Remains of missing journalist Dom Phillips identified in Brazil

Police say killers were not acting as part of criminal gang but indigenous leaders disagree

Images of Dom Phillips, left, and Bruno Pereira at a rally held by indigenous Brazilian activists. AFP
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Brazilian police on Friday officially identified the remains of British journalist Dom Phillips, who was found buried in the Amazon after going missing on a research trip.

Police and indigenous leaders have disagreed over how Phillips and his expert guide, Bruno Pereira, were killed.

Phillips was identified through “forensic dentistry combined with forensic anthropology”, federal police said in a statement and added that they were still working on confirming that other discovered remains belonged to Pereira.

Police insisted the men were killed by two suspects who were not part of a wider criminal group but said that more arrests may be made.

The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley, or Univaja, rejected the independent killer theory, saying they had reported a criminal gang operating in the area last year.

“These are not just two killers, but an organised group that planned the crime in detail,” Univaja said in a statement.

It said authorities had ignored their numerous complaints about the activities of criminal gangs in the area and that one of those suspected to have been involved in the killing was also involved in illegal fishing.

Brazil's federal police said the investigation into the murders so far point to killers acting without the involvement of a criminal organisation.

“The investigations … suggest that the perpetrators acted alone, without there being an intellectual author or criminal organisation behind the crime,” police said. “The investigations continue and there are indications of the participation of more people” in the murders”

Phillips and Pereira were last seen alive on June 5 before vanishing in the remote Javari Valley bordering Peru and Colombia.

Preliminary investigations, police said, suggested the crime involved more people beyond the one man who confessed to the murders.

“The investigations also point out that the killers acted alone, with no heads of criminal organisation behind the crime,” police said.

Univaja said it had informed the federal police numerous times since last year that there was an organised crime group operating in the Javari Valley.

“The cruelty of the crime makes clear that Pereira and Phillips crossed paths with a powerful criminal organisation that tried at all costs to cover its tracks during the investigation,” Univaja said.

The organisation played a leading role in finding the remains of the two men, which were sent to the capital of Brasilia.

Updated: June 17, 2022, 9:58 PM