A federal police investigator in Brazil said Wednesday night a suspect confessed to shooting dead an indigenous expert and a journalist in a remote part of the Amazon, and brought officers to the area. burial place of bodies.
Police said at a news conference in the Amazon city of Manaus that the main suspect in the case confessed on Tuesday night and described what happened to the couple who went missing on June 5.
Coroner, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, 41-year-old Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed Pelado, told officers he used a gun to kill Brazilian native expert Bruno Pereira and freelance reporter Dom UK Phillips.
Officials said Pelado took police to a location Wednesday where they found the human remains, about three kilometers inside the woods. The remains have yet to be positively identified.
When the federal police announced their press conference, Pereira’s colleagues called for vigilance outside the headquarters of the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs agency in Brasilia. Pereira has been given leave from work.
Pereira, 41, and Phillips, 57, were last seen on a riverboat near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia. That area has seen violent conflict between fishermen, poachers and government employees.
Locals who were with Pereira and Phillips said Pelado swung a rifle at them the day before the two men disappeared.
Pelado’s brother, Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, also 41, is also under arrest.
Pelado’s family told the Associated Press he denies any wrongdoing and claims police tortured him to try to plead guilty.
Official search teams have focused their efforts around a spot in the Itaquai River where a tarp from a boat the missing men used was found Saturday.
Authorities began scouring the area and discovered a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings submerged in the water on Sunday. Police said the items belonged to the missing men.
Earlier, police announced that they had found traces of blood on Pelado’s boat. Officers also found clear human-origin organic matter in the river that was sent for analysis.
Authorities say a key part of the investigation has pointed to an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Javari Valley reserve, a large indigenous territory. Brazil’s second.
One of the most valuable targets is the world’s largest scaly freshwater fish, the arapaima. It weighs up to 200 kg and can be up to three meters long. Fish is sold in nearby cities, including Leticia, Colombia; Tabatinga, Brazil; and Iquitos, Peru.
Pereira, who was previously the head of the local office of the Brazilian government’s Indigenous agency, known as FUNAI, has been involved in a number of activities against illegal fishing. In such activities, as a rule, fishing gear will be seized or destroyed, while fishermen are fined and detained for short periods of time. Only indigenous people can legally fish in their territory.
AP had access to information police shared with Indigenous leadership. While some police and others in the area have linked the couple’s disappearance to the “fish mafia,” federal police have not ruled out other avenues of investigation, such as drug trafficking.
In 2019, FUNAI official Maxciel Pereira dos Santos was shot dead in Tabatinga in front of his wife and daughter-in-law. Three years later, the crime remains unsolved. His FUNAI colleagues told the AP they believed the murder was related to his work against fishermen and poachers.