Brazilian police find remains of British journalists, suspicious confessions – investigators

Investigators said on Wednesday that police found human remains while searching for British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira after a suspect admitted to killing them in the Amazon rainforest.

Detective Eduardo Fontes told a news conference that the suspect, a fisherman who clashed with Pereira over his efforts to combat poaching on indigenous lands, led police to a remote burial site where the remains were found.

This news represents a grim conclusion to an issue that has sparked global concern, as it hung on President Jair Bolsonaro at a regional summit and sparked concern in the British Parliament.

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Phillips, a freelance reporter who wrote for the Guardian and the Washington Post, was researching a book about the trip with Pereira, the former chief of isolated tribes recently contacted at the Funai Federal Agency for Indigenous Affairs.

They were in a remote jungle area near the borders with Colombia and Peru called the Javari Valley, which has the largest uncontacted indigenous population in the world. The area has been invaded by poachers, fishermen, loggers, and miners, and police describe it as a major drug smuggling route.

Police had earlier identified the main suspect as fisherman Amarildo da Costa, known as “Pelado”, who was arrested last week on charges of weapons possession. His brother Osini da Costa, 41, or “Dos Santos,” was arrested Tuesday night. Read more

Public attorneys representing the brothers could not immediately be reached for comment. The suspects’ family had previously denied that they had any role in the two men’s disappearance.

Detective Fontes told reporters that the “first suspect” had confessed and led police to the human remains, but the other detained suspect had denied any role despite incriminating evidence. He added that the police were investigating the involvement of a third person and further arrests were likely.

An eyewitness to the federal police said in a report seen by Reuters that the Costa brothers were seen gathering on the Itaqui River just moments after Phillips and Pereira passed on June 5, heading towards the riverside town of Atalaia do Norte.

The police report said witnesses heard Pereira say he had received threats from Amarildo da Costa. Pereira, a former official with the Funai Agency for Indigenous Affairs, was instrumental in stopping illegal gold mining, fishing and poaching along the rivers inhabited by indigenous tribes in the Javari Valley.

The two men’s disappearances were reported worldwide, with human rights organizations, environmentalists and press advocates urging Bolsonaro to ramp up the search after a slow start.

Bolsonaro, who once faced tough questioning from Phillips at a news conference about weakening environmental law enforcement, said last week that the two men “were on an unrecommended adventure.” Read more

On Wednesday, Bolsonaro suggested that Phillips made enemies by writing about environmental issues.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament on Wednesday he was deeply concerned about Phillips’ disappearance and said his government was working with Brazilian authorities to investigate the case. Read more

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(Reporting by Jake Spring and Bruno Kelly) Additional reporting by Peter Frontini and Stephen Grattan in Sao Paulo and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Writing and Additional Reporting by Anthony Buddle in Brasilia; Editing by Brad Hines, Leslie Adler and Richard Boleyn

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