Missing British journalist Dom Phillips: two bodies found in Brazilian Amazon; pending identifications

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Two bodies have been found during the search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and a former indigenous leader who have been missing in the remote Brazilian Amazon for more than a week.

The BBC reported on Monday that two bodies had been discovered, but official identification remains pending. The Guardian, where Phillips was a regular contributor, spoke to his brother-in-law, Paul Sherwood, who said the family had been contacted by the British Embassy about the finds.

“He said he wanted us to know that…they found two bodies,” Sherwood said, referring to his conversation with the embassy. “He didn’t describe the place and just said it was in the rainforest, and he said they were tied to a tree, and they hadn’t been identified yet.”

“He said when it was daylight, or when it was possible, they would do an ID,” Sherwood added.

MISSING BRITISH JOURNALIST DOM PHILLIPS: POSSIBLE HUMAN REMAINS FOUND IN BRAZIL AMAZON

A photo shows British journalist Dom Phillips, who went missing while reporting in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Peru, Brazil, in this photo taken in December 2009 and obtained by Reuters on 7 June 2022.
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A photo shows British journalist Dom Phillips, who went missing while reporting in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Peru, Brazil, in this photo taken in December 2009 and obtained by Reuters on 7 June 2022.
(Paul Sherwood/Handout via REUTERS)

It comes after Brazilian Federal Police officers revealed on Sunday evening that items belonging to Phillips, 57, and 41-year-old former indigenous leader Bruno Pereira were found that afternoon.

The pair were last seen on the morning of June 5 near the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, located in a remote region of the Brazilian Amazon bordering Peru and Colombia. They were returning alone by boat on the Itaquai to Atalaia do Norte but never arrived.

The objects were found on Sunday afternoon and were transported by boat by federal police officers to Atalaia do Norte, the town closest to the search.

In a statement late Sunday, police said they identified the items as belonging to the two missing men, including a health card and clothing belonging to Pereira.

Employees of the National Indigenous Foundation protest against the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous affairs specialist Bruno Pereira, in Brasilia on June 9, 2022.

Employees of the National Indigenous Foundation protest against the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous affairs specialist Bruno Pereira, in Brasilia on June 9, 2022.
((Photo by EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images))

A backpack identified as belonging to Phillips was found tied to a half-submerged tree, a firefighter told reporters in Atalaia do Norte. It’s the end of the rainy season in the region and part of the forest is flooded, according to the Associated Press.

A laptop computer was also found by search teams focusing their efforts around a location in the Itaquai River where a tarp from the boat used by the missing men was found on Saturday by volunteers from the Matis Indigenous Group.

The development came a day after police reported finding traces of blood in the boat of a fisherman who is under arrest as the sole suspect in the disappearance. Officers also found possible man-made organic material in the river. The materials are being analyzed.

A federal police expert examines a boat seized by the task force for the rescue of indigenist Bruno Pereira and journalist Dom Phillips at the port in the city of Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas, Brazil, June 11, 2022.

A federal police expert examines a boat seized by the task force for the rescue of indigenist Bruno Pereira and journalist Dom Phillips at the port in the city of Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas, Brazil, June 11, 2022.
((Photo by JOAO LAET/AFP via Getty Images))

Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, also known as Pelado, is under arrest for unlawful possession of restricted ammunition, but a judge has ordered him detained for another 30 days as the investigation into the disappearances continues . According to accounts from Aboriginal people who were with Pereira and Phillips, the suspect brandished a gun at them the day before the couple disappeared.

The suspect denies any wrongdoing and said military police tortured him in an attempt to extract a confession, his family told AP.

The area where the two men disappeared has seen violent conflict between fishermen, poachers and government agents. Violence has increased as drug gangs battle for control of waterways to ship cocaine, despite the Itaquai not being a known drug trafficking route.

Pereira, who previously headed the local office of the Brazilian government’s indigenous agency, known as FUNAI, has taken part in several operations against illegal fishing. In such operations, as a rule, fishing gear is seized or destroyed while fishermen are fined and briefly detained.

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Only natives can legally fish on their territories.

Authorities say the main line of the police investigation into the disappearance has exposed an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Javari Valley Reserve, which is Brazil’s second-largest indigenous territory. .

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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