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Inquest halted for potential charges after kambo death

An inquest into the death of a man after taking poison and hallucinogens has been suspended after a coroner found there could be enough evidence for charges to be laid.

Jarrad Antonovich died of a perforated oesophagus after consuming the plant-based psychedelic ayahuasca and frog-based poison kambo at the Dreaming Arts Festival at Arcoora retreat in northern NSW on October 16, 2021.

State Coroner Teresa O’Sullivan suspended the inquest into his death on Friday after forming the opinion that the case could be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Cameron Kite had been due to recount his version of the events leading up to Mr Antonovich’s death. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

Details of the reasoning behind the suspension and referral cannot be reported for legal reasons.

Ms O’Sullivan noted her appreciation of Mr Antonovich’s family attending the inquest, listing them individually.

“It hasn’t been easy for anyone,” she said.

“I thank you for your patience, and thank everyone (involved) for their cooperation.”

The leader of the health retreat and the ceremonial “shaman” had been due to give evidence to the inquest, which earlier heard there had been attempts to conceal details of the events that led up to the 46-year-old’s death.

Retreat organizer Soulore Solaris asked one ceremony participant to visit Mr Antonovich’s flatmate and tell him not to reveal to police that an ayahuasca ceremony had taken place, the coroner heard.

The witness, Lurelle Alefounder, said Mr Solaris apologized the next day and told her he had been trying to protect those involved.

“I told him, ‘no, I’m not doing that,'” she said.

The witness said Mr Solaris apologized and told her he had been trying to protect those involved. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

The inquest reconvened in Byron Bay on Wednesday after publicity surrounding it in 2023 led to people coming forward with more information.

Ceremony conductor Cameron Kite had been due to recount his version of the events leading up to Mr Antonovich’s death after witnesses recalled the so-called shaman assuring them the increasingly ill man was being looked after.

Mr Kite’s former partner, Chelsea Hope, said she feared people might shift any potential blame towards him.

Ms Hope also remembered hearing Mr Solaris tell certain people to visit Mr Antonovich’s flatmate and tell him to not mention the ceremony he had participated in.

Kambo is typically scraped off the back of a live frog with a stick before its application.

The use of ayahuasca and kambo is based on the traditional knowledge of indigenous South American communities, with adherents believing the substances can cleanse the body of impurities.

Medical experts, however, say there is no proof the substances do more than make people extremely ill.

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