Remains found in hunt for missing journalist Dom Phillips in Brazil

His wife Alessandra Sampaio said she had been told where they were discovered in Amazon

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Human remains have been found in the search for British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira after they disappeared in the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday.

“The evidence leads us to believe something bad was done to them,” he told CBN Recife radio. The president said human remains were found floating in a river, and were undergoing DNA testing.

Clothing belonging to Mr Pereira was found with a health identification card in his name on Sunday. A backpack with clothes belonging to Mr Phillips and the boots of both men have also been recovered.

Alessandra Sampaio, Mr Phillips's wife, said on Monday she had been told the bodies had been found and where they were recovered, the G1 news website reported.

The pair have been missing for more than a week in the jungles of Brazil.

Police said in a statement biological material and belongings of the missing men had been found so far. Authorities have not yet confirmed that bodies have been found.

British journalist Dom Phillips, left, and expert on indigenous affairs Bruno Araujo Pereira after their disappearance in the Amazon. AP

Witnesses have said they saw Mr Pereira and Mr Phillips, a freelance reporter, travelling by river on Sunday June 5.

The two men were on a reporting trip in the remote jungle area near the border with 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.

Paul Sherwood, Mr Phillips's brother in law, said his family had been informed by the Brazilian ambassador to the UK that the bodies had been found tied to a tree.

“He said he wanted us to know that … they had found two bodies,” Mr Sherwood told the UK's Guardian newspaper

“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.”

The recovery of the men's belongings came hours after friends and relatives held a vigil on a beach in Rio de Janeiro.

“At first we had a crazy faith that they had noticed some danger and had hidden in the jungle,” said Maria Lucia Farias, 78. “Now, not any more.”

In a statement posted online Mr Phillips's mother-in-law said: “They are no longer with us. Mother Nature has snatched them away with a grateful embrace.

“Their souls have joined those of so many others who gave their lives in defence of the rainforest and indigenous peoples.”

Few of those gathered at the beach expressed much hope for the men's survival, especially after authorities said they had found a second boat with blood stains, and had located possible human remains, which were still being analysed.

“I used to come for walks on this beach with my uncle,” said Mr Phillips's nephew, Mateus Duarte, 13.

The missing pair had travelled by boat to Jaburu lake and were expected to return to the city of Atalaia do Norte. They were last seen in the town of Sao Gabriel, close to their destination.

They were said to have “received threats in the field” last week. Mr Pereira, an expert at Brazil's indigenous affairs agency Funai, has regularly received threats from loggers and miners trying to invade isolated indigenous groups' land.

The Amazonas Fire Department told local media that personal effects possibly belonging to the missing men had been found “near the house” of Amarildo Costa de Oliveira, the only person arrested in the case and who witnesses said followed the men upriver.

Updated: June 13, 2022, 3:48 PM
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