7 min read

Dom Phillips missing: Mystery as Brazilian cops DENY family claim bodies of Brit journalist & guide found in Amazon

Journalist Dom Phillips

The Sun - Aliki Kraterou - Adrian Zorzut - 15:11, 13 Jun 2022

A MYSTERY around the disappearance of a British journalist and his guide has deepened as the cops have now denied bodies have been found in the search - despite claims from his family.

It had been widely reported that the bodies had been found "tied to a tree" - but since then cops have denied this and claimed no bodies have been discovered in the search in the Amazon.

Bruno Pereira's body was found alongside Phillips, the late journalist's wife confirmed
Bruno Pereira's body was found alongside Phillips, the late journalist's wife confirmed. credit: Enterprise
The men's bodies were found in a remote area of the Amazon on Monday
The men's bodies were found in a remote area of the Amazon on MondayCredit: Reuters

Dom Phillips and his guide indigenous expert Bruno Pereira have been missing since June 5 with suspicions they fell afoul of organised crime.

Phillips' wife Alessandra Sampaio confirmed her husband had been found with indigenous expert Bruno Pereira on Monday, according to a report.

Respected Brazilian journalist André Trigueiro said Alessandra informed him of the tragic news.

He wrote on Twitter: "Alessandra, wife of Dom Phillips, has just informed me that the bodies of her husband and indigenist Bruno Pereira have been found."

What we know about journalist Dom Phillips who vanished in the Amazon

And it was reported the Phillips family were told of the discovery by the Brazilian ambassador to the UK.

Phillips' brother-in-law Paul Sherwood told The Guardian: "He said he wanted us to know that… they had found two bodies.

"He didn't describe the location and just said it was in the rainforest and he said they were tied to a tree and they hadn't been identified yet.

"He said that when it was light, or when it was possible they would do an identification."

His niece Dominique Davies also told AFP via text message that "two bodies have been found" in the search.

Deepening the mystery around their vanishing however - cops have now outright claimed no bodies have been found in the search.

I've spoken with the team in the field and it's not true," said Eliesio Marubo, a lawyer for UNIVAJA, which has organized search teams in the hunt for Phillips and Pereira.

"The search goes on."

Foreign correspondent Phillips, 57, and his guide Pereira, 41, vanished last week in the Brazilian jungle last week.

The men were in the Sao Rasael community and were returning by boat to the nearby city of Atalaia do Norte but never arrived.

It comes after search teams earlier found one of the men's backpack and laptop and what appeared to be "human" organic material in a river where the both vanished in the Amazon.

Local fisherman Amariledo ‘Pelado’ da Costa has been arrested over the disappearances and blood was discovered on a tarp in his wooden boat.

Police said they have collected genetic material from the missing duo to compare with the blood.

Cops have been granted an extra 30 days to keep da Costa detained as they continue to investigate.

According to ABC News, police have honed in their investigation on members of Brazil's "fish mafia".

The mayor of Atalais do Norte, Denis Paiva, told reporters without providing more details that the "crime’s motive is some personal feud over fishing inspection".

This international network pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the country's second-largest indigenous area, authorities claim.

According the US outlet, the scheme is run by local businessmen who pay fishermen to enter the Javari Valley to catch fish and deliver it to them.

Fishermen have been known to scout the area for Arapaima - a 440-pound fish that can reach ten feet.

Federal police are also not ruling out other lines of investigation, pointing to the region's heavy nacro trade.

Paledo is the only known suspect under arrest.

Locals who were with Phillips and Pereira before they disappeared claim they say Paledo brandish a rifle at them the day before they disappeared.

And another witness described him as a "very dangerous man".

Local fisherman Amariledo ‘Pelado’ da Costa has been arrested
Local fisherman Amariledo ‘Pelado’ da Costa has been arrestedCredit: CEN
The men were allegedly reporting on the illegal fishing trade in indigenous areas
The men were allegedly reporting on the illegal fishing trade in indigenous areasCredit: AP

He denies any wrongdoing and claims Brazil's military police tortured him to get a confession, his family told the Associated Press.

Cops are focusing their investigation of poachers and illegal fishermen in the area.

Pereira often clashed with these groups as he organized indigenous patrols of the local reservation.

Witnesses said they last saw Phillips, a freelance reporter who has written for the Guardian and The Washington Post, last Sunday.

His companion Pereira, an expert on local tribes, had been a senior official with government indigenous agency Funai.

The two men were on a reporting trip in the remote jungle area on the border between Peru and Colombia that is home to the world's largest number of uncontacted indigenous people.

The wild and lawless region has lured cocaine-smuggling gangs, along with illegal loggers, miners and hunters.

The pair's disappearance has echoed globally, with Brazilian icons from soccer great Pele to singer Caetano Veloso joining politicians, environmentalists and human rights activists in urging President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search for them.

After criticism that the government had dragged its feet in the crucial first days of the case, Bolsonaro told the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on Friday that the Brazilian armed forces were working "tirelessly" to find the two men.

The streets of Atalaia do Norte, the largest riverside town near where the men were last seen, have grown busy in recent days with soldiers in camouflaged trucks, along with the distant sound of helicopters absent earlier this week.

By Friday, some 150 soldiers had been deployed via riverboats to hunt for the missing men and interview locals

Indigenous search teams have been looking for the pair since last Sunday.

Paledo was taken into custody on Tuesday and was charged with illegal possession of drugs and restricted ammunition.

Brazil's military were called in to search for the two missing men
Brazil's military were called in to search for the two missing menCredit: AP
Maria Lucia Farias Sampaio, Phillips' mother-in-law, embraces a girl during a protest
Maria Lucia Farias Sampaio, Phillips' mother-in-law, embraces a girl during a protestCredit: Reuters

Earlier...

Brazilian embassy: Two bodies found in search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Dom Phillips, right, and Bruno Pereira in 2018.
Dom Phillips, right, and Bruno Pereira in 2018. Photograph: Guardian composite/Gary Carlton
The Guardian - Tom Phillips in Atalaia do NorteMon 13 Jun 2022 15.12 BST

An aide to Brazil’s ambassador to the UK tells family bodies discovered tied to a tree in the rainforest, but police appear to deny the aide’s remarks.

Bodies feared to be those of the British journalist Dom Phillips and the Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira have been found in the Amazon one week after the pair disappeared, according to Brazil diplomats.

The search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira in the Brazilian Amazon.

An aide to the Brazilian ambassador to the UK broke the news to Phillips’s family in the UK during a phone call early on Monday.

“He said he wanted us to know that … they had found two bodies,” said Paul Sherwood, Phillips’s brother-in-law. “He didn’t describe the location and just said it was in the rainforest and he said they were tied to a tree and they hadn’t been identified yet.”

Sherwood added: “He said that when it was light, or when it was possible they would do an identification.”

But there was confusion later on Monday when the federal police appeared to deny the aide’s comments.

“The information being shared that the bodies of Mr. Bruno Pereira and Mr. Dom Phillips have been found are without merit,” the federal police statement said. “As was previously stated, biological materials and personal belongings of the missing men were found and are being examined.

“As soon as any finds are made the family, and the media will be immediately informed.”

Beto Marubo, a prominent indigenous leader in the Javari Valley, told the Guardian that indigenous search parties had not confirmed the discovery of two bodies at the search site.

The news comes after police confirmed that items belonging to both men had been found during a search of the Javari region where they disappeared while returning from a four-day reporting trip.

The objects were discovered on Saturday thanks to a small but determined Indigenous search team that has spent the past seven days on the frontline of the hunt for the two missing men who had both, in different ways, championed the Indigenous cause.

A small group of Indigenous volunteers spotted a blue tarpaulin in a secluded flooded forest of the River Itaquaí on Saturday morning.

The mother-in-law of Dom Phillips embraces a girl during a protest after his disappearance.

A larger group of Indigenous volunteers – accompanied by members of Brazil’s military police force and a Guardian reporter who has been embedded with the Indigenous search teams – returned to the location at just after 4 pm and found a series of items floating nearby in the area’s murky brown waters.

On Sunday evening a federal police statement said the recovered items included a pair of trousers, a pair of boots and a healthcare card belonging to Pereira and a backpack filled with clothes, and a pair of boots belonging to Phillips.

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support the families of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. Donate here in English or here in Portuguese.