Blood is found on arrested Brazilian fisherman’s boat in search for British journalist Dom Phillips


Blood is found on arrested fisherman’s boat by police searching for British journalist Dom Phillips – five days after he vanished in Amazon rainforest with Brazilian guide

  • Traces of blood found on suspect Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira’s boat will be analysed, authorities said
  • The fisherman, 41, is being question by police who found him in possession of a shotgun and drugs
  • The suspect is thought to have threatened Phillips and his guide Bruno Pereira who is also missing
  • Dom Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, vanished while on a reporting trip on Sunday in the Javari region
  • The pair were investigating illegal fishermen attacks on indigenous groups when they vanished
  •  President Jair Bolsonaro said the chances of finding them alive were ‘fading’

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Traces of blood have been found on the boat of a suspect arrested in connection with the disappearance of a British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert in the Amazon, authorities said today, as calls grew to intensify the search.

Dom Phillips, 57, a regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper, and Bruno Pereira, 41, a specialist in indigenous peoples, were reported missing on Sunday after they ventured into the middle of the Amazon rainforest.

‘Traces of blood were found on the boat of Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41,’ Brazil 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 Amazonas state,  for expert analysis, the statement added.

It was accompanied by images of investigators taking photos of what appeared to be a small bloodstain on a blue tarp inside a motorboat with peeling paint.

Traces of blood have been found on the boat of a suspect arrested in connection with the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips, 57, who went missing Sunday

Traces of blood have been found on the boat of a suspect arrested in connection with the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips, 57, who went missing Sunday

Police have arrested 41-year-old Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira in connection with the disappearance of missing British journalist Dom Phillips (pictured) and his guide Bruno Pereira

Bruno Pereira, 41, an expert currently on leave from Brazil's Indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, has spent much of his career fighting illegal activity in the rainforest - making him a target of frequent threats

Veteran foreign correspondent Phillips, pictured left in 2019 in Roraima State, and Pereira, pictured right, have been missing since Sunday in the Amazon rainforest

Brazil's federal police released images yesterday of forensic analysts collecting samples from a bloodstain found on an arrested suspect's boat

Brazil’s federal police released images yesterday of forensic analysts collecting samples from a bloodstain found on an arrested suspect’s boat

A fisherman named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, was arrested on Tuesday in connection with Phillips and Pereira's disappearance. Pictured: Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira's boat is examined by a forensics expert

A fisherman named Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, was arrested on Tuesday in connection with Phillips and Pereira’s disappearance. Pictured: Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira’s boat is examined by a forensics expert

Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, also known as 'Pelado', reportedly threatened Phillips and Pereira before they went missing while investigating illegal fishermen attacks on indigenous communities. Pictured: Samples are collected from Pelado's boat

Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, also known as ‘Pelado’, reportedly threatened Phillips and Pereira before they went missing while investigating illegal fishermen attacks on indigenous communities. Pictured: Samples are collected from Pelado’s boat

Veteran foreign correspondent Phillips pictured in 2019 in Roraima State

Veteran foreign correspondent Phillips pictured in 2019 in Roraima State

Members of the Matis indigenous group have joined the search for Phillips and Pereira on the Itaquai river in the Javari Valley Indigenous territory (pictured)

Members of the Matis indigenous group have joined the search for Phillips and Pereira on the Itaquai river in the Javari Valley Indigenous territory (pictured) 

A candlelit vigil was held by employees of the National Indigenous Foundation for the missing pair

A candlelit vigil was held by employees of the National Indigenous Foundation for the missing pair

The Javari is thought to be home to the biggest concentration of uncontacted people in the world

The Javari is thought to be home to the biggest concentration of uncontacted people in the world

The Javari region is an area notorious for illegal mining and drug trafficking, and the pair had reportedly faced threats before their disappearance

The Javari region is an area notorious for illegal mining and drug trafficking, and the pair had reportedly faced threats before their disappearance

Phillips and Pereira were reportedly investigating attacks by illegal fishermen on indigenous people.

The statement is a grim twist in the ongoing search for the two men, whose fate remains unknown.

The Brazilian authorities said they are hopeful of finding the pair alive but do not exclude any outcome, including that of homicide, in a region where trafficking is rife.

High-profile personalities and environmental and human rights groups have rallied to 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 around 30 people in front of Brazil’s 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.

‘We want to carry on 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,’ she added.

‘He is a great writer and journalist. He is a caring man. He cares about the environment. He loves Brazil,’ Phillips said of her brother, who has written for various publications about threats to the Amazon.

‘He’s a great guy and we love him with all our heart.’

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

Bolsonaro, who was attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, said yesterday: ‘Let’s pray to God that they are still alive.’

But he added: ‘With each day that passes, those chances fade.’

He had drawn criticism in past days for appearing to blame the missing men, saying they had undertaken an ‘unadvisable adventure’.

The BBC reports that Phillips and Pereira were ‘hugely experienced’ and had planned their journey thoroughly, bringing plenty of fuel and other contingency supplies.

Phillips and Pereira went missing in the Javari Valley in Amazonas state, located in the west of the Amazon basin, near Peru.

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

Phillips and Pereira, who were on a two-day reporting trip, were last seen in the early hours of Sunday (June 5) morning. They were expected to make the two-hour boat trip to São Rafael, Atalaia do Norte, with their arrival planned for 8am on Sunday, but never arrived. 

Police say that when they began their journey to Atalaia do Norte where they were on a scheduled visit, where guide Pereira had organised a meeting with community leader nicknamed ‘Barbeque’ – who is Pelado’s uncle.

Sian Phillips together with Gareth Phillips, the siblings of missing journalist Dom Phillips hold a placard and a rose, as demonstrators gather outside the Brazilian Embassy in London yesterday

Sian Phillips together with Gareth Phillips, the siblings of missing journalist Dom Phillips hold a placard and a rose, as demonstrators gather outside the Brazilian Embassy in London yesterday

The niece of Phillips, Domonique Davies (right), shows her emotion as she takes part in a vigil outside the Brazilian Embassyon Thursday morning

The niece of Phillips, Domonique Davies (right), shows her emotion as she takes part in a vigil outside the Brazilian Embassyon Thursday morning

A sign reads 'where are Dom Philips and Bruno Pereira?' at a candlelit vigil for the missing pair

A sign reads ‘where are Dom Philips and Bruno Pereira?’ at a candlelit vigil for the missing pair

A vigil was held in central London on Thursday morning for the missing pair, with well-wishers gathering outside the Brazilian Embassy carrying large images of Phillips and Pereira.

A vigil was held in central London on Thursday morning for the missing pair, with well-wishers gathering outside the Brazilian Embassy carrying large images of Phillips and Pereira.

The Brazilian federal police said they would have the blood sample sent off for further analysis to find out whether it was human or animal blood

The Brazilian federal police said they would have the blood sample sent off for further analysis to find out whether it was human or animal blood

Investigators crowd around a small bloodstain on a blue tarp inside a motorboat with peeling paint

Investigators crowd around a small bloodstain on a blue tarp inside a motorboat with peeling paint

The meeting was reportedly about ‘consolidating joint work between riverside dwellers and indigenous people in the surveillance of the territory’, reports Brazilian newspaper O Globo.

Witnesses said they saw the suspect speeding by in a boat going in the same direction as Phillips and Pereira when they were last seen. 

Police said the man had been arrested for carrying unlicensed calibre ammunition and drugs.

Police did not clarify why he was being treated as a suspect but he is thought to have been among a group of men who threatened the pair near an indigenous territory.

She blamed the Brazilian authorities for delaying the search but said they ‘all have hope’ that the pair will be found.

‘He is a great writer and journalist. He is a caring man. He cares about the environment. He loves Brazil,’ Phillips said of her brother.

‘He’s a great guy and we love him with all our heart.’

Phillips, who is based in the city of Salvador, had previously accompanied Pereira in 2018 to the Javari Valley for a story in the Guardian newspaper, where he has been a regular contributor

Phillips, who is based in the city of Salvador, had previously accompanied Pereira in 2018 to the Javari Valley for a story in the Guardian newspaper, where he has been a regular contributor

The journalist takes notes in Aldeia Waikay, a hamlet of the Yekuana tribe in Roraima State, Brazil, in November 2019

The journalist takes notes in Aldeia Waikay, a hamlet of the Yekuana tribe in Roraima State, Brazil, in November 2019

A rescue team searches for Phillips and Pereira on the Javari river in Acre State, Brazil, on the border with Peru - after the pair went missing on what President Bolsonaro called an 'unadvisable' trip

A rescue team searches for Phillips and Pereira on the Javari river in Acre State, Brazil, on the border with Peru – after the pair went missing on what President Bolsonaro called an ‘unadvisable’ trip

In response to growing international pressure, Brazil sent federal police (pictured) to Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, on Wednesday to support the local search parties

In response to growing international pressure, Brazil sent federal police (pictured) to Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, on Wednesday to support the local search parties

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

Chelmsford MP Vicky Ford said she spoke with Brazil’s justice and public security minister Anderson Torres, who is also in charge of the federal police, at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

‘He assured me Brazilian authorities are doing all that can be done in air, boats & land in v difficult and remote terrain to find Dom and will keep searching,’ the minister tweeted.

‘(The) UK is ready to support (the) operation,’ she added.

The uncontacted indigenous tribes of Brazil’s Amazon

Brazil’s Amazon is home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere in the world. There are thought to be at least 100 isolated groups in this rainforest, according to the government’s Indian affairs department FUNAI.

Their decision not to maintain contact with other tribes and outsiders is almost certainly a result of previous disastrous encounters and the ongoing invasion and destruction of their forest home.

Very little is known about these peoples. What is known is that they wish to remain uncontacted: they have shot arrows at outsiders and airplanes, or they simply avoid contact by hiding deep in the forest.

In Acre there could be as many as 600 indigenous individuals belonging to four different groups. Here they live in relative tranquility in several demarcated territories which are largely untouched.

It is possible that up to 300 uncontacted people live in the Massacó territory in Rondônia.

They use enormous bows and arrows – one bow was found measuring over four metres – very similar in size and design to the Sirionó tribe live in neighbouring Bolivia.

They clearly like to eat tortoises as mounds of shells have been found in abandoned camps.

However, other uncontacted groups are teetering on the edge of extinction with no more than a handful of individuals left.

A recent report says that some of them are abandoning their land due to the noise and pollution from the construction sites.

All are extremely vulnerable to diseases like flu or the common cold transmitted by outsiders and to which they have no resistance: good reasons to avoid contact.

Source: Survival International

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