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‘Evidence mounting’ of criminal involvement in disappearance of British journalist in Amazon

Journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian official Bruno Araujo are missing from the Amazon forest.

Image: Lauren Boland

“EVIDENCE SEEMS TO be mounting” in the Amazon that something criminal has happened to missing British journalist Dom Phillips, a family member said amid reports police have found possible human remains.

Paul Sherwood, the partner of Phillips’ sister Sian, said reports that police have found human matter while searching for Phillips and Brazilian indigenous affairs official Bruno Araujo are “shocking”.

Sherwood, 60, told the PA news agency: “We can only base our assessment on the evidence that is available, which is there seems to have been threats, that these people shouldn’t have disappeared.

“They had good communications equipment and they had good local knowledge so their disappearance and continued failure to turn up definitely suggests sinister events.

“And it is clear that there were threats and armed people in the area who issued those threats and may have been responsible for attacking them, so we obviously have to hope that wasn’t the case but the evidence seems to be mounting that something like that has happened.”

After reports that Brazilian police are analysing human matter found in the Itaquai River, near Atalaia do Norte’s port, Sherwood added: “I haven’t seen those, I knew there were some developments but I have been away from my computer.

“Obviously it’s very shocking to receive confirmation, if it turns out to be confirmation, of what we suspected, that there was a criminal basis to what’s happened.

“I don’t think anybody has sent that to us yet, although we are expecting some communication from police in Brazil fairly soon via the Brazilian embassy – as of now though I haven’t received anything.”

In a statement to the Associated Press, Brazilian police said the “organic material” found in a river near the town of Atalaia do Norte was being sent for forensic analysis.

Authorities previously said blood found on a suspect’s boat had been sent for analysis.

Phillips and Pereira vanished from a remote part of the rainforest and are believed to have been last been seen early on Sunday 5 June in the Sao Rafael community.

Louisa Casson, head of forests and food at Greenpeace UK, told BBC Breakfast today: “It’s an incredibly distressing situation. Obviously there have been reports overnight about potential findings but that is still subject to analysis.

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“I think what is also worth pointing out is that Dom, particularly in recent years, had started to do in-depth investigation into this context of growing violence that we are seeing in the Amazon as a result of the policies of current Brazilian government and President Bolsonaro.”

Earlier, UK Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford said she had spoken with Brazil’s justice and public security minister Anderson Torres, who is also in charge of the federal police, to discuss the disappearance.

“He assured me Brazilian authorities are doing all that can be done in air, boats land in v[ery] difficult and remote terrain to find Dom and will keep searching,” the minister tweeted.

Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, also known as Pelado, was earlier named as a suspect and arrested for allegedly carrying a firearm without a permit, a common practice in the region.

Police did not clarify why he was being treated as a suspect but he is thought to have been among a group of men who threatened the missing men near an indigenous territory on 4 June.

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