Brazilian police and indigenous search teams on Monday dismissed reports they had found the bodies of a British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert missing in the Amazon jungle, dashing hopes for a quick resolution to the a week old case.
On Sunday, police said search teams found the personal effects of freelance journalist Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, a former official with the federal indigenous agency Funai, in a creek off the river where they were seen for the last time on June 5.
However, a federal police statement and a spokesperson for the local indigenous association UNIVAJA, which has been organizing searches since June 5, denied later reports of two bodies found during the search.
“I spoke with the team on the ground and it’s not true,” said Eliesio Marubo, a UNIVAJA lawyer. “The search continues.”
More than 100 indigenous people, many wearing body paint and headdresses, marched Monday in Atalaia do Norte, the town closest to where Phillips and Pereira were last seen, to demand better treatment natives and justice for both men.
They were on a reporting trip to the remote jungle near the border with Peru and Colombia which is home to the largest number of uncontacted indigenous people in the world. The wild and lawless region has attracted cocaine smuggling gangs, as well as loggers, miners and illegal hunters.
News of the couple’s disappearance has echoed around the world, with human rights organisations, environmentalists and free press advocates urging Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search.
Bolsonaro, who was previously questioned by Phillips at a press conference about weakening environmental enforcement, said last week that the two men were “being on an adventure that is not recommended” and said speculated that they might have been executed.
The case was thrown into confusion early Monday by reports of a diplomatic briefing for Phillips’ family.
The Guardian reported that a Brazilian diplomat told Paul Sherwood, the journalist’s brother-in-law, that authorities were working to identify two bodies tied to a tree near the river.
No authority or research team in Brazil has provided confirmation of this development.
A police statement released on Sunday described the personal effects of the two men who had been found, including an identity card of Pereira. A firefighter from a search party told reporters about a backpack with clothing and a laptop strapped to a tree trunk near the river.
Brazilian police also said on Friday night they were analyzing ‘organic material’ found in the river to see if it was human, but four people involved in the investigation told Reuters it seemed more likely it was of animal origin.
The material was found near the port of Atalaia do Norte, more than 65km downstream from where Phillips and Pereira were last seen on a slow-flowing river, the sources said. The condition of the material suggested that it could have been remains from a nearby butcher rather than remains transported downriver.
The Brazilian Embassy in London confirmed that it had been in contact with the Phillips family, at their request, but would not comment on the details provided in the briefing. Those close to Phillips could not be reached for comment.
State police detectives involved in the investigation told Reuters they were focusing on poachers and illegal fishers in the area, who often clashed with Pereira as he organized indigenous patrols of the area. local reserve.
Police have arrested a fisherman, Amarildo da Costa, known as “Pelado”, for possession of weapons and are keeping him in custody while they investigate the case.
Lawyers and Costa’s family said he was fishing the river legally and denied playing a role in the men’s disappearance.
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Post expires at 10:09am on Friday June 24th, 2022