Respected journalist and expert guide have been missing since 5 June and a suspect has reportedly confessed to their murders, according to local police
Dom Phillips, a British journalist, and Bruno Pereira, a Brazilian indigenous affairs expert, have been missing since 5 June while travelling in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest in western Brazil.
Mr Phillips, 57, has written for The Independent, The Guardian, The Financial Times and others and was travelling for work purposes with Mr Pereira, a former government adviser, when they went missing.
The pair were last seen in the Javari region of the Amazon near the border with Peru and Mr Phillips’ family have said they suspect both are dead given that the area is notorious for dangerous criminal gangs engaged in illegal activity.
Police chief Eduardo Alexandre Fontes has since said that a 41-year-old suspect, identified as Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira and nicknamed “Pelado”, has admitted to shooting the men dead and led the authorities to them.
Search teams subsequently delivered body bags to the docks of the city of Atalaia do Norte. Officials said they would now conduct an autopsy to identify the dead.
“We would have no way of getting to that spot quickly without the confession,” the investigator said of the place where police recovered the remains.
“We found the bodies three kilometres into the woods,” he said, adding that rescue teams had had to travel for nearly an hour and 40 minutes on the river and 25 more into the woods to reach the burial spot.
However, the suspect’s family has accused the police of torturing him into a confession, while denying that he was involved in any wrongdoing.
“Like everybody in this House of Commons, we’re deeply concerned about what may have happened to him. FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] officials are working closely now with the Brazilian authorities,” he told his fellow MPs.
“What we’ve told the Brazilians is that we stand ready to provide all the support that they may need.”
Who is Dom Phillips?
Mr Phillips is a freelance journalist who has lived in Brazil for more than 10 years in the north eastern city of Salvador and has reported on affairs in the country for the last 15 years.
He was in the Amazon to conduct research for a book about the environment, supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation. He has previously written about deforestation and other environmental issues affecting Brazil.
Who is Bruno Pereira?
Mr Pereira is a father-of-three and an expert of indigenous affairs in Brazil.
He previously worked for Funai, the Brazilian government’s indigenous rights agency, and has been described as “a hero” by his former colleagues.
Mr Pereira was fired from his position at Funai in what was seen to be a politically motivated move, soon after president Jair Bolsonaro came to power in the country.
He had reportedly received threats for his work in monitoring illegal activities in the region and the pair’s disappearance has been linked to the illegal fishing trade.