Dom Phillips: Police searching for British journalist and guide find two bodies in Amazon

The discovery was made 10 days after the pair vanished on expedition

A protest in Manaus following the disappearance of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips. EPA
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The bodies of two men have been discovered by investigators searching for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and his Brazilian companion Bruno Pereira in the Amazon, police have said.

The remains have yet to be formally identified but the findings mark a major turning point in the hunt for the Mr Phillips, 57, and his indigenous expert guide, 41, who disappeared while on an expedition on June 5.

The prime suspect in the case, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, reportedly confessed to shooting the pair, Brazil’s federal police said, before leading officers to the spot where the bodies were concealed.

Alessandra Sampaio, Mr Phillips's wife, who last week issued an emotional appeal for information, reacted to the discovery by saying it “puts an end to the anguish of not knowing Dom and Bruno's whereabouts”.

“Now we can bring them home and say goodbye with love,” she said. “Today, we also begin our quest for justice. I hope investigators exhaust all possibilities and bring definitive answers on all details as soon as possible.”

Speaking at a news conference in the city of Manaus, police said the prime suspect had detailed what happened to the two men. The federal investigator, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, said Mr de Oliveira, 41, nicknamed Pelado, told officers he used a firearm in the attack.

“We would have no way of getting to that spot quickly without the confession,” Mr Fontes said of the place where police recovered human remains on Wednesday after being led there by Pelado.

The investigator added that the remains are expected to be identified within days, and if confirmed as the missing men, “will be returned to the families of the two”.

“We found the bodies three kilometres (nearly two miles) into the woods,” he said, adding that rescue teams travelled about one hour and forty minutes on the river and another 25 into the woods to reach the burial spot.

Investigators last week chanced upon Mr Phillips's backpack during their search.

Mr de Oliveira's family had said previously that he denied any wrongdoing and claimed police tortured him to try to get a confession.

Another officer, Guilherme Torres of the Amazonas state police, said the boat used by the missing men had not been found yet but police knew the area where it purportedly was hidden by those involved in the crime.

“They put bags of dirt on the boat so it would sink,” he said.

Colleagues of Mr Pereira called a vigil outside the headquarters of the Brazilian government’s Indigenous affairs agency in Brasilia. The indigenous expert was on leave from the agency when he disappeared.

Mr Phillips worked as a British freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper.

The two men were last spotted on their boat in a river near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia. That area has been the scene of violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agents. Drug gangs also regularly use the route.

Updated: June 16, 2022, 10:15 AM
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