Brazil finds ‘organic matter’ in hunt for missing men in Amazon | Environment News
‘Apparently human’ remains discovered in a river where Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were last seen nearly a week ago.
Brazilian search teams have found ‘apparently human’ remains in the river where a British journalist and a Brazilian indigenous expert were last seen in the Amazon rainforest, police said on Friday, in what may be the most big breach so far in the five-day investigation.
The “organic material” is being sent for forensic analysis, federal police said, along with blood found on a suspect’s boat which will be compared to genetic material from journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.
A Brazilian judge had ordered the suspect, a fisherman charged with illegal possession of restricted ammunition, to be detained for an additional 30 days while police investigate whether he is involved, according to a lawyer for a local indigenous group.
State Judge Jacinta Silva dos Santos said the proceedings are under seal and she could not say if further hearings were scheduled for fisherman Amarildo da Costa, known locally as “Pelado”.
Police said Costa was one of the last people to see Phillips and Pereira on Sunday, when they disappeared after visiting the riverside fishing community of Sao Gabriel.
Eliesio Morubo, the lawyer for the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), said the judge had agreed to keep the fisherman in jail for 30 days because the case involved a possible ‘heinous crime’ such as murder and concealment of bodies.
State police detectives involved in the investigation told Reuters they were focusing on poachers and illegal fishers in the area, who often clashed with Pereira as he organized indigenous patrols of the area. local reserve.
Lawyers and Costa’s family said he was fishing the river legally and denied playing a role in the men’s disappearance.
The state’s public defender’s office confirmed that Costa was being held by police while authorities investigate whether he was involved in the case.
Witnesses said they last saw Phillips, a freelance journalist who writes for the Guardian and the Washington Post, on Sunday. His companion Pereira, an expert on local tribes, had been a senior official with the indigenous government agency Funai.
The pair were on a reporting trip to the remote jungle on the Peru-Colombia border that is home to the largest number of uncontacted indigenous people in the world. The wild and lawless region has attracted cocaine smuggling gangs as well as illegal loggers, miners and hunters.
The couple’s disappearance has echoed around the world, with Brazilian icons from footballing great Pele to singer Caetano Veloso joining politicians, environmentalists and human rights activists in urging President Jair Bolsonaro to step up their search.
After criticizing the government for dragging its feet in the crucial early days of the case, Bolsonaro told the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on Friday that the Brazilian armed forces were working “tirelessly” to find the two men.
The streets of Atalaia do Norte, the largest riverside town near where the men were last seen, have been busy in recent days with soldiers in camouflaged trucks, as well as the distant sound of absent helicopters earlier this week.
On Friday, some 150 soldiers had been deployed via river boats to search for the missing men and interview locals.
Indigenous search teams have been looking for the pair since Sunday, Marubo said.
A witness from the Reuters news agency saw a boat with police and firefighters diving into an area of murky vegetation along the edge of the Itacoaí River and preparing a canoe to search the shallows.