Brazil police find “traces of blood” on suspect’s boat in case of U.K. journalist and Indigenous expert missing in the Amazon

Traces of blood were found on the boat of a suspect arrested in connection with the disappearance from a British journalist and an indigenous Brazilian expert on the Amazon, officials said Thursday, as calls grew to intensify the search.

Dom Phillips, 57, a regular contributor to The Guardian, and Bruno Pereira, 41, an expert on indigenous peoples, were reported missing on Sunday after venturing into the middle of the Amazon rainforest.

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

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

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

Victoria Jones/PA Images/Getty


It was accompanied by footage of investigators snapping pictures of what appeared to be a small bloodstain on a blue tarp inside a speedboat 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 hoped to find the couple alive, but did not rule out any outcome, including murder, in a region where trafficking is rife.

High-profile personalities and environmental and human rights groups have joined the cause, urging President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search.

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

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

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

JOAO LAET/AFP/Getty


“We want to continue with the search. We want to find out what is happening to them and we want anyone responsible for any criminal act to be brought to justice. We want a persistent deep and open investigation,” he added.

She blamed Brazilian authorities for delaying the search, but said “everyone hopes” the couple will be found.

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

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

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

Bolsonaro, who was attending 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 chances disappear.”

He had been criticized in recent days for appearing to blame the missing men, saying they had undertaken an “inadvisable adventure”.

Phillips and Pereira disappeared in Vale do Javari, in the state of Amazonas, located in the west of the Amazon basin, near Peru.

Witnesses said they saw the suspect speeding on a boat heading in the same direction as Phillips and Pereira when they were last seen. Police said the man was arrested for carrying unlicensed caliber ammunition and drugs.

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

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British journalist Dom Phillips, right, and a Yanomami indigenous person walk in Maloca Papiu village, Roraima state, Brazil, November 2019.

João Laet/AP


Journalists working for regional media in the Amazon have been murdered in recent years, although there have been no such cases 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 activities, including illegal mining, land grabbing and drug trafficking.

In September 2019, an indigenous affairs agency employee was shot dead in Tabatinga, the largest city in the region. The crime was never solved.

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

That same year, Brazilian prosecutors investigated reports that garimpeiros may have dead limbs of a so-called isolated tribe in the Amazon.

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