In the case of the men missing in the Amazon region, the worst fears have been confirmed. The British journalist and his local companion are dead. Now the bodies have also been found, following a tip from a suspect.
One of the suspects in the case of missing British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira has confessed to burying their bodies in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. The suspect, who had already been arrested last week, "told in detail the crime committed and named the place where he had buried the bodies," said federal police chief in Amazonas state, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes.
Accordingly, the suspect buried the bodies in a "very difficult to access" place in the rainforest. Shortly before the federal police press conference, Brazilian Justice Minister Anderson Torres announced on Twitter that "human remains" had been found. The suspect had himself led investigators to the spot where he had buried the bodies on Wednesday.
"Based on the confession and where it was found, there's a good chance" that the bodies are those of Phillips and Pereira, "but we won't know for sure until after the identification tests," Fontes said. The police officer initially did not want to comment on the exact circumstances of the death of the two missing persons. "There was a confrontation," Fontes said. "Basically," says the suspect, the missing persons "were killed by a gun."
Phillip's wife Alessandra Sampaio said it was a "tragic result" that "puts an end to the agony of not knowing Dom and Bruno's whereabouts". She added: "Today begins our journey in search of justice." She hopes that further investigation into the motive and the suspect's exact role in the deaths of the two men could "provide definitive answers".
The 57-year-old Phillips, who worked regularly as a freelance journalist for the British "Guardian", had researched a book about violence against indigenous people and sustainable protection of the rainforest together with Pereira, an expert on indigenous peoples, in the Javari Valley. The two men were last seen in a boat on the Itaquai River on June 5. Gold miners, poachers and drug gangs are active in the region, which borders Peru and Colombia.
Police arrested the now-confessed suspect on June 7, who witnesses said was stalking Phillips and Pereira's boat. Traces of blood were later discovered in the suspect's boat. Investigators also found personal items such as clothing belonging to the missing person near his house. Police arrested another man on Tuesday. Although, according to Fontes, he denied being involved in the crime, "we have evidence against him". According to Fontes, the police also have "indications" of a third party involved.
Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who advocates the mining and farming exploitation of indigenous reserves in the Amazon, has been heavily criticized for his comments on the disappearance of the two men. He had described the two men's expedition as a "shady adventure".
He also said in an interview on Wednesday that Phillips was "badly viewed" in the Amazon because he had written "a lot of reports against gold diggers, about the environment". "In this very remote region, many people didn't like him. He should have been doubly careful," Bolsonaro continued. "There are pirates on the river, it's reckless to walk around there unarmed."