've never consumed ayahuasca. It's something that foreigners consume more than the locals. It's a tourist thing more than anything.

'We've had problems in the past.

'I remember a girl a few years ago who couldn't sleep or even close her eyes for six or seven days because every time she did she saw the Devil coming.

He added: 'The Canadian man has been freed from custody and may end up being acquitted of any crime on the grounds he acted in self-defence which is a legitimate defence under Peruvian law.

'In many cases where there is sufficient evidence to show a person acted in self-defence when he kills another, he's not even charged and there's no court case.

WHAT IS AYAHUASCA?


Ayahuasca, or yage, contains Dimethyltryptamine, known as DMT.

Used in South America, especially in the Amazon basin, Ayahuasca is a drink produced from the stem bark of the vines Banisteriopsis caapi and B. inebrians.

It is said to have healing properties and bring inner peace by purging toxins and can produce reactions including vomiting.

Psychedelic experiences last six to 10 hours and are guided by experienced shamans in the South American countries where ayahuasca is legal and native to consume.

'Here though we're talking about a case involving a foreigner so there's likely to be a trial.

'But all the evidence is that he did not intend killing his victim and he's acted in self-defence and there's witnesses to back him up along those lines.

'I can't speak for the prosecutors but it wouldn't be surprising if this case is dealt with within the next fortnight by way of a speedy trial.

'Whether he's allowed out of the country in the meantime is up to the state prosecution service.'

The whereabouts of Mr Stevens was unclear today. Phone calls to the retreat centre went unanswered.

Mr Gomes graduated in 2010 from the University of Cambridge with a 2.1 in economics.

He was a member of the rowing team at the prestigious university and belonged to the Cambridge Investment Club according to his Linkedin website profile.

He went on to work at Goldman Sachs and joined Citigroup on its graduate programme, before moving to San Francisco around a year ago to set up his own company.

Phoenix Ayahuasca, run by Australian brother and sister Mark and Tracie Thornberry, bills itself on its Facebook site as a 'safe and supportive place to experience plant medicines and explore the true nature of the self.'

It describes ayahuasca as a purgative psychedelic that removes spiritual and emotional blockages.

The drink is a hallucinogenic brew containing an Amazonian vine and dimethyltryptamine, a compound common in its natural form in both plants and animals.

It is used in shamanic rituals by indigenous peoples across much of the Amazon region.

Mr Gomes's family are originally from Kyrgyzstan but live in St Johns Wood, north London, where he was raised.

His family declined to comment in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy although his brother Ulugbek Pessoa invited friends and colleagues to send in tributes via Facebook.

Former neighbour Connie Glynn, a retired spiritual healer, said: 'Unais used to be really into meditation and he was very spiritual.

'I would not have thought he was into drugs. He is definitely not a violent chap, he was very peaceful.'

In 2012, 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.

EXPERIENCING THE HIGH: TRYING AYAHUASCA


'My first time was a magical experiences. It was like being in the most exquisite, cosmic, carnival ride in the universe. I laughed with wonder, I cried with an open heart, I wanted to do more…,' author Carina Cooper writes for High50, adding that the experience turned sinister the second time

'I had a vision of a drawer opening out from under my heart. In this drawer was a heart with all its tubes etc pulsating. An angelic voice said to me in a gentle whisper, 'You are now going to feel all the pain you have shut away.'

'I sobbed for about five hours (ceremonies generally start around 8pm and can go on until dawn) deep guttural, physical sobs.'

Ted Mann wrote in a Vanity Fair article about his experience in 2011, detailing his vivid visions and experience.

'Every detail of a vast cliff face, an open-pit mine, composed of copulating salamanders, is presented and recognized and responsive to sound continuously evolving, by what seems like a logical progression, into the detailed hues of the internal organs—this makes me vomit.

'The visions resume with newcomers, self-dissecting aliens presenting themselves, and their internal anatomy, in the turning pages of an abnormal-physiology textbook, published on sheets of fundamental matter, quarks and gluons, massless constituents of the infinitesimal, actually becoming the things they appear to represent.

'My visions continue for several hours, and I await with trepidation further instruction, a formal conclusion, or some apocalyptic visionary summation. I am not disappointed when, instead, I realize it's over.'

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