Two bodies found in Amazon search for British journalist, Brazilian expert, the Guardian reports

ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil, June 13 (Reuters) – Search teams have found two bodies in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest while looking for a British reporter and a Brazilian indigenous expert, the Guardian reported on Monday, citing a relative of the journalist briefed by a Brazilian diplomat.

On Sunday, Brazilian police said search teams had found the belongings of freelance reporter Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, a former official at federal indigenous agency Funai, in a creek off the river where they were last seen on June 5.

Brazil’s ambassador in London told Paul Sherwood, Phillips’s brother-in-law, that authorities were working to identify the two bodies, which had been found tied to a tree near the river, according to the Guardian, to which Phillips often contributed.

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The two men were on a reporting trip in the remote jungle area near the border with Peru and Colombia that is home to the world’s largest number of uncontacted indigenous people. The wild and lawless region has lured cocaine-smuggling gangs, along with illegal loggers, miners and hunters.

Brazilian news website G1 reported on Monday that search teams had found their bodies, quoting the journalist’s Brazilian wife. However the report was soon updated to reflect that the bodies had not yet been identified.

Federal police said on Monday the reports that the bodies had been found were not correct. Only biological material and belongings of the missing men had been found so far, as previously announced, the police said.

More than 100 indigenous people, many in body paint and headdresses, marched in the riverside town of Atalaia do Norte on Monday, near where the bodies were found, to demand better treatment of native peoples and justice for the two men.

News of the pair’s disappearance resonated globally and environmentalists and human rights activists had urged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search.

Bolsonaro, who last year faced tough questioning from Phillips at a news conference about weakening environmental law enforcement in Brazil, said last week that the two men “were on an adventure that is not recommended” and suggested that they could have been executed. read more

State police detectives involved in the investigation told Reuters they are focusing on poachers and illegal fisherman in the area, who often clashed with Pereira as he organized indigenous patrols of the local reservation. read more

Police have arrested one fisherman, Amarildo da Costa, known as “Pelado,” on a weapons charge and are keeping him in custody as they investigate the case. Costa’s lawyers and family have said he was legally fished on the river and denied he had any role in the men’s disappearance.

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Reporting by Jake Spring Additional reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Steven Grattan in Sao Paulo Editing by Brad Haynes, Christian Plumb and Angus MacSwan

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