Death in the Amazon: Cambridge graduate stabbed during psychedelic drug ritual
“Charismatic and incredibly bright” Homerton alumnus Unais Gomes fatally stabbed in the Peruvian jungle
Unais Gomes was reportedly stabbed twice by fellow tourist Joshua Andrew Freeman Stevens after the two had taken ayahuasca (otherwise known as yagé), a hallucinogenic plant based drink containing DMT and other hallucinogenic compounds.
Gomes and Stevens were visiting Phoenix Ayahuasca Retreat Centre in Iquitos, Peru, taking part in a ten day ‘shamanic healing retreat’. According to one Canadian newspaper the two were “like brothers.”
Witnesses claim that Stevens was acting in self defence after Gomes attacked him with a kitchen knife after the two had consumed the psychedelic brew. The same knife was the reportedly used by Stevens to stab Gomes in the stomach and chest, as the two wrestled on the floor.
One Peruvian worker sustained multiple injuries as he attempted to separate the two men. Unfortunately he was unable to prevent the tragic events which transpired.
Despite having been escorted from the resort detained and in handcuffs, Stevens has since been released without charge, with local authorities claiming that the Canadian acted in self defence.
Gomes graduated from Homerton College in 2010 with a 2.i in economics and had previously worked from Goldman Sachs, and Citibank.
He was a keen rower and member of the Cambridge University Finance and Investment Society (CUFIS).
He has been described by a neighbour as “very spiritual,” reportedly hosting a weekly meditation group at his flat in St John’s Wood, London.
The retreat itself is described on its Facebook page as a “a safe and supportive place to experience plant medicines and explore the true nature of the self.”
The owners and founders of the retreat, Mark and Tracie Thornberry were not present at the time of the attack, and have released a statement expressing their “shock” and “condolences to the families of all concerned.”
Tracie, a drug and alcohol councillor and teacher, suggested that “physical intervention” could not have “prevented this tragedy.”
According to Tracie, the “fatal moments, when a knife was used, happened so quickly” that, despite the best efforts of resort staff, Gomes was fatally wounded.
Ayahuasca is used locally as a “spiritual medicine” and contains the psychedelic compound DMT. It reportedly leads to “spiritual revelations” and has been praised by several celebrities (notably Lindsey Lohan, Sting and Paul Simon) for its beneficial properties.
Even so, Gomes’ final texts, obtained by the Evening Standard, reveal the apparently quite alien nature of the retreat experience, let alone that of taking the drug.
Three days prior to his death, he had sent his girlfriend texts in which she said he sounded “weird”. He described running “away from my retreat” and then, apparently chiding himself, called it a “[b]ad experience”.
The next day he again sent similar messages, calling it “[c]razy here as well”. He added: “I don’t like it . . . Its just the place I went to didnt feel right [sic]”. In a final text, he wrote he was going back to the retreat, saying: “Now they have called an amazing shaman to clean up that place”.
Under the terms and conditions of the retreat, those taking part in the consumption of hallucinogenic compounds “do so voluntarily, taking full responsibility for his or her actions.” The resort also recommends participants discuss the taking of Ayahuasca prior to its consumption.
The drug advice website FRANK states that DMT can “produce very random, and sometimes very frightening, effects, which feed off a person’s imagination.”
Gomes was praised by friends, teachers, and neighbours alike as a friendly, charismatic person. His girlfriend said: “Unais was a dreamer, and I wanted to dream with him.”
“I am devastated to lose him but I am even more frustrated to think about all these things he wanted to accomplish in his life. Unais had so much ambition and wanted to make the world a better place. He did already, just by being part of it.”
The exceptional circumstances and effects of the psychedelic brew seem to have induced violent behaviour in an otherwise peaceful individual.
Homerton College declined to comment when contacted by the Tab on Monday afternoon. Gomes’ friends in London have questioned the police investigation and called for the Foreign Office to ensure it is reopened.