House of Phillips and Bruno Pereira: Suspect confesses to killing missing couple in Brazilian Amazon, authorities say

The Brazilian Federal Police identified the suspect as Amarilda da Costa de Oliveira. Police said he made a confession on Tuesday evening and indicated the location of the veteran correspondent’s bodies. Dom Phillips and explorer Bruno Araujo Pereira was buried.

The next day, the suspect drove police to the area where the couple was allegedly killed, a 100-minute boat ride and a 3-kilometer jungle trek.

According to federal police spokesman Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, the police are currently excavating the area and have found human remains that will be sent to Brasilia on Thursday for a forensic examination. He added that the police could not confirm the deaths of Phillips and Pereira until the analysis was completed.

Authorities declined to provide any further details about Amarildo or how he allegedly killed the couple. Fontes also said on Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing and more arrests could be made “at any time.”

Asked why the authorities had not previously mentioned the help of indigenous peoples in the search mission, Fontes replied that it was a mistake not to recognize their “fundamental” contribution.

Phillips and Pereira disappeared on June 5 during a trip to the Javari Valley, in the far western part of the Amazonas state. They were last seen in the community of San Rafael, a two-hour boat ride from the city of Atalaya do Norte, after escorting an Indigenous Patrol on the Ithacuai River organized to prevent illegal fishermen and hunters from encroaching on Indigenous lands. Zhavari valley.

Police arrested a second suspect in connection with the disappearance of the men on Tuesday, according to a press release from the Federal Police.

Police said the second suspect, a 41-year-old man, is being questioned and will be transferred to a municipal court hearing. They also stated that they had seized several firearms cartridges and an oar, which would be analyzed.

Phillips and Pereira disappeared while doing research for a book project on conservation efforts in the region, which authorities have described as “difficult” and “dangerous” and is known to harbor illegal miners, loggers and international drug dealers.

Protecting the Amazon is a dangerous undertaking.  Critics say Bolsonaro is making things worse

Just a few days before they disappeared, they reportedly received death threats.

Their case attracted the attention of the whole world to dangers often faced by journalists and environmental activists in Brazil.

Between 2009 and 2019, more than 300 people were killed in Brazil as a result of land and resource conflicts in the Amazon, according to Human Rights Watch, citing figures from the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Catholic Church.

And in 2020, Global Witness ranked Brazil the fourth most dangerous country in terms of environmental activism, based on documented killings of environmentalists. Nearly three-quarters of such attacks in Brazil took place in the Amazon region, he said.

Philips has written extensively about Brazil’s most marginalized groups and the destruction that criminals are wreaking on the Amazon.

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro criticized the couple’s journey since their disappearance, saying in a YouTube interview ahead of Wednesday’s suspect confession that Philips and Pereira’s actions were “reckless” and suggested that if they were “killed” the bodies would go missing in the Javari River.

Alessandra Sampaio, Phillips’ wife, issued a statement after Wednesday’s press conference, urging authorities to share more important details about the case and take the necessary steps to prevent more killings.

“This tragic outcome ended the suffering of not knowing the whereabouts of Dom and Bruno. Now we can bring them home and say goodbye to love,” she wrote.

Kara Fox of CNN and Juliana Koch contributed to this report.