Demonstrators hold signs in support of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who went missing while reporting in the Amazon, in front of Brazil's Justice Ministry in Brasilia, on June 14, 2022. (Reuters/Adriano Machado)

Brazilian authorities confirm human remains found in search for missing journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira

[Editors’ note: On June 17, Brazilian Federal Police said a forensic analysis had confirmed that remains found in the Amazon belonged to British journalist Dom Phillips.]

Rio de Janeiro, June 15, 2022 – The Committee to Protect Journalists Wednesday expressed its deep distress over reports that human remains were found in the Brazilian Amazon during the search for missing journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, and called on authorities to conduct a comprehensive forensic analysis and investigation into the case.

Phillips and Pereira went missing the morning of Sunday, June 5, while on a reporting trip in Amazonas state’s Javari Valley region for Phillips’ book on the Amazon forest.

Amazonas state Federal Police chief Eduardo Fontes announced at a press conference in the state capital Manaus, on Wednesday, June 15, that human remains were found in the Amazon earlier that day.

According to Fontes, Amarildo da Costa Oliveira, also known as “Pelado”, a suspect who had been arrested the previous week, confessed on Tuesday night to killing Phillips and Pereira. Fontes said the suspect led the search teams to the site on Wednesday morning, where the remains were found.

“We believe that, with the confession of the criminal and the place where [the remains] were found, it is them [Phillips and Pereira]. But only forensics will be able to say this 100%,” Fontes said. 

“CPJ is deeply saddened by reports that indicate that British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were killed while working in the Amazon, and urges Brazilian authorities to ensure a timely forensic analysis and, if their deaths are confirmed, to thoroughly investigate their deaths and bring all those responsible to justice,” said CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Their loved ones, colleagues and the public deserve to know what happened to Dom and Bruno and why they are not home with their families right now.”

Police in Amazonas arrested “Pelado” on June 7 for illegal possession of drugs and ammunition and on June 9 the Amazonas state Court determined his preventive arrest as a suspect of participating in Phillips and Pereira’s disappearance, according to news reports.

On June 14, the police arrested Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, “Pelado”s brother, as a suspect in the disappearance, according to news reports

Fontes said the place where the remains were found was “extremely difficult to access.” He said the evidence would be sent on Thursday to the forensic institute for identification, which could take a few days. 

Guilherme Torres, the head of Amazonas state Civil Police, said during the press conference that police had “not ruled out the hypothesis that other people are involved. We still have a lot of work to do with the police investigation to collect evidence of the crime and of authorship.” 

Fontes said “Pelado” confessed to sinking Phillips and Pereira’s boat in a river and that the search teams located the spot where the boat reportedly sank, but were unable to recover it on Wednesday. 

On June 12, the search teams had found clothes and a backpack that belonged to Phillips and Pereira, according to news reports.  

Phillips, a freelance British journalist based in Brazil, had reported for The Guardian, Financial Times, Washington Post, and New York Times, where he covered illegal mining, deforestation, and human rights issues in the Amazon.