The family of a Jewish student who died after travelling to Colombia and taking a hallucinogenic substance during a shamanic ritual has said that the four-year wait for a coroner’s hearing had made them “relive a nightmare”.
Henry Miller, a Bristol student, travelled to South America in April 2014 and took ayahuasca, or yage, as part of a tribal rainforest ceremony, but fell ill and died. The shaman and his son later dumped his body by a roadside.
Speaking to Jewish News, Henry’s uncle Gary this week took issue with the delay after Colombian coroner Maria Voisin recorded a verdict of accidental death by intoxication by ayahuasca and anti-nausea drug hyoscine.
“I don’t understand why it has taken over four years,” said Gary Miller, speaking on behalf of the family. “My poor brother, sister-in-law and nephew have had to re-live the nightmare again.”
Henry had been due to start his university course in Brighton upon returning from his travels, and was described by the family as “always the life and soul of the party, never in trouble”.
At the time, Gary urged young people to “be careful what you do,” adding: “The substance ‘yage’ is not illegal but I think it should be controlled. Whoever gave out this substance should be arrested and charged with manslaughter.”
A Foreign Office official told the coroner’s hearing that the shaman and his wife had been punished by their local tribal community, and had offered their condolences to Miller’s family.
A fellow student who attended the ceremony with Henry told the coroner that the shaman and his son had tried to take Henry for medical treatment but that the student had died en route.