The remains of a British reporter were found in the Brazilian Amazon, according to police: NPR

Federal police officers arrive with the recovered human remains believed to be indigenous expert Bruno Pereira of Brazil and freelance journalist Dom Phillips of Great Britain at the federal police hangar in Brasilia, Brazil on Thursday.

Eraldo Peres / AP


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Federal police officers arrive with the recovered human remains believed to be indigenous expert Bruno Pereira of Brazil and freelance journalist Dom Phillips of Great Britain at the federal police hangar in Brasilia, Brazil on Thursday.

Eraldo Peres / AP

Federal police said on Friday that human remains found deep in the Brazilian Amazon have been identified as belonging to British journalist Dom Phillips, who went missing nearly two weeks ago along with an indigenous Brazilian expert.

Further remains found at the site near the town of Atalaia do Norte have not yet been identified, but should belong to indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, 41. The couple were last seen on June 5 on their boat on the Itaquai River, near the entrance to the indigenous territory of the Javari Valley, which borders Peru and Colombia.

“The confirmation (of Phillips’ remains) was made on the basis of dental examinations and anthropological forensic analyzes,” federal police said in a statement. “Work is underway for a complete identification of the remains in order to determine the cause of death, but also the dynamics of the crime and the concealment of the bodies”.

The remains were found Wednesday after fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, nicknamed Pelado, confessed to killing Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, and led police to the site where the remains. He told the officers he used a firearm to commit the crime.

Police also arrested Pelado’s brother, fisherman Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, 41.

The area where the Phillips and Pereira disappeared was the scene of violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agents.

Federal police said others may have participated in the crime, but that organized crime groups do not appear to be involved in the killings.

UNIVAJA, the local indigenous association for which Pereira was working, criticized this conclusion. In a statement he said the investigation had not considered the existence of a criminal organization that funds illegal fishing and poaching in the indigenous territory of the Javari Valley.

“That is why Bruno Pereira has become one of the main targets of this criminal group, as well as of other members of UNIVAJA, who have received death threats,” the statement read.

The recovered human remains were seen in a police vehicle after being found during a search by indigenous expert Bruno Pereira of Brazil and freelance journalist Dom Phillips of Great Britain, in Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, Brazil. Wednesday.

Edmar Barros / AP


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The recovered human remains were seen in a police vehicle after being found during a search by indigenous expert Bruno Pereira of Brazil and freelance journalist Dom Phillips of Great Britain, in Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, Brazil. Wednesday.

Edmar Barros / AP

President Jair Bolsonaro, a frequent critic of indigenous journalists and experts, drew criticism that the government didn’t get involved fast enough. Previously, he criticized Phillips in an interview, saying without proof that he didn’t like the locals in the area where he disappeared and that he should have been more careful in the region.

His main opponent in the October elections, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said in a statement that the killings “are directly linked to the dismantling of public policies to protect indigenous peoples.” It is also related to the current administration’s spur to violence, ”said da Silva, who leads in opinion polls.

Efforts to find the couple were initiated by the indigenous peoples of the region.

The natives who were with Pereira and Phillips said Pelado brandished them a rifle the day before the couple disappeared.

The official search teams concentrated their efforts at a point on the Itaquai River where a sheet of the boat used by the missing men was found. Authorities began patrolling the area and on Sunday they discovered a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings submerged underwater.

Authorities said a main line of the police investigation into the disappearances pointed to an international network paying poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Javari Valley reserve, which is Brazil’s second largest indigenous territory.

Pereira, who previously headed the local office of the federal indigenous agency, known as FUNAI, has taken part in several operations against illegal fishing. In such operations, fishing gear is usually seized or destroyed, while fishermen are fined and detained for a short time. Only indigenous people can legally fish in their territories.

While some policemen, the mayor and others in the region link the disappearances of the two to the “fish mafia,” the federal police have not ruled out other lines of investigation, such as drug trafficking.