Human remains found after suspect confesses in Brazil

Human remains found after suspect confesses in Brazil

Police search for missing people in Brazil

Police search for missing people in Brazil

© 2022 AFP

Human remains are found in the search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon, a suspect confesses

Human remains have been found during a search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon, a suspect has confessed. According to the Brazilian police, the suspect, who was arrested last week, “told in detail about the crime committed and named the place where he buried the bodies”.

The suspect – a 41-year-old fisherman – led the investigators to a “very difficult to access” place in the rainforest, said on Wednesday (local time) the head of the federal police in the state of Amazonas, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes. “Excavations have taken place at the site and are continuing, but human remains have already been found,” he added. “Certainty” must now be achieved through scientific investigations as to whether it is really the corpses of Phillips and Pereira.

The police officer initially did not want to comment on the exact circumstances of the death of the two missing persons. “There was a confrontation,” Fontes said, referring to the suspect’s statement. This says “in principle” that the missing “were killed by a gun”. The police left open whether the fisherman committed the crime himself. The suspect admitted to being present at the incident.

Phillip’s wife Alessandra Sampaio said it was a “tragic result” that “puts an end to the agony of not knowing Dom and Bruno’s whereabouts”. She added: “Today begins our journey in search of justice.” She hopes that further investigations into the motive and the exact role of the suspect in the deaths of the two men could “provide definitive answers”.

The 57-year-old Phillips, who regularly wrote for the British “Guardian” as a freelance journalist, and Pereira, an expert on indigenous peoples, had been researching a book in the Javari Valley about violence against indigenous people and sustainable protection of the rainforest. The two men were last seen in a boat on the Itaquai River on June 5. Gold miners, poachers and drug gangs are active in the region, which borders Peru and Colombia.

On June 7, police arrested the now-confessed fisherman who, according to witnesses, was stalking Phillips and Pereira’s boat. Traces of blood were later discovered in the suspect’s boat. Investigators also found personal items such as clothing belonging to the missing person near his house.

Police arrested another man on Tuesday. Although, according to Fontes, he denied being involved in the crime, “we have evidence against him”. According to Fontes, the police also have “indications” of a third party involved.

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who advocates mining and farming over exploitation of indigenous reserves in the Amazon, has been heavily criticized for his comments on the disappearance of the two men. He had described the two men’s expedition as a “shady adventure”.

He also said in an interview on Wednesday that Phillips was “badly viewed” in the Amazon because he had written “a lot of reports against gold diggers, about the environment”. “In this very remote region, many people didn’t like him. He should have been doubly careful,” Bolsonaro continued. “There are pirates on the river, it’s reckless to walk around there unarmed.”

In contrast, Phillips “Guardian” colleague Jonathan Watts acknowledged the commitment of the 57-year-old to the environment. “It’s a horror story that grabs everyone who is a journalist who cares about the Amazon and the indigenous peoples and the life system of our planet,” the environmental journalist, who works partly in Brazil, told the AFP news agency. “But I hope it will encourage rather than discourage editors and journalists from pursuing the stories that were important to Dom.”

AFP

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