One of two men arrested for the disappearance of a British journalist and an indigenous expert in the Brazilian Amazon has confessed to burying the couple in the jungle, federal police said on Wednesday after the discovery of human remains.
Dom Phillips and his guide Bruno Pereira disappeared on June 5 in a remote part of the Amazon plagued by environmental crimes, including illegal mining, fishing and logging, and drug trafficking.
Police did not say whether the suspect, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, also confessed to killing the couple, saying only that he admitted to having participated in the episode and “recounted in detail the crime that was committed. and indicated the place where he buried the body.”
Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, federal police chief for the Brazilian state of Amazonas, told a press conference in Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, that the place where the remains were found was ” very difficult to achieve”.
“Excavations have been carried out on site. The excavations will continue, but human remains have already been found,” he said.
“As soon as we have been able to verify with the help of expertise that these are indeed the remains of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, they will be returned to the families.”
Earlier in the day, Oliveira was taken by police to the search site along the Itaquai River, according to media reports.
Phillips’ Brazilian wife, Alessandra Sampaio, thanked in a statement on Wednesday “all the teams that carried out the search, especially the indigenous volunteers”, whose absence from the press conference was criticized by some observers.
“While we are still awaiting final confirmation, this tragic finale puts an end to the angst of not knowing where Dom and Bruno were,” she said.
“Today we also begin our fight for justice…we will only have peace when the necessary steps are taken to ensure that such tragedies do not happen again.”
The other suspect, a man believed to be Oliveira’s brother, Oseney da Costa Oliveira, was arrested Tuesday in Atalaia do Norte, the small northern town to which Phillips and Pereira were returning when they disappeared in the remote valley of Javari after receiving threats while traveling. .
Amarildo, a fisherman, was arrested on June 7. The two suspects are 41 years old.
Phillips, 57, a longtime contributor to the British daily The Guardian and other major international newspapers, was working on a book on sustainable development in the Amazon.
Pereira, 41, a popular advocate for the region’s indigenous peoples, acted as his guide while he was on leave from his job at the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs agency, or FUNAI.
The father-of-three had repeatedly said he had been threatened by illegal loggers, miners and fishermen trying to encroach on protected land.
The disappearance of the pair sparked global outrage, prompting backlash from high-profile political figures as well as celebrities such as members of Irish rock band U2.
– British ‘hated’ –
President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday that entrails had been found in the water during search operations, but police never confirmed it.
The day before, police said they had found personal effects belonging to the two missing men.
Bolsonaro – whose government has been accused of dragging its feet on the investigation – drew further criticism on Wednesday for saying a Phillips was “hated” for his reporting on the region and should have been more careful.
“This Englishman was not liked in the region because he wrote a lot of articles against illegal gold miners (and) environmental problems,” Bolsonaro said.
“A lot of people didn’t like him. He should have been more than extra careful. And he decided to go on an excursion instead,” he told journalist Leda Nagle in an interview for her YouTube channel.
“All the signs indicate that if they’ve been killed — and I hope they haven’t — they’re in the water, and in the water there won’t be much left. I don’t don’t know if there are piranhas in the Javari,” Bolsonaro added.
He again appeared to blame the missing men, saying it was “very unwise to travel to this area unless sufficiently prepared, physically and with weapons”.
His comments sparked an outcry from critics.
“How disgusting,” journalist Ana Luiza Basilio wrote on Twitter.
Opposition MP Orlando Silva agreed, tweeting: “The victims are not the culprits”.
“The government has an obligation to protect the country and not to motivate the criminals who control the region.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)