Published on: 06/16/2022 – 02:38
According to Brazil’s Federal Police speaking to reporters on Wednesday, a suspect confessed and led investigators to the spot where British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian expert Bruno Pereira, who have been missing in the Amazon since early June, went missing. The bodies must be formally identified before being returned to the families.
It’s the end of a long wait for families. Brazilian police announced on Wednesday June 15 that one of the suspects arrested in the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips and expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon has confessed.
“Yesterday evening we obtained the confessions of the first of the two arrested suspects (…), who described in detail the course of events and told us where the bodies were buried,” said the Chancellor in a press conference of the Amazonas State Police, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, who pointed out that the suspect admitted taking part in the “crime” but without specifying his role.
The suspect assures that the two men were killed “by firearms”, specified the police officer, who does not rule out new arrests.
“Excavations have been carried out at the site, excavations are continuing, but human remains have already been found,” he added. “Once we have been able to verify, thanks to the expertise, that these are indeed the remains of the bodies of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, they will be returned to the families.”
A few hours before the announcement, television cameras had filmed one of the two arrested suspects leaving a police station to be taken by boat to the police search site.
“Say Them Goodbye With Love”
The first suspect, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, a 41-year-old fisherman nicknamed “Pelado,” was arrested on June 7. Witnesses said they saw him passing at high speed on board a boat going in the same direction as Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira’s boat before they disappeared. The second suspect, Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, known as “Dos Santos,” was arrested on Tuesday “suspected of involvement in the case,” according to federal police.
In a press release, the journalist’s Brazilian wife, Alessandra Sampaio, thanked “all the teams that carried out the research, especially the indigenous volunteers,” whose absence during the press conference was criticized by many observers.
“While we are still awaiting final confirmations, this tragic result puts an end to the agony of not knowing where Dom and Bruno have been. Now we can take them home and say goodbye to them with love,” she said. “Today we too begin our fight for justice (…) We will only have peace if the necessary measures are taken to ensure that such tragedies do not happen again”.
Authorities announced on Sunday that they had found the personal effects of the two missing persons.
The British journalist and the Brazilian expert were last seen on June 5 during an expedition to the Javari Valley. There are many illegal drug, fishing and gold panning businesses in this region, which is considered to be very dangerous, near the borders with Peru and Colombia.
It has in recent years become a strategic axis for the gangs of drug traffickers who transport cocaine or cannabis produced in Brazil’s neighboring countries, notably Colombia and Peru, along the river.
The author of dozens of reports on the Amazon, Dom Phillips, 57, had revisited the region as part of his research for a book on conservation.
Bruno Pereira, 41, a recognized expert and defender of indigenous peoples’ rights, worked for many years at Brazil’s government agency for indigenous affairs (Funai). In particular, he managed the FUNAI branch in Atalaia do Norte (Northwest), a place where the two men were to return by boat after their disappearance, and a program to protect isolated indigenous groups in the Javari Valley.
Father-of-three Bruno Pereira has repeatedly said he was the target of threats from loggers, miners and illegal fishermen trying to invade protected lands.
Dom Phillips settled in Brazil 15 years ago, was married to a Brazilian and had taken steps to adopt a child.
Her disappearance has sparked outrage around the world, with reactions from high-profile politicians and celebrities including members of Irish rock band U2.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who favors mining and management of indigenous reserves in the Amazon, has been heavily criticized for describing the two men’s expedition as an “unsavory adventure”.
On Wednesday, he claimed Dom Phillips was “frowned upon” in the Amazon for writing “many reports against gold miners and about the environment.” “In this very remote region, a lot of people didn’t like him. He should have taken extra precautions (…) There are pirates on the river over there, it’s unwise to survey the place without weapons,” he added in an interview with journalist Leda Nagle’s YouTube channel.