Bodies have been found in the search for the British journalist Dom Phillips and the Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, eight days after they went missing in a remote part of the Amazon, according to multiple sources.
Media reports in Brazil claimed bodies had been found, citing Mr Phillips’ wife. Journalist André Trigueiro said the deceased had yet to be formally identified, adding that the Brazilian ambassador to the UK had told Mr Phillips’ family about the discovery of the bodies in a phone call on Monday.
The Guardian newspaper, where Phillips was a regular contributor, said the two bodies were found tied to a tree, according to information given to Phillips’s family by an aide to Brazil’s ambassador in London.
Although the claims of a find were later denied by Brazilian police and a local indigenous association UNIVAJA, the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, said on Monday a grim discovery had indeed been made.
“The evidence leads us to believe something bad was done to them, because human remains were found floating in the river, which are now undergoing DNA testing,” President Jair Bolsonaro said.
The pair have been missing since June 5.
Mr Phillips, 57, and Mr Pereira, 41, disappeared while travelling in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest in western Brazil, close to the Peruvian border.
Mr Phillips has written for The Guardian, The Financial Times and Pereira is a former government adviser.
The two disappeared while on a reporting trip to Brazil’s Javari Valley, a remote jungle region rife with illegal fishing,
Despiting the conflicting reports about the discovery of bodies, the news comes shortly after the 57-year-old’s mother-in-law said it was likely that he and Mr Pereira were dead.
“They are no longer with us,” she wrote on Instagram. “Their souls have joined those of so many others who gave their lives in defence of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples.”
Their disappearance is thought to be linked to organised crime in the Amazon, since Mr Pereira was recently threatened by those involved in the illegal fishing trade.
The missing men’s possessions were found in a flooded forest by an indigenous search party over the weekend. Some of Mr Phillips’ clothes were recovered, as were Mr Pereira’s health identification card and both their boots.
Earlier in the investigation, the police detained a fisherman called Amarildo da Costa on a weapons charge. He remains in custody while the force establishes whether he is linked to the two men’s disappearance.
His lawyer denied his involvement, insisting that he is not involved in illicit fishing.
Last week, Brazilian police said traces of blood had been detected in Mr da Costa’s boat and were being tested.
On Monday, more than 100 indigenous people protested in the riverside town of Atalaia do Norte, where Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira were travelling to at the time of their disappearance. They demanded justice for the two men and better treatment for native communities.