RTL Today – Criminal organization behind the crime?: British journalist dies in Brazil, US calls for ‘responsibility’
On Friday, Brazilian police officially identified the remains of British journalist Dom Phillips, who was found buried in the Amazon after going missing while on a book search trip.
The grim outcome comes after the June 5 disappearance of Phillips and his guide, indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, sparked an international outcry, with the United States calling for “responsibility” on Friday.
Phillips was identified through “forensic dentistry combined with forensic anthropology,” federal police said in a statement.
He said he was still working on the “full identification” of the remains discovered, which could include those of Pereira, who had received multiple death threats.
Veteran correspondent Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, disappeared in a remote part of the rainforest plagued by illegal mining, fishing and logging, and drug trafficking .
Ten days later on Wednesday, a suspect named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira – known as “Pelado” – took police to a location where he said he buried bodies near the town of Atalaia do Norte, where the couple had headed. on a boat.
Human remains unearthed from the site arrived in Brasilia on Thursday evening to be identified by forensic experts.
Earlier on Friday, police said investigations indicated the perpetrators “acted alone, without there being an intellectual author or criminal organization behind the crime”.
“Investigations are continuing and there are indications of more people being involved” in the killings, he added.
Activists have accused President Jair Bolsonaro of allowing commercial exploitation of the Amazon to the detriment of the environment and public order.
For his part, Bolsonaro sought to blame the men themselves for taking a “reckless” trip to an area where Phillips was “hated”.
– “A powerful criminal organization” –
Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian and other major international newspapers, was working on a book on sustainable development in the Amazon with Pereira as his guide.
Pereira, an expert with Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, had received multiple threats from loggers and miners who had their eye on remote indigenous lands.
The indigenous peoples’ association Univaja, which had been involved in the search for the men, disputed the police’s conclusion that the killers had acted alone.
“It was not just two killers, but an organized group that planned the crime in detail,” Univaja said in a statement.
He said authorities had ignored many complaints about criminal gang activity in the area.
Univaja said it filed a report in April saying “Pelado” was involved in illegal fishing.
He had previously been accused, according to her, of “being the perpetrator of firearm attacks in 2018 and 2019 against a base of FUNAI”, the organization for which Pereira had worked.
Univaja said “a powerful criminal organization (had) tried at all costs to cover their tracks during the investigation” into the double murder.
Experts say the illegal fishing of endangered species in the Javari Valley is taking place under the control of drug traffickers who use the sale of fish to launder drug money.
Police said Friday evening they had issued an arrest warrant for a man identified as Jeferson da Silva Lima. It is unclear how he is related to the case.
Heavily armed soldiers who had been involved in the search for the two men began to leave Atalaia do Norte on Friday.
People who helped research and report illegal activity now fear for their lives, said Paulo Marubo, coordinator of Univaja.
“We will continue to live here, and the state will not give people any kind of protection,” said Marubo, who says he has received threats.
– “Brutal act of violence” –
The United States on Friday called for “accountability and justice” for the killings.
State Department spokesman Ned Price offered his condolences to the men’s families, saying they were “murdered for supporting the conservation of the rainforest and the indigenous people there.”
In neighboring Peru, about 100 indigenous people in traditional dress marched in Lima on Friday to demand the protection of natural resources on indigenous lands and to mourn the deaths of Phillips and Pereira.
“The blood that was shed will never be forgotten,” chanted the group as they marched towards the Justice Department. The people at the head of the procession carried a banner that read “protect the land, water and life”.
Thursday, the UN denounced a “brutal act of violence” in Brazil.
UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said attacks and threats against activists and indigenous peoples in Brazil were “persistent” and urged the government to strengthen protections.
Investigations are continuing to determine the motive for the crime.
Police were unable to find the boat Phillips and Pereira were traveling in when they were last seen.
The blood found in Oliveira’s boat belonged to a man, investigators said, but not to Phillips.
The analysis had also revealed that the entrails found in the river during the search, and linked to the men by Bolsonaro, contained “no human DNA”, according to the police.