A week after the disappearance of a British journalist and an indigenous expert deep in the Brazilian Amazon, according to media reports, personal belongings of the two have been found. Firefighters discovered, among other things, the health insurance card of Brazilian expert Bruno Pereira in a flooded area on the Itaquaí River in the water, the portal “G1” reported on Sunday (local time), citing the police.
A backpack belonging to journalist Dom Phillips and clothing and shoes from both men were also found. In the vicinity of the site, near the borders with Colombia and Peru, a boat belonging to a suspect who had already been arrested was reportedly discovered. The items, including a laptop, were tied to a tree, Brazilian media reported, citing a fire department spokesman. In the course of the investigation, diving will continue in the area.
According to a regional indigenous organization, Phillips and Pereira did not arrive by boat on June 5 as planned in the city of Atalaia do Norte in far western Brazil. Pereira had previously reported to the police that he had been threatened several times. Indigenous people, family members, friends and colleagues have expressed concern that the search for the two missing people has been slow and not being pursued with enough determination. The UN human rights office called on the Brazilian authorities to step up efforts.
In the search for the two missing, investigators in the Amazon rainforest on Friday examined possible human remains and a place where something was apparently buried, the fire brigade and police said. On Thursday, investigators had already found traces of blood in the boat of an arrested suspect.
The 57-year-old Phillips, who regularly writes for the British newspaper The Guardian as a freelance correspondent, had been researching a book about violence against indigenous people together with Pereira in the Javari Valley near the border with Peru. They have been missing since Sunday. Gold miners, poachers and drug gangs are active in the region. According to indigenous organizations, the men had previously been threatened.
On Wednesday, investigators arrested 41-year-old Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira. According to the police, drugs and cartridges for an assault rifle were found on him during a random check. Witnesses said they saw the man chasing Phillips and Pereira’s boat. Traces of blood were later found in the man’s boat and are now being examined in a forensic laboratory in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas.
Pereira, who works for the government agency for indigenous affairs (Funai), regularly receives threats from illegal loggers and miners trying to trespass on the lands of isolated indigenous groups. In recent years, violence has increased in the region due to the presence of illegal miners, hunters and fishermen.