Dom Phillips update: Remains of missing journalist found in Amazon forest, identified by police

Authorities discovered the body of seasoned journalist Dom Phillips on Friday (Image v@domphillips/twitter)
Authorities discovered the body of seasoned journalist Dom Phillips on Friday (Image v@domphillips/twitter)

A seasoned journalist and veteran Amazon explorer, Dom Phillips' remains were found by Brazilian authorities on Friday.

Upon running forensic tests on one of 2 bodies discovered in the rainforest, Brazilian federal police confirmed that it belonged to the 57-year-old British journalist. The second body has not yet been confirmed to be that of Bruno Pereira's.

In a late Friday press release, the police stated:

“(We can) confirm that the remains of Dom Phillips are part of the (human) material"

According to the Coordination of the Indigenous Organization - UNIVAJA - Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira had received death threats before they began their trip. The group claimed that many hostile factions in the area, including poachers, illegal miners and drug traffickers, were all targeting journalists and activists in the rainforest.

Three suspects have been identified by the police thus far. Two of them, fishermen Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira and his brother, Oseney da Costa de Oliveria, were arrested on June 16.


Why were Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira killed?

According to Times Now, in early June, Phillips and his guide Bruno Araujo Pereira went missing while out on a book research trip in the Javari Valley, a remote part of the Amazon rainforest. CNN reported that they wanted to gain insight into the exploitation of natural resources by various groups.

Members of UNIVAJA claim that local criminal gangs may have targeted them in an effort to suppress information concerning the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Amazon. Despite allegedly receiving death threats before the trip, Phillips and Pereira still decided to go ahead with it.

In an interview last year with CNN, Pereira had stated that he was passionate about environmental issues in the rainforest, going on to say that he was close to the 'Parentes' - meaning relatives in Portuguese - which was his term for the Indigenous people of the forest.

He said:

“I can’t stay away for too long from the parentes.”

In a video filmed in May in the village of Ashaninka, Dom Phillips can be heard interacting with the Indigenous people around the forest, explaining to them that he was there to learn about their culture and understand how they deal with threats from outsiders.

On Wednesday, police identified a suspect who allegedly told authorities he had perpetrated the murders. In a press release, authorities announced that they did not believe organized crime figures were involved in the killing:

“The investigations indicate that the killers acted alone, without any author or criminal organization behind them.”

However, officials also added that there were signs of other people participating in the crime.

According to UNIVAJA, the brutality of the murders indicated the involvement of local criminal groups.

In a statement, the organization alleged:

“(The) cruelty used in the practice of the crime shows that Pereira and Phillips got in the way of a powerful criminal organization that sought at all costs to cover its tracks during the investigation.”

Dom Phillips was a British journalist, well-known for his stories about exploitation in the Amazon rainforest. His work was featured across The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Financial Times. The book he was working on at the time of his death would have been called How to save the Amazon.

Edited by Upasya Bhowal