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Human remains found in search for British journalist Dom Phillips – as police say suspect led them to his body

The main suspect in the killings of a British journalist and indigenous expert has confessed to fatally shooting them in a remote part of the Amazon, Brazilian police have said.

Police told reporters that the suspect confessed on Tuesday night and took officers to the spot where the bodies of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were buried.

The pair went missing on 5 June on a remote stretch of the Itaquai River in northeastern Brazil.

Image:
Bruno Pereira. Pic: Band TV
Dom Phillips is a British journalist who went missing with Bruno Pereira on 5 June, 2022. Pic: BAND TV
Image:
Dom Phillips. Pic: Band TV

The federal investigator said that Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, who is nicknamed Pelado, told police he used a gun to kill the two men before they were buried nearly two miles into the woods.

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Alexandre Fontes, federal police superintendent in Amazonas, said excavations are continuing at the site, but its remoteness means there is no phone contact with officers there.

He explained: “From now on, we move on to a new stage: the phase of identifying these human remains, which are being collected with the greatest dignity, in order to preserve the chain of custody, evidence, which is very important.

“These human remains will be taken [on Thursday] to our Criminalistics Institute of the Federal Police, in Brasília, where identification will take place.

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“Identification is carried out using the entire international methodology, which is adopted and recognised by Interpol, with the United Kingdom being part of Interpol.

“When it is proven that these human remains are related to Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, we will return them to the family as soon as possible.”

Dom Phillips is a British journalist who went missing with Bruno Pereira on 5 June, 2022. Pic: BAND TV
Image:
Dom Phillips. Pic: Band TV

Guilherme Torres, of the Amazonas state police, said a boat belonging to Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira had not yet been found, but police knew the area where it was hidden.

He said those behind the crime “put bags of dirt on the boat so it would sink”.

Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira were last seen on their boat near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia.

Pelado, a fishermen, has been described as the main suspect in the case. A second suspect, his brother Oseney, has also been detained.

More people are likely to be arrested in relation to the killings, police said.

Oseney da Costa de Oliveira and his brother Amarildo, who is nicknamed Pelado, who have both been arrested in connection with the deaths of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. Pic: BAND TV
Image:
Oseney da Costa de Oliveira and his brother Amarildo, who is nicknamed Pelado. Pic: Band TV

Read more:
Officials link disappearance of British journalist in Brazil to ‘fish mafia’

Pelado’s family had previously said he had denied wrongdoing and had been tortured by police in attempts to get a confession.

Indigenous people who were with Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira have said that Pelado brandished a rifle at them on the day before their disappearance.

Brazilian officials had been scouring an area in the Itaquai River after tarpaulin from the victims’ boat was found, with a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings later discovered submerged underwater.

The area where the two men disappeared has been rocked by violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agents.

Mr Pereira previously led the local bureau of the government’s indigenous agency, known as Funai, and has been involved in several operations against illegal fishing.

There has also been violence as gangs battle for control of waterways to ship cocaine.

The Javari Valley has seven known indigenous groups – some only recently contacted – and at least 11 uncontacted groups, giving it the biggest concentration of isolated tribes in the world.

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