Suspect Held as Human Remains Found Near Where Journalist Vanished

·4 min read
JOAO LAET/Getty
JOAO LAET/Getty

Human remains have been found days after celebrities and public officials called for increased efforts to look into the disappearance of a British journalist and a Brazilian anthropologist, who were reported missing in the Amazon rainforest earlier this week. Authorities detained a person of interest when unknown traces of blood were discovered on his boat.

A judge has ordered Amarildo da Costa to be held and investigated for 30 days for his possible involvement in the disappearance of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, the New York Post reported. Costa, who is a resident of the Sao Rafael region of the Amazon, allegedly fished on the river, and the blood stains were found on his boat. However, he and his family have reiterated his innocence.

Six other suspects have also been questioned in the case.

According to the Post, Costa was arrested earlier this week for the illegal possession of restricted ammunition. His mother claimed the blood police found, which is now being analyzed to determine its origin, belonged to a pig her son previously killed.

“[T]hey beat him, tortured him, put his head under water, stepped on his leg and pepper-sprayed his face,” said Osenei da Costa de Oliveira, the suspect’s brother, after police arrested Costa, according to the Post. “They wanted him to confess, but he’s innocent.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Veteran foreign correspondent Dom Phillips visits Aldeia Maloca Papiú, Roraima State, Brazil, on November 16, 2019. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">JOAO LAET</div>

Veteran foreign correspondent Dom Phillips visits Aldeia Maloca Papiú, Roraima State, Brazil, on November 16, 2019.

JOAO LAET

Police said Costa was one of the last people to see Phillips and Pereira before they disappeared on the Peru-Colombian border, the Post reported. They also noted that their search focused on people who may have had a role in illegal fishing and poaching, in which they suspected Costa may have been involved.

Phillips, a contributor with The Washington Post and The Guardian, was reported to be working on a book that covered preservation of the Amazon rainforest. Pereira had allegedly gotten threats for his work covering illegal fishing.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Mayuruna Indigenous man Salomao Sebastiao, member of the local association of Indigenous Univaja people, takes part in the search for British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Edmar Barros</div>

Mayuruna Indigenous man Salomao Sebastiao, member of the local association of Indigenous Univaja people, takes part in the search for British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira.

Edmar Barros

Paulo Marubo and Raimundo Mayoruna, who were with Phillips and Pereira the day before they went missing, said they tried to contact authorities when local fishermen seemingly threatened them by flashing guns, according to the Post.

Maruba said Phillips took a picture of the taunting men; one of whom happened to be Costa. However, Marubo and Mayoruna said authorities didn’t do anything after the report.

“They didn’t want to help us,” he said.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Supporters at a vigil outside the Brazilian Embassy in London for Dom Phillips and Bruno Araujo Pereira, a British journalist and an Indigenous affairs official who are missing in the Amazon. </p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Victoria Jones - PA Images</div>

Supporters at a vigil outside the Brazilian Embassy in London for Dom Phillips and Bruno Araujo Pereira, a British journalist and an Indigenous affairs official who are missing in the Amazon.

Victoria Jones - PA Images

High-profile celebrities, athletes, journalists, and politicians have come forward on social media, pressing for more to be done to find Phillips and Pereira.

“My friend and colleague ⁦@domphillips has disappeared while reporting in the Brazilian Amazon with a leading indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, just days after receiving threats. Extraordinarily worrying,” posted journalist Tom Phillips. “Please share as widely as possible.”

“The fight for the preservation of the Amazon Forest and of the indigenous groups belongs to all of us,” tweeted former Brazilian soccer player Pelé. “I am moved by the disappearance of Dom Phillips and Bruno Ferreira, who dedicate their lives to this cause. I join the many voices that make the appeal to intensify the search.”

On Thursday, actor Mark Ruffalo demanded an “international response.”

“The trend of journalists being attacked, killed, or disappeared in rightward veering ‘democracies’ must be called out,” he wrote on Twitter.

“WHERE IS BRUNO AND DOM?” Brazilian actress Camila Pitanga posted. “Bruno and Dom have been missing for over 48 hours and we need ALL the necessary resources to find them as soon as possible. The disregard for environmental activists needs to end.”

U.S. President Joe Biden also joined the fight, reportedly trying to sway Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to do more, according to the Post.

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