Speedboat used by killed British journalist is found sunk in Amazon rainforest river


Speedboat used by murdered British journalist is found sunk in Amazon rainforest river, weighed down by sandbags, after suspect leads cops to the site

  • Speedboat used by killed British journalist Dom Phillips has been found sunk in river in the Amazon rainforest
  • It was found submerged 20m under the Itacoai river, Brazil, and weighed down with the help of six sandbags
  • Officials were led to the site by the latest murder suspect Jeferson da Silva Lim, who surrendered on Saturday
  • Phillips was researching with Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira before they went missing on June 5
  • Cops were led to their remains by Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira after he confessed to shooting dead the pair 

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The speedboat used by killed British journalist Dom Phillips has been found sunk and weighed down by sandbags in a river in the Amazon rainforest after the murder suspect led police to the site. 

The speedboat was submerged about 20 meters (65ft) deep under the Itacoai river in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil with the help of six sandbags, authorities said in a press statement. 

They added they were led to the site of the boat’s sinking by the latest suspect in the killings, Jeferson da Silva Lima, or ‘Pelado da Dinha’, who surrendered himself to police on Saturday.

Two other men are already being held over alleged involvement in the killings – Amarildo Oliveira, known as Pelado, and his brother, Oseney de Oliveira, known as Dos Santos. 

On Sunday, police identified five more suspects for the murders.

Phillips, 57, a freelance reporter, was doing research for a book on the trip with Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, a former head of isolated and recently contacted tribes at federal indigenous affairs agency Funai.

They were reported missing on June 5 after traveling together by boat through the Javari Valley, a remote region bordering Peru and Colombia. According to police, both were shot with hunting ammunition.

Shock at their fate has echoed across Brazil and around the world, highlighting the overhaul of indigenous agency Funai under President Jair Bolsonaro, along with a rising tide of violence and criminal incursions on native lands. 

The speedboat used by killed British journalist Dom Phillips has been found sunk and weighed down by sandbags in a river in the Amazon rainforest after the murder suspect led police to the site

The speedboat used by killed British journalist Dom Phillips has been found sunk and weighed down by sandbags in a river in the Amazon rainforest after the murder suspect led police to the site

The speedboat was submerged about 20 meters (65ft) deep under the Itacoai river in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil with the help of six sandbags, authorities said in a press statement

The speedboat was submerged about 20 meters (65ft) deep under the Itacoai river in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil with the help of six sandbags, authorities said in a press statement

Police said they were led to the site of boat's sinking by the latest suspect in the killings, Jeferson da Silva Lima, or 'Pelado da Dinha', who surrendered himself to police on Saturday

Police said they were led to the site of boat’s sinking by the latest suspect in the killings, Jeferson da Silva Lima, or ‘Pelado da Dinha’, who surrendered himself to police on Saturday

Civil police arrive at the port of Atalaia do Norte, state of Amazonas, Brazil to find the boat used by Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips before their deaths

Civil police arrive at the port of Atalaia do Norte, state of Amazonas, Brazil to find the boat used by Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips before their deaths

Pictured: British journalist Dom Phillips, 57, whose remains are thought to have been discovered

 Pictured: British journalist Dom Phillips, 57, whose remains are thought to have been discovered 

Mr Phillips went missing in the Amazon with Brazilian companion Bruno Araújo Pereira, pictured

Mr Phillips went missing in the Amazon with Brazilian companion Bruno Araújo Pereira, pictured

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

The speedboat was submerged about 20 meters (65ft) deep under the Itacoai river in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil with the help of six sandbags, authorities said in a press statement

The speedboat was submerged about 20 meters (65ft) deep under the Itacoai river in the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil with the help of six sandbags, authorities said in a press statement

Civil police watch at the port of Atalaia do Norte, state of Amazonas, Brazil as the boat used by Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips before their deaths is brought up from the bottom of the Itacoai river

Civil police watch at the port of Atalaia do Norte, state of Amazonas, Brazil as the boat used by Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips before their deaths is brought up from the bottom of the Itacoai river

The speedboat used by killed British journalist Dom Phillips has been found sunk and weighed down by sandbags in a river in the Amazon rainforest after the murder suspect led police to the site

The speedboat used by killed British journalist Dom Phillips has been found sunk and weighed down by sandbags in a river in the Amazon rainforest after the murder suspect led police to the site

On Friday, federal police confirmed that human remains found in Brazil’s remote Amazon area had been identified as belonging to Mr Phillips. 

Additional remains found at the site near the city of Atalaia do Norte have not yet been identified but are expected to belong to Indigenous expert Mr Pereira, 41. 

‘The confirmation [of Phillips’ remains] was made based on dental examinations and anthropological forensics,’ federal police said in a statement. 

‘Work is ongoing for a complete identification of the remains so we can determine the cause of death, and also the dynamics of the crime and the hiding of the bodies.’ 

The remains were found on Wednesday, after fisherman Pelado allegedly confessed to killing the pair, and took police to the place where he buried the bodies. 

He is said to have told officers that he used a firearm to kill both men. The remains were taken to the capital city of Brasilia on Thursday for forensics tests to take place. 

The area where Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira went missing has seen violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers, and government agents.  

It is also criss-crossed by drug smuggling routes, operated by ruthless gangs. 

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 on June 16

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 on June 16

Officials are pictured loading one the coffins on to a plane in Brasilia on June 16

Officials are pictured loading one the coffins on to a plane in Brasilia on June 16

Federal Police officers escort a man accused of being involved with the disappearance of missing British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in Atalaia do Norte on June 15, 2022

Oseney da Costa, 41, or ‘Dos Santos,’ is pictured leaving a courthouse in Atalia do Norte, Brazil on Wednesday June 15 after he was detained by military and civil officers the previous night

Police with a man believed to be Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira in Brazil's Amazonas state of Atalaia do Norte on June 15, 2022

Police with a man believed to be Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira in Brazil’s Amazonas state of Atalaia do Norte on June 15, 2022

Brazilian officials  suggest disappearance of British journalist and his local guide may be linked to ‘fish mafia’

Mr Pereira and Mr Phillips were last seen on their boat in a river near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia. That area has seen violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agents.

Authorities have said a main line of the police investigation into the disappearance has pointed to an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Javari Valley reserve, which is Brazil’s second-largest Indigenous territory.

Pereira, who previously led the local bureau of the federal Indigenous agency, known as FUNAI, took part in several operations against illegal fishing. In such operations, as a rule the fishing gear is seized or destroyed, while the fishermen are fined and briefly detained. Only the Indigenous can legally fish in their territories.

‘The crime’s motive is some personal feud over fishing inspection,’ Atalaia do Norte’s Mayor Denis Paiva speculated to reporters without providing more details.

While some police, the mayor and others in the region link the pair’s disappearances to the ‘fish mafia,’ federal police have not ruled rule out other lines of investigation, such as narco trafficking.

 

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The family of British journalist Dom Phillips said they were ‘heartbroken’ after they were informed his body and that of Brazilian indigenous affairs official Bruno Araujo have been recovered.

A statement posted on Twitter on behalf of his sister Sian Phillips, brother Gareth Phillips, Sian’s partner Paul Sherwood, his sister-in-law Helen Davies and nieces Domanique Daviester and Rhiannon Davies, said: ‘Early this morning we were informed that two bodies have been recovered from a remote location after a confession from one of the men in custody.

‘We are heartbroken at the confirmation that Dom and Bruno were murdered and extend our deepest sympathies to Alessandra, Beatriz and the other Brazilian family members of both men.

‘We are grateful to all those who have taken part in the search, especially the indigenous groups who worked tirelessly to find evidence of the attack.

‘In due course we will offer our perspective on the courageous lives and important work of these remarkable men but for the moment, we request that representatives of the media allow the family some peace to deal privately with what has happened to their beloved Dom.

‘We thank the many people who have joined us in urging the authorities to intensify the search and those who have reached out with wards of comfort and sympathy.’

Bolsonaro has made no secret of his desire to industralise the world’s largest rainforest often referred to as ‘the lung of the planet’, and under his leadership the forest has been hacked back at a record pace.

The far-right firebrand, who is facing both domestic protests and international scorn over his handling of Mr Phillips’ disappearance, yesterday attempted to shift blame on to the journalist himself.

Bolsonaro said Phillips ‘was frowned upon in the Amazon region’ for reporting on illegal mining activities and should have paid more attention ‘to himself’ rather than to exposing the activities of others.

Suggesting that Mr Phillips was at least partially responsible for his own murder, Bolsonaro added that he ‘decided to enter a completely inhospitable area alone, without security,’ according to Folha de Sao Paulo.

Amnesty International said Bolsonaro’s ‘cruel and insensitive comments… characterized the insensitivity of the authorities’ management in the search for the two men’. 

It comes after former Tory prime minister Theresa May insisted the UK must do ‘everything it can’ to press Brazilian authorities to uncover the truth about the disappearances.

Mrs May made the plea on Wednesday to Boris Johnson in the House of Commons after police arrested a second suspect in connection with the case.

The Prime Minister replied: ‘FCDO officials are working closely now with the Brazilian authorities following his disappearance on June 5. 

‘The minister responsible has raised the issue repeatedly, the search and rescue efforts, with Brazil’s justice and public security minister and what we told the Brazilians is we stand ready to provide all the support that they may need.’

Flavia Farias (R), a relative of Dom Phillips, cries with her friend Luis Fabiano (L) during a protest against their disappearances

Flavia Farias (R), a relative of Dom Phillips, cries with her friend Luis Fabiano (L) during a protest against their disappearances

Pictured: Federal police officers carrying boxes at the pier after searching for Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and freelance British journalist Dom Phillips in Atalaia do Norte

Pictured: Federal police officers carrying boxes at the pier after searching for Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and freelance British journalist Dom Phillips in Atalaia do Norte

Shock at their fate has echoed across Brazil and around the world, highlighting the overhaul of indigenous agency Funai under Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (pictured speaking in Florida, USA on June 11), along with a rising tide of violence and criminal incursions on native lands

Shock at their fate has echoed across Brazil and around the world, highlighting the overhaul of indigenous agency Funai under Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (pictured speaking in Florida, USA on June 11), along with a rising tide of violence and criminal incursions on native lands

Developments began moving Wednesday when federal police officers took a suspect they didn’t identify at the time out on the river toward search parties looking for Phillips and Pereira.

An Associated Press photographer in Atalaia do Norte, the city closest to the search zone, witnessed police taking the suspect, who was in a hood.

On Tuesday, police said they had arrested a second suspect in connection with the disappearance. He was identified as Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, 41, a fisherman and a brother of Pelado, who police already had characterized as their main suspect.

Police investigators said Wednesday that de Oliveira had not confessed to any participation in the crime, but added they had evidence against him.

Indigenous people who were with Mr Pereira and Mr Phillips have said that Pelado brandished a rifle at them on the day before the pair disappeared.

Official search teams concentrated their efforts around a spot in the Itaquai river where a tarp from the boat used by the missing men was found Saturday by volunteers from the Matis Indigenous group.

Authorities began scouring the area and discovered a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings submerged underwater Sunday. Police said that evening that they had identified the items as the belongings of both missing men, including a health card and clothes of Pereira. The backpack was said to belong to Phillips.

Police previously reported finding traces of blood in Pelado’s boat. Officers also found organic matter of apparent human origin in the river that was sent for analysis.

Bruno Pereira takes part in an Indigenous protest in Brasilia, Brazil, 2019 in this picture obtained by Reuters on June 10, 202

Bruno Pereira takes part in an Indigenous protest in Brasilia, Brazil, 2019 in this picture obtained by Reuters on June 10, 202

Phillips talks to two indigenous men while visiting a community in Roraima, Brazil, on November 16, 2019

Phillips talks to two indigenous men while visiting a community in Roraima, Brazil, on November 16, 2019

Police officers and rescue team members sit on a boat during the search operation for British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira on Sunday

Police officers and rescue team members sit on a boat during the search operation for British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira on Sunday

Indigenous people march to protest against the disappearance of Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and freelance British journalist Dom Phillips, in Atalaia do Norte, Vale do Javari, Amazonas state, Brazil, Monday, June 13, 202

Indigenous people march to protest against the disappearance of Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and freelance British journalist Dom Phillips, in Atalaia do Norte, Vale do Javari, Amazonas state, Brazil, Monday, June 13, 202

Pictured: Boats belonging to indigenous members of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley as they search for clues as to the whereabouts of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Pictured: Boats belonging to indigenous members of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley as they search for clues as to the whereabouts of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Pictured: An indigenous member of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley trecks through the rainforest during the search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Pictured: An indigenous member of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley trecks through the rainforest during the search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Pictured: Indigenous members of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley search for clues as to the whereabouts of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Pictured: Indigenous members of the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley search for clues as to the whereabouts of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

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