“We obtained the confessions of the first of the two arrested suspects (…) who recounted in detail how the crime was committed and told us where the bodies had been buried”, explained to the press in Manaus (North of the Brazil) the head of the federal police of the state of Amazonas, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes.
The policeman said the suspect, a 41-year-old fisherman named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, admitted to having participated in the “crime”, but without specifying his role.
The investigation continues to determine the circumstances and motive of the crime, such as Oliveira’s exact role.
“There was a confrontation, at the beginning (Oliveira) claimed that (the two men had been killed) by gunfire,” Mr Fontes continued without further details. He did not rule out further arrests.
Oliveira, nicknamed “Pelado” and arrested on June 7, was brought by the police on Wednesday to the place where he says he buried the bodies to show them the precise location.
Witnesses said they saw him pass at high speed on board a boat going in the same direction as the boat of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, before their disappearance.
The second suspect, Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, known as “Dos Santos”, was arrested on Tuesday, “suspected of involvement in the case”, according to the federal police. According to the G1 site, it would be the brother of the first suspect.
Even if “Dos Santos” denies having participated in the crime, “we have evidence against him and clues concerning another (third) person on whom we are investigating”, said Mr. Fontes.
“Excavations have been carried out on the spot, the excavations will continue, but human remains have already been found,” added Mr. Fontes. “As soon as we have been able to verify thanks to the expertise that it is indeed the remains of the bodies of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, they will be returned to the families”.
The journalist’s Brazilian wife, Alessandra Sampaio, thanked in a statement “all the teams that carried out the research, especially the indigenous volunteers” whose absence from the press conference was criticized by many observers.
“Although we are still awaiting final confirmations, this tragic ending puts an end to the anguish of not knowing where Dom and Bruno were. Now we can take them home and say goodbye with love,” said she declared.
“Today we also begin our fight for justice”, she added, in order to obtain “the necessary measures so that such tragedies do not happen again”.
– Dangerous zone –
The journalist and the expert had been seen for the last time on June 5, during an expedition in the region of the Javari Valley, close to the border with Peru and Colombia and considered very dangerous because of drug trafficking, fishing or illegal gold panning are on the increase.
The area has become in recent years a strategic axis for gangs of drug traffickers who transport cocaine or cannabis produced in neighboring countries by river.
Author of dozens of reports on the Amazon, Dom Phillips, 57, who has lived in Brazil for 15 years, went there again as part of research for a book on the preservation of the environment.
Bruno Pereira, 41, a recognized expert and defender of the rights of indigenous peoples, worked for many years at the Brazilian government agency for indigenous affairs (Funai).
He notably directed the Funai branch in Atalaia do Norte (North-West), where the two men were supposed to return by boat when they disappeared, and a program to protect isolated indigenous groups.
The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (Univaja), whose members participated in the searches, described the murder as a “political crime”, recalling that it had already alerted the authorities to the presence of illegal groups of fishermen and hunters linked to drug traffickers and lamenting that action was “not taken quickly enough”.
“When the police and the press leave, what will happen to us? Are we going to continue to live under threat?” asks the Univaja.
Father of three children, Bruno Pereira has recounted several times having received threats from loggers, miners and illegal fishermen who tried to encroach on protected land.
The disappearance of the two men has sparked outrage around the world, with reactions from high profile political figures and celebrities such as members of Irish rock band U2.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who favors the mining and farming of indigenous reserves in the Amazon, has been heavily criticized for calling their expedition an “unsavory adventure”.
On Wednesday, he claimed that Dom Phillips was “frowned upon” in the Amazon because he had written “many reports against gold miners, on the environment”, adding: “in this very isolated region, many people do not didn’t like”.
“It’s very sad,” tweeted leftist ex-president Lula da Silva (2003-2011), presidential candidate of 2022. “People who died defending indigenous lands and the environment. Brazil does not can’t be that”.