Brazilian police find ‘stains of blood’ on suspect’s boat in missing British journalist and Amazon indigenous expert

Traces of blood have been found on the boat of a suspect who has been arrested in connection with the disappearance from a British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert in the Amazon, authorities said Thursday, as calls mounted to intensify the search.

Dom Phillips, 57, a regular at The Guardian newspaper, and Bruno Pereira, 41, a specialist in indigenous peoples, were reported missing on Sunday after venturing into the middle of the Amazon rainforest.

“Traces of blood have been found on the boat of Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41,” Brazilian police said in a statement, adding that the suspect known as “Pelado” was arrested on Tuesday.

“The collected material is on its way to Manaus,” the capital of Amazonas state, for expert analysis, the statement said.

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Supporters hold a vigil outside the Brazilian embassy in London for Dom Phillips and Bruno Araujo Pereira, a British journalist and indigenous affairs officer who are missing in the Amazon, June 9, 2022.

Victoria Jones/PA Images/Getty


It was accompanied by images of researchers taking pictures of what appeared to be a small bloodstain on a blue tarpaulin in a motorboat with peeling paint.

The statement is a grim twist in the ongoing search for the two men, whose fate remains unknown.

Brazilian authorities said they hope to find the couple alive, but are not ruling out any outcome, including murder, in a region where human trafficking is widespread.

Well-known personalities and environmental and human rights groups have rallied behind the case, urging President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search.

‘Where’s Dom Phillips? Where is Bruno Pereira?’ the journalist’s sister, Sian Phillips, asked in a statement to the media during a gathering of about 30 people outside the Brazilian embassy in London.

“We want the British authorities to put pressure on the Brazilian government,” she added, before she and other family members were met by the ambassador.

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Veteran British foreign correspondent Dom Phillips talks to two indigenous men in Aldeia Maloca Papia, Roraima State, Brazil, November 16, 2019.

JOAO LAET/AFP/Getty


“We want to continue the search. We want to know what is happening to them and we want everyone responsible for a criminal offense to be brought to justice. We want an ongoing in-depth and open investigation,” she added.

She accused Brazilian authorities of delaying the search, but said they are “all hopeful” that the couple will be found.

“He’s a great writer and journalist. He’s a caring man. He cares about the environment. He loves Brazil,” Phillips said of her brother.

“He’s a great guy and we love him with all our hearts.”

Phillips’ brother-in-law, Paul Sherwood, told AFP that the family was “assured that everything that can be done has been done”.

Bolsonaro, who attended the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, said on Thursday: “Let’s pray to God that they are still alive.”

But, he added, “With each passing day, those opportunities fade.”

He had been criticized in recent days for appearing to blame the missing men, saying they had embarked on an “adventure not recommended”.

Phillips and Pereira were reported missing in the Javari Valley in Amazonas state, located in the western Amazon Basin, near Peru.

Witnesses said they saw the suspect sail past in a boat heading in the same direction as Phillips and Pereira when they were last seen. Police said the man had been arrested for carrying unlicensed ammunition and drugs.

The remote region is experiencing an escalation of armed violence due to the presence of miners, prospectors, poachers and drug traffickers.

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British journalist Dom Phillips, right, and an indigenous Yanomami man walk in the village of Maloca Papiu, Brazil’s Roraima state, November 2019.

Joao Laet / AP


Journalists who worked for regional media in the Amazon have been killed in recent years, although no such cases have occurred among journalists from national or foreign media. However, there have been several reports of threats and the press has limited access to several areas dominated by criminal activity, including illegal mining, land grabbing and drug trafficking.

In September 2019, an employee of the Indigenous Affairs Bureau was shot dead in Tabatinga, the largest city in the region. The crime was never solved.

In 2017, British Citizen Emma Kelty was murdered while attempting to kayak the length of the Amazon. The 43-year-old Londoner disappeared after posting comments on social media sharing her fear of being robbed or killed in a remote jungle area in northern Brazil used by drug traffickers and pirates.

That same year, Brazilian prosecutors investigated reports that prospectors may have murdered members from a so-called uncontacted tribe in the Amazon.

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