A suspect has confessed to fatally shooting British journalist Dom Phillips of Britain and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in a remote part of the Amazon and took officers to where the bodies were buried, Brazil’s federal police say.
Police said at a news conference in the city of Manaus that the prime suspect in the case confessed and detailed what happened to the pair who went missing on June 5.
The federal investigator, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, said Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, nicknamed Pelado, told officers he used a firearm to kill the two men.
“We would have no way of getting to that spot quickly without the confession,” Mr Fontes said of the place where police recovered human remains on Wednesday after being led there by Mr Pelado.
The investigator 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 kilometres into the woods,” he said, adding that rescue teams travelled about one hour and forty minutes on the river and another 25 into the woods to reach the burial spot.
Mr 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 put bags of dirt on the boat so it would sink,” he said.
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.
The Indigenous expert was on leave from the agency when he disappeared on June 5 while travelling with Mr Phillips, a British freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper.
Mr Phillips’ wife Alessandra Sampaio said in a statement that “this tragic outcome 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,” she said.
“Today, we also begin our quest for justice. I hope that the investigations exhaust all possibilities and bring definitive answers on all relevant details as soon as possible.”
Mr Pereira, 41, and Mr Phillips, 57, 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.
Developments began moving on Wednesday when federal police officers took a suspect they did not identify at the time out on the river toward search parties looking for the missing men.
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 Mr Pelado, who police already had characterised as their main suspect.
Indigenous people who were with Mr Pereira and Mr Phillips have said that da Costa de Oliveira brandished a rifle at them on the day before the two men disappeared.
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