Federal police said on Friday that human remains found in Brazil’s remote Amazon had been identified as that of British journalist Dom Phillips, who went missing nearly two weeks ago in a case with a Brazilian indigenous expert who helped the world had attracted attention.
Additional remains found at the site near the town of Atalia do Norte have not yet been identified, but are expected to belong to Bruno Pereira, a 41-year-old indigenous specialist. The pair were last seen on June 5 on their boat on the Itakai River, near the entrance. The Javari Valley Indigenous Region, which borders Peru and Colombia.
“Confirmation [of Phillips’ remains] based on dental examination and anthropological forensics,” the federal police said in a statement. “Work is ongoing to fully identify the remains so that we can determine the cause of death, and also the dynamics and concealment of the crime.” bodies.”
Fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed Pellado after the remains were found on Wednesday, confessed that he had killed 57-year-old Phillips and Pereira, and took police to the spot where the remains were found. He told the officers that he used a shotgun to commit the crime.
Police also arrested Pellado’s brother, the fisherman Oceni da Costa de Oliveira.
The remains arrived in Brasilia for forensic work on Thursday.
The area where Phillips and Pereira went missing has seen violent clashes between fishermen, poachers and government agents.
Federal police said others may have participated in the crime but did not think organized criminal groups were involved.
UNIVAJA, the local indigenous union for which Pereira was working, criticized that conclusion. It said in a statement that the investigation did not consider the existence of a criminal organization for financing illegal fishing and poaching in the Javari Valley indigenous region.
“That’s why Bruno Pereira became one of the main targets of this criminal group as well as other UNIVAJA members who had received death threats,” the statement said.
President Jair Bolsonaro, a frequent critic of journalists and indigenous experts, has criticized the government for not getting involved fast enough. Earlier, he criticized Phillips in an interview, saying without evidence that the local people in the area where he went missing did not like him – and that he should have been more careful in the area.
His main opponent in the October election, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said in a statement that the killings were “directly related to the dismantling of public policies of protection of indigenous peoples” and “also related to the current administration’s incitement to violence”. Huh” .”
Efforts to find this pair were initiated by the indigenous people of the region.
Indigenous people living with Pereira and Phillips have said that Pellado had fired a rifle at them the day before the pair went missing.
The official search team focused its efforts around a spot on the Itakai River where a tarp from a boat used by the missing was found. Authorities began scouting the area and recovered a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings under water on Sunday.
Officials have said a main line of police investigations into the disappearances have pointed to an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Javari Valley reserve, Brazil’s second-largest indigenous region. Is.
Pereira, who previously headed the local bureau of the federal Indigenous Agency known as FUNAI, took part in several campaigns against illegal fishing. In such operations, as a rule, fishing gear is confiscated or destroyed, while the fishermen are fined and detained for some time. Only indigenous people can legally catch fish in their territories.
While some police, mayors and others in the area link the couple’s disappearance to the “fish mafia”, federal police have not ruled out other lines of investigation, such as drug trafficking.
The case has put a global magnifying glass on the violence in the Amazon.
Earlier on Friday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Phillips and Pereira were “murdered for supporting the conservation of the rainforest and native people there.”
“We call for accountability and justice – we must collectively strengthen efforts to protect environmental defenders and journalists,” Price said.
Protests demanding justice for Phillips and Pereira are set to take place in several Brazilian cities over the weekend.