“Items belonging to the missing were found: a health card, black trousers, a black sandal and a pair of boots belonging to Bruno Pereira, and a pair of boots and a backpack belonging to Dom Phillips and containing clothes personnel,” the federal police in the state of Amazonas (northwestern Brazil) said in a statement on Sunday.
Earlier, the Amazonas firefighters informed the local press of the discovery of personal items that may belong to the missing, found “near the house” of Amarildo Costa de Oliveira, the only detainee in the case.
The 41-year-old man, described as a “suspect”, was taken into custody and traces of blood on his boat were to be analyzed. Witnesses said they saw him speed past in a boat going in the same direction as the journalist and the native.
On this trip, Bruno Pereira, 41, an expert with the Brazilian government agency for indigenous affairs (Funai), served as a guide for Dom Phillips, 57. This contributor to the British newspaper The Guardian was preparing a book on environmental conservation in this region located on the border of Peru and Colombia, which is home to 8.5 million hectares of protected indigenous lands.
According to local indigenous activists, Bruno Pereira was frequently threatened for his fight against encroachment on indigenous lands.
The two men were traveling together by boat through the Javarí Valley region, a remote region in the far west of the Amazonas, conducting interviews for this book. They were last seen on June 5, in the locality of Sao Gabriel, not far from their destination, the city of Atalaia do Norte.
– “Mad hope” –
Police said on Sunday that the search teams, on the seventh day of work, traveled about 25 kilometers and engaged in a “careful search through the jungle, the roads of the region and the flooded vegetation” especially in the area. where a boat believed to belong to the suspect was found.
Footage released by police on Sunday shows officers in white waterproof suits and latex gloves working in small canoes in an area of flooded vegetation surrounded by trees.
Several dozen people, mostly relatives and friends of the two missing, gathered Sunday on the famous Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, where the British journalist used to paddle every morning before move last year to Salvador (northeast) with his Brazilian wife, Alessandra.
“At first, we had the crazy hope that they would have sensed danger and would have hidden in the jungle. But not anymore,” commented Maria Lucia Farias, 78, Dom Phillips’ mother-in-law, looking sad.
She then released an even more pessimistic statement on Instagram, according to The Guardian: “They are no longer with us. Mother Nature has taken them in a grateful embrace.” Ms Farias added: ‘Their souls joined those of so many others who gave their lives to defend the forest and the indigenous peoples.
The government of President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized by relatives of the disappeared and indigenous groups, and even by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, for its delay in the deployment of searches.
The far-right head of state, who had called the two men’s expedition an “unadvisable adventure”, replied Friday at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles that the armed forces and the police were conducting a “research tireless” since day one.