Human remains found in Amazon search for missing journalist, expert

  • Human remains have been found in the search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, who disappeared deep into the Amazon after threats.
  • Relatives of the longtime correspondent and respected indigenous specialist said authorities told them two bodies had been found.
  • However, federal police said in a statement that reports that Phillips and Pereira’s bodies had been found were false.

Human remains have been found in the search for a British journalist and Brazilian indigenous expert who disappeared deep into the Amazon after receiving threats, Brazil’s president confirmed Monday.

Relatives of veteran correspondent Dom Phillips and respected Indigenous specialist Bruno Pereira, meanwhile, said authorities had informed them that two bodies had been found – although police and local Indigenous leaders denied this, adding to the confusion surrounding the case.

The families of Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, have been haunted by news since the pair disappeared on Sunday a week ago during a reporting trip to Brazil’s Javari Valley, a remote jungle area teeming with illegal fishing, logging, mining and drug trafficking. .

President Jair Bolsonaro said:

The evidence leads us to believe that something bad has been done to them, as human entrails have been found floating in the river, which are now undergoing DNA testing.

The report came a day after police said they found personal items belonging to the two, including Pereira’s health card, pants and boots, as well as Phillips’ backpack and clothing.

Bolsonaro, whose government was accused of not acting urgently on the case, said hopes were fading.

“Because of the time that has passed – now eight days, almost the ninth – it will be very difficult to find them alive,” the president told CBN Recife radio.

“I pray to God that happens, but the information and evidence we’re getting suggests the opposite.”

‘Upset and sad’

Phillips’ cousin Dominique Davies told AFP via text message that authorities had informed the family that two bodies had been found.

“We are waiting for confirmation from the federal police (in Brazil) whether it is Dom and Bruno. We all remain upset and upset at this point,” she said.

The British Guardian newspaper, to which Phillips was a regular contributor, said the bodies had been found tied to a tree, according to information given to Phillips’ family by an aide to Brazil’s ambassador in London.

Federal police said in a statement that reports that Phillips and Pereira’s bodies had been found were false. And the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), which is participating in the search, denied that two bodies had been found.

Police have confirmed they are analyzing a blood sample and suspected human remains found during the search to determine if they belong to the missing men.

They said the results of these analyzes are expected “during the course of this week.”

Pereira’s wife Beatriz Matos said on Twitter Monday that police had confirmed “no body has been found”.

She added that “the confusion caused by the Brazilian embassy in London cannot demobilize the searches”, which she said should be “stepped up”.

“We, the relatives, need answers and certainty, and only with real evidence will we have that,” Matos said.

Brazilian police have arrested a suspect in the case, 41-year-old Amarildo Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed “Pelado”.

Witnesses say they saw him threatening Phillips and Pereira prior to their disappearance, then chased them into his boat just before disappearing.

The blood sample being analyzed was found on a tarpaulin in Oliveira’s boat.

The search was complicated given the difficult jungle terrain in the remote Javari Valley, where the men had traveled by boat to gather material for a book Phillips was writing about sustainable ways to protect the world’s largest rainforest.

U2 increases the pressure

The Brazilian government is under pressure from international media organisations, human rights groups and high-profile figures on the matter — fueling criticism of Bolsonaro’s policy towards the Amazon, where illegal deforestation and other environmental crimes have increased since he took office in 2019.

Dozens of indigenous protesters marched Monday in Atalaia do Norte, the small town of Phillips and Pereira they had gone to, demanding answers about their whereabouts.

“It’s been a week…and every day there are conflicting reports,” Natalie Southwick, Latin America coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in a statement.

“CPJ remains deeply concerned about the government’s inadequate response and lack of transparency. The Brazilian authorities must stop dawdling.”

Irish rock band U2 became the last to donate to the cause, joining Brazilian football legend Pele and singer Caetano Veloso.

“We are waiting to find out what happened to these brave men,” the band tweeted, along with a red and black drawing of the couple by artist Cristiano Siqueira that has gone viral.

“Where are Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira?” there is.

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