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Five suspects arrested in Brazil for murder of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Dom Phillips and Bruna Pereira disappeared in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest and were last seen on June 5 (Image: AP)

Brazilian police are investigating five suspects in the murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.

Human remains were found this week in a search for the couple who went missing in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest.

They are believed to have been last seen alive in Sao Rafael district early on June 5. Police said a suspect confessed to shooting the men and led them to the bodies.

Investigators had arrested brothers Oseney and Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, who on Wednesday admitted murdering the couple with a firearm and covering up their remains.

However, detectives are believed to be interrogating three other people, at least one of whom is suspected of involvement in the killings.

The other two are suspected of helping to bury the bodies and ordering the beating, federal officers said on condition of anonymity.

Police were led deep into a remote part of the Amazon near the Peruvian border by prime suspect Amarildo and revealed the human remains.

Missing British journalist Dom Phillips with sister Sian Phillips from Lancaster

Veteran journalist Dom Phillips pictured with his sister Sian Phillips (Image: Paul Sherwood/MEN MEDIA)

Federal Police officers arrive at the pier after recovering human remains found during a search for Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira of Brazil and freelance reporter Dom Phillips of Britain in Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, Brazil, Wednesday June 15, 2022. were found. A federal police investigator said a suspect confessed to fatally shooting Pereira and Phillips in a remote part of the Amazon and took officers to where the bodies were buried. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros)

Federal police officers at the scene after being led to the bodies (Image: AP)

Federal Police officers carry a coffin containing human remains after a suspect confessed to killing British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, and police to the site of the remains at the Federal Police headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, March 16, 2022 . REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Police carry a coffin containing human remains after prime suspect Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira admitted to the killings (Image: Reuters)

Authorities say the fisherman threatened Pereira for documenting illegal fishing in the remote Javari Valley.

While formal identification has yet to take place, investigators have little doubt the bodies belong to Mr Phillips, 57, and Bruno Pereira, 41.

Mr. Phillips, a freelance reporter who has written for the Guardian and Washington Post, was researching a book about the trip with Mr. Pereira, a former isolated and recently contacted tribes leader at the Federal Bureau of Indigenous Affairs Funai.

They were in a remote jungle area near the border with Colombia and Peru called the Javari Valley, which is home to the world’s largest number of uncontacted tribal peoples.

The region has been invaded by illegal fishermen, hunters, loggers and miners, and police say it is a key route for drug trafficking.

Indigenous groups, environmentalists, fellow reporters and family and friends paid tribute to the father of three, Mr Philips and Mr Pereira, who also leaves behind three children.

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Tributes were paid to Bruno Pereira, who was hailed as one of Brazil’s top indigenous experts (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

One of the coffins containing human remains found during the search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon forest is carried upon arrival at the Federal Police hangar in Brasilia June 16, 2022 - Phillips and Pereira were still missing June 5 in a remote part of the rainforest affected by illegal mining, fishing and logging, and drug trafficking. On June 15, a suspect in the case took police to a location where he allegedly helped bury bodies near the town of Atalaia do Norte, where the two had gone. Human remains excavated from the site arrived in Brasilia to be identified by experts. (Photo by Sergio LIMA/AFP) (Photo by SERGIO LIMA/AFP via Getty Images)

Formal identification is still pending, but there is no doubt that the human remains discovered are those of Mr Philups and Mr Pereira (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

People stop outside the headquarters of Brazil's National Indians Foundation during a vigil following the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who went missing while reporting in a remote and lawless part of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Peru (FUNAI), in Brasilia, Brazil, June 13, 2022. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Members of the Brazilian indigenous agency Funai staged a strike, protesting their president’s handling of Mr Pereira’s disappearance (Image: Reuters)

Through his reporting, veteran journalist Mr. Phillips has become an international voice on the threats facing the world’s largest rainforest.

Mr. Pereira, a 41-year-old tribal peoples advocate and former Funai government agency official, traveled with Mr. Phillips while he was doing research for his book.

“Now we can take them home and say goodbye in love,” said Alessandra Sampaio, Mr Phillips’ wife.

The Javari Valley indigenous association Univaja, which has been tirelessly searching for the men, said their killing was a “political crime” and called on the government to better protect their land.

Indigenous lands have become increasingly vulnerable to invasions, hit by cuts in agency funding and staffing under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

Survival International said Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira were the latest victims of a war Bolsonaro and his allies waged in Brazil’s agricultural sector to keep tabs on protected indigenous lands.

A photo shows British journalist Dom Phillips, who went missing while reporting in a remote and lawless part of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Peru in Brazil, in this image taken December 2009, dated June 7, 2022 by Reuters was received. Paul Sherwood/Handout via REUTERS????THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVES.

Mr Phillip’s career began reporting on the rise of rave culture in the 1990s before later relocating to Brazil and becoming a foreign correspondent (Image: Reuters)

Federal Police officers arrive at the pier with recovered human remains found during a search for Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira of Brazil and freelance reporter Dom Phillips of Britain in Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, Brazil, Wednesday June 15, 2022. A federal police investigator said a suspect confessed to fatally shooting Pereira and Phillips in a remote part of the Amazon and took officers to where the bodies were buried. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros)

Police believe three other suspects were involved in organizing and covering up the killings (Image: AP)

Search operation for missing British journalist in the Amazon jungle

The couple’s deaths have been described as a ‘political crime’ (Image: Reuters)

“The government’s genocidal attempts to open up tribal territories to invaders and reward criminals with impunity have led to escalating levels of forest destruction and appalling violence against those trying to stop them,” said Fiona Watson, the organization’s director of advocacy .

Bolsonaro tweeted his condolences to the men’s families without naming them.

He included a statement from FUNAI praising Mr. Pereira as one of Brazil’s top experts on protecting isolated and recently contacted indigenous tribes.

Bolsonaro previously said the pair “had an adventure that wasn’t recommended” and that because of his stories, “that Englishman in the area wasn’t liked”.

Born in Bebington, near Liverpool, Mr Phillips was an admired reporter in Brazil and a regular contributor to The Guardian.

During his 30-year journalism career, he also wrote for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and other publications.

Mr Phillips is survived by his wife Sampaio and younger siblings Sian and Gareth Phillips.

His early journalism focused on dance music, covering the rise of rave culture in 1990s Britain in the cult music magazine Mixmag, of which he became editor in 1993.

Mr. Phillips coined the term “progressive house” in a landmark article for the magazine in 1992.

In 2007 he moved to Brazil to write a book on the commercialization of dance music and to start a new career as a foreign correspondent.

He covered a range of topics, from oil auctions to World Cup protests, but increasingly focused on the Amazon and the threats facing the rainforest.

At a press conference in Brasilia in 2019, weeks before fires consumed entire rainforests, Phillips asked Bolsonaro about his commitment to protecting the region in a clip that has gone viral in recent days.

“You have to understand that the Amazon belongs to Brazil, not to you,” the president shot back.

In a letter last week, journalists and friends described Mr Phillips as “one of the smartest and most caring foreign journalists in South America”.

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/17/five-suspects-held-over-murders-of-dom-phillips-and-bruno-pereira-16843377/ Five suspects arrested in Brazil for murder of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Justin Scacco

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