VALPARAÍSO – A Canadian professor was stabbed to death in front of his wife and one of his daughters on Friday in Valparaíso. Peter Winterburn had moved back to Chile earlier this year. Family, ex-colleagues and students react shocked on the tragic death.
Peter Winterburn was visiting the Cerro Alegre hill in Valparaíso with one of his daughters and wife on Friday, when two men assaulted him and tried to take his backpack. When Winterburn resisted, the attackers pulled a knife.
The 57-year-old Canadian was a geochemistry professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada and had moved back to Chile after retiring from university in January. He worked in the geochemistry industry in Chile for the Brazilian company Vale.
Peter Winterburn’s brother Brian wrote on Facebook that his brother’s death was “devastating news for both our family, his wife and his two daughters.”
Winterburn’s wife Michelle, who witnessed the attack, told CTV News Vancouver: “Pete was a devoted family man who had all the time in the world for his two daughters Cassandre and Keryn. Nothing was ever a bother or too much for him when it concerned them. I could not have asked for a better father for the girls. He was extremely proud of both of them.”
Cassandre Winterburn immediately traveled to Chile when the tragic news reached her. She told The Star about her sister Keryn, who was with her father when he died: “It’s hard on anyone who hears someone take their last breath, though they are handling it as well as they can, they are still deeply traumatized”.
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Reactions From The Academic World
Academic colleagues responded shocked, too. According to an ex-student on CBC News, Winterburn was extremely caring and unique, with a goofy sense of humor and sharp intelligence.
“He had a way of teaching you without you realizing he was teaching you. I look back on my years with Peter and realize how much I’ve grown as a person and also as a scientist.”
In a post on Facebook, the Mineral Deposit Research Unit of the UBC called Winterburn a compelling force. “While at UBC, he implemented a widely recognized and successful research program in exploration geochemistry, he contributed to student and industry training, graduated five MSc students and was mentoring four other MSc candidates towards completion. We are all deeply saddened by his tragic death.”
Jorge Sharp, mayor of Valparaíso, has offered his condolences to the family and said the police will do everything to find the perpetrators. Valparaíso is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chile and events such these rarely happen, according to Sharp.
It is with sadness that we announce the death of Dr. Peter Winterburn. Peter was killed on Friday, June 21, 11:45 am…Posted by MDRU – Mineral Deposit Research Unit on Friday, June 21, 2019
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.