Spanish police have arrested three people, including a well-known porn star, after a man died following a mystic ritual involving venom from an endangered American toad.
Adult film star Nacho Vidal has been charged with manslaughter following the death of fashion photographer Jose Luis Abad, who died in July 2019.
"The police operation began following the victim's death during the celebration of a mystic ritual based on the inhalation of venom of the bufo alvarius toad," a police statement said.
"At the conclusion of an 11-month investigation, we have been able to establish that an offence of involuntary manslaughter and a public health offence had occurred, allegedly committed by those who organised and presided over the ritual."
Bufo alvarius, also known as the sonoran desert toad, is endangered in its natural habitat of the south-western US and northern Mexico but has long been used in traditional rituals.
The BBC report that Vidal's lawyer Daniel Salvador said his client "considers himself to be innocent" and described the death as an unfortunate accident.
The deceased reportedly used a pipe to inhale smoke from the venom, which is secreted from the glands of the toad.
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The venom contains 5-MeO-DMT, which is said to induce an intense psychedelic state.
It has earned the nickname "the God molecule" and is sought out by those looking for a spiritual experience - but has potentially dangerous side-effects including increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Spanish newspaper El País report that Vidal has previously promoted use of the toad's venom online.
"This was a commonly practised activity carried out for therapeutic or medicinal ends, but which posed a serious threat to public health despite being dressed up as what appeared to be an apparently inoffensive ancestral ritual," police said.
Police also allege that the ritual involved "highly suggestible people who were especially vulnerable and were seeking alternative ways to cure certain ailments or addictions".
Vidal's lawyer denied the claims, saying the photographer had "previously tried that substance and wanted to try it again".
He also denied that his client had acted as a shaman, saying his client was "very upset by the death of this person".
"With all due respect to the dead man and his family, Nacho maintains that the consumption was completely voluntary," he told La Vanguardia newspaper.