Suspect Confesses to Killing U.K. Journalist Missing in Brazil

fisherman confessed to killing a British journalist and an Indigenous expert in Brazil’s remote Amazon and took police to a site where human remains were recovered, a federal investigator said, closing out 10 days of suspense as teams searched for the missing pair.

Officials said Wednesday night that more arrests were likely to be made in the case against Dom Phillips, a freelance journalist from Brazil and Bruno Pereira of Brazil. They did not give any further details. Pereira disappeared June. 5.

Federal police said that Pereira and Phillips were killed in a confession made Tuesday by the main suspect. Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, an investigator, said that Amarildo de Costa de Oliveira (41), was nicknamed Pelado and told police he used a gun to kill the men.

“We would have no way of getting to that spot quickly without the confession,” Torres said of the place where police recovered human remains Wednesday after being led there by Pelado.

Torres said the remains were expected to be identified within days, and if confirmed as the missing men, “will be returned to the families of the two.”

“We found the bodies three kilometers (nearly two miles) into the woods,” the investigator said, adding that officers traveled about one hour and forty minutes by boat on a river and 25 more into the woods to reach the burial spot.

Pelado’s family had said previously that he denied any wrongdoing and claimed police tortured him to try to get a confession.

Another officer, Guilherme Torres of the Amazonas state police, said the missing men’s boat had not been found yet but police knew the area where it purportedly was hidden by those involved in the crime.

“They put bags of dirt on the boat so it would sink,” he said. According to investigators, the engine of boat was removed.

The news conference at Brazil’s federal police headquarters in Manaus also included military leaders, who joined the effort to find Phillips and Pereira a few days after their disappearance was reported.

President Jair Bolsonaro, a frequent critic of journalists and Indigenous experts, has drawn criticsm that the government didn’t get involved fast enough. Earlier on Wednesday, he criticized Phillips in an interview, saying without evidence that locals in the area where he went missing didn’t like him and that he should have been more careful in the region.

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Indigenous peoples of the area started the search for the pair. UNIVAJA, an association of Indigenous peoples of the Javari Valley, mourned the loss of “two partners” in a statement Wednesday, adding they only had help and protection from local police.

As federal police announced they would hold a news conference, colleagues of Pereira called a vigil outside the headquarters of the Brazilian government’s Indigenous affairs agency in Brasilia. Pereira was away from the agency.

Phillips, 57 and Pereira, 41 were last seen together on a boat at the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory’s entrance. They are bordered by Colombia and Peru. The area has been the site of many violent clashes between government agents, poachers, fishermen and poachers.

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.

Atalaia Do Norte was the closest city to the area where the Associated Press photographer witnessed the police arrest the suspect who was wearing a hood.

The police announced Tuesday they had arrested another suspect in the case. Police identified him as Oseney de Costa de Oliveira (41), a fisherman, and brother to Pelado who they had previously described as the main suspect.

According to police investigators, de Oliveira did not admit to the crime but said they had evidence.

Phillips was accompanied by Pereira and Phillips, according to indigenous witnesses. He was said to have pointed a rifle at the group the day before their disappearance.

Official search teams concentrated efforts at a location in the Itaquai where the boat belonging to the missing men could be found. Volunteers from Matis Indigenous Group discovered the tarp Saturday.

The area was searched by authorities who found a backpack, laptop and other belongings that were submerged in the water on Sunday. The police said they identified the contents as belongings to Pereira and Phillips that night. Phillips was believed to have the backpack.

Police previously reported finding traces of blood in Pelado’s boat. The river was also sent to analysis by officers who found organic matter that appeared human.

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 was previously the leader of FUNAI’s local Indigenous bureau. He participated in numerous operations to stop illegal fishing. These operations usually result in the confiscation or destruction of fishing equipment, and fishermen being fined and temporarily detained. Only Indigenous persons can legally fish within 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.

Torres, a federal police officer reiterated this point Wednesday night. He said that he was unable to discuss the details of the investigation.

“We are working with several lines of investigation,” he said.

After the news of the recovery of human remains, Phillips’ wife, Alessandra Sampaio, said the find “puts an end to the anguish of not knowing Dom and Bruno’s whereabouts.”

“Now we can bring them home and say goodbye with love,” Sampaio said in a statement. ”Today, we also begin our quest for justice.”

Maisonnave was reported from Manaus, and Savarese from Sao Paulo.

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