Brazilian search teams discovered a backpack, laptop, and other personal items submerged in a river belonging to a missing British journalist and a local expert, officials said Monday.
Dom Phillips, who was a regular contributor to the Guardian and Washington Post, and Bruno Pereira were last seen on June 5 in the Sao Rafael region of the Amazon rainforest where they disappeared after passing through a lawless region by boat.
Conflicting unconfirmed reports speculated the two bodies were found tied to a tree, however, this was denied by the indigenous association, UNIVAJA. Police also confirmed no bodies were found at this point in the investigation.
“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.”
On Monday, search parties made up of the Army, Navy, federal police, civil defense, firefighters, and military police discovered a backpack, laptop, and other personal items submerged in a river.
The items were taken by federal officers by boat to Atalaia do Norte, the closest city to the search where investigations are taking place.
After analyzing the found items, police confirmed they belonged to the missing men, including Pereira’s health card and clothes.
Police said the backpack — which was also found tied to a tree by a river — belongs to Phillips.
“I’ve spoken with the team in the field and it’s not true,” said Eliesio Marubo, a lawyer for UNIVAJA, which has organized search teams for the two men. “The search goes on.”
After a full day of searching on Monday, police said they did not find either man’s body or other items.
Last week’s developments saw police find traces of blood on a boat belonging to local resident Amarildo da Costa, who is considered the main suspect in the pair’s disappearance.
Experts set off to investigate the “organic material” found in a river on Friday.
A Brazilian judge ordered suspect da Costa, who was this week charged with illegal possession of restricted ammunition, to be held for another 30 days while police investigate his involvement in the case.
Costa’s lawyers and family said he fished legally on the river and professed his innocence to the police.
Police say he was one of the last people to see the two missing individuals, and suspect he was involved in illegal fishing for a buyer in Peru.
Da Costa’s family members claimed police were torturing him to try to force a confession.
The investigation has picked up global attention, with the world’s most famous celebrities, lawmakers, and sports stars calling for more to be done to find the missing men.
Actor Mark Ruffalo, soccer legend Pelé, and US President Joe Biden are among the notable names urging the Brazilian government to intensify search efforts.
With Post wires