Two bodies found in search for missing environmentalists in Brazil

Brazilian police have found two bodies in the Amazon rainforest in their search for missing journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenist Bruno Pereira who disappeared on June 5.

Authorities said at a press conference that a fisherman arrested in connection with their disappearance had confessed to the killing and agreed to lead police to the bodies.

Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, had been taking a four-day reporting trip for a new book on Amazon defenders along the Itaquaí river towards the city of Atalaia do Norte.

Amazonzas police chief, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, said they would work to prove the remains belonged to the pair, after which they would be quickly returned to their families.

Phillips’ wife Alessandro Sampaio released a statement following the news.

aerial view of green trees and river during daytime

She wrote: ‘Although we are still awaiting definitive confirmations, this tragic outcome puts an end to the anguish of not knowing Dom and Bruno’s whereabouts. Now we can bring them home and say goodbye with love.

‘Today, we also begin our quest for justice. I hope that the investigations exhaust all possibilities and bring definitive answers on all relevant details as soon as possible.’

Pereira formerly worked to protect Indigenous communities through a Brazilian government agency but was removed from this position in 2019.

More recently he had been investigating criminal activity within the Javari Valley Indigenous reserve, for which he received a written threat after opposing illegal fishing gangs working in the area.

On June 4, Phillips and Pereira reportedly witnessed a group of armed men at a patrol by members of the Univaja Indigenous association, according to its president Paulo Marubo.

The association said it was ‘an incalculable loss’ after hearing news of the discovery of the bodies.

Tensions between criminal gangs operating in the Amazon and the Indigenous people living there remain high, resulting in numerous murders.

The protection of the Amazon has become a contentious issue for the country, as people disagree on whether to develop or preserve the area. 

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has publicly defended illegal miners and deforesters, said the pair should not have visited the area and blamed them for their own disappearance.

In a statement on Wednesday he said: ‘He did a lot of stories against gold mining and on environmental issues. In that region, a region extremely isolated, not a lot of people liked him. He should have redoubled his focus on taking care of himself. But he decided to make this excursion.’

The fisherman accused of the crime, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, was arrested after blood was found on his boat and weapons were recovered at his home.

Photo by Ivars Utināns


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top