(Atalaia do Norte) Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced on Monday that a search for the British journalist and expert who disappeared in the Amazon eight days ago had found “human entrails”, but there was great confusion while awaiting expert results.
Updated yesterday at 11:26am
Dom Phillips, 57, and Bruno Pereira, 41, were last seen on Sunday June 5 embarking on a boat expedition to the Javari region, a difficult-to-access area in the western Amazon near Peru and classified as dangerous due to the presence of all types of traffic.
On Monday morning, several members of the journalist’s family said they had been informed of the discovery of two bodies, but information was denied by federal police and an association of indigenous people involved in the search.
“The research goes on. But everything indicates that they were injured, human entrails were found floating on the river and taken to Brasilia for DNA identification,” revealed the Brazilian President during an interview on CBN radio.
“Given the time that has already passed eight days, it will be very difficult to find her alive. I pray to God this is the case, but the information we have makes us fear otherwise,” Bolsonaro added.
At the same time, much conflicting information circulated about the bodies that would have been found during the search.
“We are waiting for confirmation from the federal police as to whether it is Dom and Bruno or not. We remain concerned in the meantime,” Dominique Davies, Dom Phillips’ niece, told AFP on Monday morning.
The journalist’s wife made a similar statement to TV Globo, saying she had been informed by the Brazilian embassy in the UK.
But this information was categorically denied by the federal police, who only confirmed that “biological material” and personal belongings of the two missing persons found on Sunday were being analyzed.
“The federal police, who are obliged to inform the families first […] confirmed to us that no body was found. We should know where the ambassador got this information from,” tweeted Beatriz Matos, wife of Bruno Pereira, in the afternoon.
The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), which also conducts incessant searches, has also denied any bodies were found.
Dozens of tribal people demonstrated Monday demanding answers from the authorities in Atalaia do Norte, the small town where Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were supposed to go on June 5.
Author of dozens of articles on threats to the environment and indigenous peoples in the Amazon, journalist, long-time contributor to British newspaper The guardShe was preparing a book on the subject.
He was led on this expedition by Bruno Pereira, father of three, who worked for many years at Funai, the organization responsible for indigenous affairs in Brazil.
In particular, this recognized specialist has been in contact with isolated peoples of the Javari Valley, a vast indigenous territory under pressure from drug traffickers, fishermen, loggers and illegal gold miners.
His actions in defense of the indigenous people have earned him regular threats, including death threats, from these criminal groups.
President Bolsonaro, who has seen a sharp increase in deforestation in the Amazon since he took office in January 2019, has been criticized by members of the disappeared and indigenous groups for his delay in finding the two missing, which he said was set in an “adventure not recommended”.
Irish rock group U2 on Monday joined a protest movement by many celebrities, after living football legend Pelé or singer Caetano Veloso.
“We are waiting to hear what happened to these two brave men,” wrote bassist Adam Clayton on the band’s Twitter account.
A 41-year-old man dubbed a “suspect” was taken into custody and traces of blood on his boat were also analyzed.
Witnesses said they saw him pass at high speed on board a boat going in the same direction as Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira’s boat.