In Brazil, a Troubling Clue Emerges Over Missing Duo

Blood is found on boat of fisherman who was one of the last to see journalist, guide alive
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2022 10:40 AM CDT
Blood Found on Boat of Man Who Tailed Missing Journalist, Guide
Images of British journalist Dom Phillips, left, and Indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira are seen on a sign presented by employees of the National Indigenous Foundation, FUNAI, during a vigil in Brasilia, Brazil, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Blood has been found in the search for a British journalist and his indigenous guide who vanished Sunday in Brazil's remote Amazon rainforest. The blood, to be tested to determine whether it is human or animal, was found on the boat of fisherman Amarildo da Costa, known locally as "Pelado," who was one of the last people to see the pair alive, the BBC reports. Officials with Univaja, an Indigenous association in the remote Javari Valley, where journalist Dom Phillips and former Indigenous Affairs official Bruno Araújo Pereira were last known to be, claim da Costa was among a group of illegal fishermen who used guns to threaten a patrol boat seen with Phillips and Pereira on Saturday morning, per the New York Times.

Though it doesn't name da Costa, a report from the O Globe newspaper claims a suspect was seen loading a shotgun and leaving the town of Atalaia do Norte on a motorboat with four others after Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, spent the night there, per the Guardian. State police officials say da Costa's green speedboat was seen tailing Phillips and Pereira's boat early Sunday as they left the Javari Valley to return to town, per the Times. Now in custody, da Costa has been charged with illegal possession of restricted ammunition, per the BBC. Amazonas state security secretary general Carlos Alberto Mansur said the suspect was found with "a lot of drugs" and ammunition used for illegal hunting, per CNN.

There have been numerous confrontations between hunters, fishermen, and government officials in the region, where the 2019 murder of an Indigenous Affairs employee remains unsolved. Phillips, who was researching a book on conservation, knew that well, having reported on poaching and other threats to local indigenous groups for outlets including the Guardian. One of his stories focused on Pereira, tasked with protecting isolated tribes. "There is every reason to be seriously concerned for their welfare," writes the Guardian editorial board, noting Pereira "had earlier received a written threat." Speaking at a vigil in London on Thursday, Phillips' sister noted, "We all still have hope … We want the search to carry on." (More Amazon rainforest stories.)

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