Jan 15, 2016

Winnipegger who killed British man in Peru fears trial

Jill Coubrough
CBC News
January 14, 2016

A Winnipeg man who admits to killing a British man in self-defence at a retreat in Peru says he's scared to leave his home and is concerned about a possible trial.

"I'm very depressed. I'm paranoid to go out in public … I've read a lot of negative comments about me" Joshua Stevens said Thursday.

"People are calling me a cold-blooded murderer."

Stevens, 29, was taken into Peruvian police custody in December 2015 for stabbing a British tourist to death, who allegedly attacked him after drinking ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant brew.

The pair were at Phoenix Ayahuasca retreat — branded as a "safe place to experience plant medicines." Stevens said the British man, 26-year-old Unais Gomes became violent after drinking a double dose of ayahuasca and a mixing it with pure cacao, which he says enhances the high.

"He was probably four or five times higher than he's ever been and his eyes were not his — they were very empty — the way that I describe it is an empty rage."

Stevens said Gomes began calling out to God and he ran over to him out of concern. Gomes then put him in a chokehold and began to attack him, he said.

"I was like, 'Unais, what are you doing? What are you doing?' and he said, 'It's time to get your demons out, brother. It's time to get your demons out.' I was scared and I tried to break away from him."

The struggle continued, Stevens said, adding he was thrown to the ground, bitten and sexually assaulted.

He said eventually Gomes began swinging a butcher knife at him. By then, others had intervened and Stevens said he was able to wrestle the knife away.

"What was going through my mind was, 'If he gets this knife back he's going to stab me. He's going to kill me or the other men here' and I was in fear for my life. That's when I made the decision to stab him," he said.

"Once in the stomach and I thought it was going to be done after that, he was still coming after the knife … and then I stabbed him a second time."

Stevens said Gomes collapsed to the ground and shortly after he did, too. Gomes died. 

Victim's family pushing for charges

Peruvian authorities detained and questioned Stevens for 24 hours along with two witnesses before releasing him back to Canada. He is not currently facing charges because authorities said he acted in self-defence. However, he says Gomes's family is pushing for charges.

"His family actually has gotten a hold of me and they've been saying very hateful things to me, which I understand it's very confusing for them, but the family is trying really hard to convict me," he said.

"It hurts because anybody that really truly knows me, knows that I'm a very peaceful person and so was Unais."

Stevens has not retained a lawyer and despite the tragedy he vows to continue to use ayahausca. He has attended roughly 400 ceremonies and believes when the medicinal plant is used according to traditional guidelines, it's positive and healing.


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