2 bodies found in search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

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2 bodies found in search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Two bodies were apparently found tied to a tree in the Amazon rainforest during the search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, according to a Brazilian diplomat.

An aide to the Brazilian ambassador to the UK told Phillips’ family about the grim discoveries in a phone call early Monday, Phillips’ brother-in-law Paul Sherwood told The Guardian.

“He said he wanted us to know that … they had found two bodies,” Sherwood told the British 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.”

But the Brazilian federal police later released a statement saying the bodies of Phillips and Pereira were found.

“The information being shared that the bodies of Mr. Bruno Pereira and Mr. Dom Phillips have been found are without merit,” the Brazilian feds said. “As soon as any finds are made the family, and the media will be immediately informed.”

Likewise, a spokesman for local indigenous association UNIVAJA, which has organized a search effort to find the two men, also denied claims that two bodies had been found.

Police and rescue teams search by boat.
Brazilian authorities said they found two bodies tied to a tree.
Bruno Kelly/REUTERS

Later in the day Monday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsanao confirmed that “human innards” have been in the Amazon river.

“The evidence leads us to believe something bad was done to them, because human innards were found floating in the river, which are now undergoing DNA testing,” Bolsonaro said.

Phillips’s niece Dominique Davies told AFP via text message that “two bodies have been found” in the search, and that relatives were awaiting confirmation from federal police as to whether they are the missing men.

Dom Phillips.
Dom Phillips (pictured) and Bruno Pereira have been missing since June 5.
AFP via Getty Images

Phillips’s Brazilian wife, Alessandra Sampaio, said she had also been told by authorities that two bodies had been found, and that investigators were working to identify them, according to journalist Andre Trigueiro of TV Globo, Brazil’s biggest broadcaster.

The flurry of conflicting reports concerning the search for Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, who have been missing since June 5, come a day after police confirmed the discovery of unspecified “biological material” and personal items belonging to the two men.

Phillips, who was a regular contributor to The Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times, and Pereira were last seen a week ago in the Sao Rafael region of the rainforest where they disappeared while traveling by boat.

Bruno Pereira.
Bruno Pereira (pictured) and Dom Phillips were last seen traveling by boat in the Sao Rafael region of the rainforest.
Family handout/AFP via Getty Images

During the search for the missing pair, police found traces of blood on a boat belonging to a local man named Amarildo da Costa, who is currently considered the prime suspect in the disappearance.

So far, da Costa has been only charged with illegal possession of restricted ammunition, but a judge ordered him jailed for another 30 days while police investigated his suspected role in the missing persons case.

Dom Phillips.
On Sunday, federal police officers discovered a backpack belonging to Dom Phillips tied to a tree and partially submerged.
via REUTERS

Da Costa has maintained his innocence and accused military police of torturing him to try to extract a confession, his family said.

Phillips, who has reported from Brazil for more than a decade, has been working on a book about the preservation of the Amazon.

On Sunday, federal police officers discovered a backpack belonging to the freelance journalist tied to a tree and partially submerged. They also found Pereira’s health card and clothes.

Brazilian soldiers sit on a boat during the search operation.
Police found traces of blood on a boat belonging to a local man, who is currently considered the prime suspect in the disappearance.
REUTERS
A Federal Police officer loads a truck with items found during a search.
A federal police officer loads a truck with items found during the search.
AP

Other items recovered during the search included a tarp from a boat used by Phillips and Pereria, a laptop, shorts and a spoon, according to a volunteer taking part in the search.

Pereira — who recently received threats over his work combating illegal fishing — and Phillips, were on a reporting trip in the Javari Valley, a remote jungle area near the Peruvian and Colombian border, when they vanished.

They were returning alone by boat on the Itaquai to Atalaia do Norte but never arrived.

Dom Phillips.
Dom Phillips takes notes as he talks with indigenous people at the Aldeia Maloca Papiú, Roraima State in 2019.
AFP via Getty Images

That area has seen violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agents. Violence has grown as drug trafficking gangs battle for control of waterways to ship cocaine, although the Itaquai is not a known drug-trafficking route.

Authorities have said a main line of the police investigation into the disappearance has pointed to an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Javari Valley reserve, which is Brazil’s second-largest Indigenous territory.

With Post wires

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