Researcher from University College London is burnt alive after being accused of witchcraft

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A University College London medicine expert was burnt alive by an angry mob after being accused of practising witchcraft.

Domingo Choc Che, a natural medicine expert, had been working with the university on a project when the traumatic event happened.

The disturbing incident took place on June 6 in the village of Chimay where the victim lived, near the municipality of San Luis in the northern Guatemalan department of Peten.

Choc Che was member of a pharmaceutical investigation team which included other researchers from University College London and the universities of Zurich (Switzerland) and Valle (Guatemala).


The team were reportedly looking into traditional plant-based medicines and were working with Mayan guides, with Choc Che himself both an expert in traditional medicine and a Mayan spiritual guide.

An angry mob are said to have set upon the researcher as they said he was practising witchcraft and blamed him for having caused the death of a member of the community after he had given him some medicine.


In the shocking video, the victim can be seen running through a field covered in flames and onlookers watch and chase after him. Che died in the incident.

Some onlookers can be heard screaming and Governor of Peten, Luis Burgos, told local media that villagers had blocked police officers from attending to the scene to help Che.

Burgos said that locals also caused some issues for the authorities who went to check the victim’s body after his death.

Monica Berger, the Head of the Anthropology unit at the University of Valle in Guatemala, told local media that the victim, known as ‘Abuelo Domingo’ (Grandfather Domingo) was working on the recovery of natural ancestral Mayan medicine.


She said: “We were working on an inventory of medicinal species to document and protecting Q’eqchi medicinal knowledge so that all the indigenous knowledge can be known.”

The British Ambassador to Guatemala, Nick Whittingham, wrote on social media: “I recognise the legacy of Domingo Choc as a spiritual guide and send my condolences to his family.[...] We trust that the state will carry out a swift investigation.”

The Oxlajuj Ajpop National Conference, which brings together Mayan specialists, condemned the murder and asked the authorities to identify the culprits of the crime.

The group called for the victim’s family to be protected from future attacks along with other Mayan spiritual guides in the village.

The Ombudsman of Guatemala, Jordan Rodas, condemned the crime and said that he was “committed to preserving and sharing ancestral knowledge”.Rodas wrote on social media that lynchings like this are “attacks against the right to life and integrity of people, as well as the right to presumption of innocence and the guarantees of a proper process”.

He added that Choc Che was “recognised and loved by the scientific community as an expert in natural medicine”.

According to the research from the humanitarian organisation Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (Group of Mutual Support), which was created in Guatemala 36 years ago, lynchings caused at least 348 deaths between 2008 and 2018 in the country.

The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made so far.

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