A 56-year-old Canadian man who was stabbed to death in Chile has been identified as a former professor at the University of British Columbia.

The school confirmed that Peter Winterburn, a former researcher in the school’s Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, was the victim in Friday’s fatal stabbing.

In a Facebook post, Winterburn's brother, Brian, wrote that Peter's death was "devastating news for both our family, his wife and his two daughters."

"RIP Peter my younger brother, his life tragically taken too soon by those who feel the only way forward in life is to steal," he wrote.

Local reports said the incident took place in the Cerro Alegre neighbourhood of Valparaiso, Chile, where Winterburn was walking with his family. These reports say two people demanded his belongings, there was a commotion, and he was stabbed.

Valparaiso Mayor Jorge Sharp told local reporters incidents like this are rare, and said the city would use "all available resources" to find the perpetrators.

"We do think this is a very unique situation," Sharp said in Spanish, which CTV News later translated. "It is exceptional. This does not really happen in this city. And that is why we hope that the authorities will do their work and that these two individuals will it be brought to justice. And punished."

Sharp offered his condolences to Winterburn's family, and said he hoped surveillance video from the area would help authorities locate the killer.

In an email, Winterburn's wife, Michelle, 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."

She wrote that he had an "amazing zest for life" and enjoyed running half marathons, many of which his younger daughter Keryn joined him in. Clearly an active person, Winterburn also enjoyed skiing, scuba diving, which his wife said they did as a family. She wrote that "his newest passion was infrared photography."

"Pete will forever be in our hearts and be loved always," Michelle Winterburn wrote.

After news of Winterburn's death became public, UBC’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit paid tribute to Winterburn in a Facebook post, calling him a “compelling force” during his time at the school.

"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," the post read.

The research unit said Winterburn most recently worked on pioneering efforts in the application of genomic methods in mineral exploration.

"His role was to find ways, strategies, techniques, methods to see ore deposits underground despite taking samples from the surface," explained Craig Hart, director of the mineral deposit research unit at UBC.

For example, Hart said that they “had great successes in looking at fault zones in British Columbia.”

Hart said Winterburn still has some students at UBC, who he was in contact with.

"He was still playing a good strong mentoring role to make sure they had the leadership to complete," said Hart.

But, he explained, Winterburn was more than his work. Hart described him as "a bit of a character."

He said Winterburn "had a good wit. It was a sharp wit. It could be acerbic at times and he would challenge you."

The team at UBC also enjoyed the regular wine and cheese parties and Winterburn loved to curate the cheese selection.

"He would look for the dankest, stinkiest cheeses you could possibly find," Hart said. "Again, to challenge everyone that was at the party."

Winterburn was also an experienced traveller, said Hart.

"He’s been in some really difficult parts of the world."

Winterburn left UBC in January, and returned to the mining company Vale, at their location in Santiago, Chile a month later. 

According to a profile on UBC’s website, Winterburn was an industrial research chair in exploration geochemistry and held a Ph.D from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Before his time at the university, Winterburn worked for more than 17 years in the minerals industry for AngloAmerican and Vale.

On Friday, Global Affairs Canada had confirmed the death of a Canadian citizen in the South American country.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the Canadian citizen who has been murdered in Chile,” a spokesperson told CTV News.

“Consular officials stand ready to provide assistance to the victim's family,” the spokesperson added.