(Manaus) Ten days after British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian expert Bruno Pereira disappeared in the Amazon, the worst fears were confirmed on Wednesday: one suspect admitted to burying their bodies and “human remains” were found at the search sites.
Updated yesterday at 10:02 PM.
“Last night, we obtained the confession of the first two arrested suspects,” he added […] who told in detail how the crime was committed and told us where the bodies were buried,” explained during a press conference in Manaus (North) the chief of the Federal Police of the state of Amazonas, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes.
The policeman said the suspect, a 41-year-old fisherman named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, admitted participating in the “crime”, but without specifying his role. The fisherman was brought by the police to the search site to clarify the exact location.
“Excavations were carried out immediately, excavations will continue, but human remains have already been found,” Mr. Fontes added. “Once we are able to verify, thanks to experience, that it is indeed the remains of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, they will be returned to the families.”
In a statement, the wife of Brazilian journalist Alessandra Sampaio thanked “all the teams that carried out the research, especially the indigenous volunteers” whose absence from the press conference was criticized by many observers.
“Even if we are still waiting for the final confirmations, this tragic outcome puts an end to the anxiety of not knowing where Dom and Bruno are. Now we can take them home and say goodbye with love.”
“Today we also begin our fight for justice […] We will only get peace after taking the necessary measures to ensure that such tragedies do not happen again.”
The British journalist and Brazilian expert was last seen on June 5, during an expedition to the Javari Valley region.
This area near the borders with Peru and Colombia is famous for being very dangerous, and there are many drug smuggling, fishing or illegal gold hunting.
In recent years it has become a strategic hub for gangs of drug smugglers who transport cocaine or cannabis produced in neighboring countries by river.
The author of dozens of reports on the Amazon, Dom Phillips, 57, who has lived in Brazil for 15 years, once again traveled to the region as part of research for a book on conservation.
Bruno Pereira, 41, is a recognized expert and advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples, who has worked for many years at the Brazilian Government Agency for Indigenous Affairs (Funai).
In particular, he ran the Funai branch of Atalaia do Norte (Northwest), an area where the two men were supposed to return by boat when they disappeared, as well as a program to protect isolated indigenous groups in the area.
Bruno Pereira, a father of three, has repeatedly told that he was the target of threats from lumberjacks, miners and poachers who tried to encroach on protected lands.
The disappearance of the two men sparked outrage around the world, with the reactions of prominent political figures and celebrities such as members of the Irish rock band U2.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who favors mining and farming indigenous reserves in the Amazon, has come under fire for calling the two men’s trip a “hateful adventure”.
On Wednesday, he claimed Dom Phillips was “upset” in the Amazon because he wrote “many reports against gold miners, about the environment.” “In this very isolated area, not many people liked it,” he added.
The reaction of former leftist President Lula da Silva (2003-2011), the 2022 presidential candidate, to the announcement of the Federal Police: “It is very sad.” “People who died defending indigenous lands and the environment. It can’t be Brazil,” he wrote on Twitter.
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