Veteran British journalist Dom Phillips went missing while researching a book in the remote jungles of Brazil’s Javari Valley – a lawless and vast region where indigenous tribes, drug gangs, illegal hunters and fishermen operate
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The desperate family of a British journalist who disappeared in the Amazon rainforest has asked Brazil to find him.
Dom Phillips, a freelancer who has written for the Guardian, Washington Post and other well-known publications, was last seen on Sunday with colleague Bruno Pereira – a former senior official at Brazil’s federal indigenous authority.
Police say they have questioned a possible suspect among several fishermen known to have previously clashed with authorities over fishing rights.
The couple had been on a reporting trip to the Javari Valley, a remote jungle area home to the world’s largest number of uncontacted indigenous people, as well as cocaine smuggling gangs, illegal hunters and fishermen.
Dom’s wife, Alessandra Sampaio, said in an emotional television interview: “Brazilian authorities, our families are in despair. Please respond to the urgency of the moment with urgent action.”
She added: “In the forest, every second counts, every second can mean the difference between life and death.
“I can only pray that Dom and Bruno [Araújo Pereira] somewhere healthy and unable to continue their journey because of a mechanical problem, and that all of this will end up being just another story in their fulfilling life.
Phillips’ sister Sian, who appeared on Good Morning Britain today, said her brother and his highly experienced guide are there to “help protect the rainforest and tell the story of the people who live there”.
She also urged authorities to “thoroughly search” the vast area to “find out what happened to Bruno and my brother Dom.”
Brazil’s federal government dispatched naval, army and federal police personnel to join a search for the couple in a region that contains a vast indigenous reserve with an area larger than Austria.
As a former FUNAI official stationed there, Pereira has had regular clashes with fishermen plundering protected fish stocks, and police say investigators are treating these escalating tensions as a key issue.
AFP via Getty Images)
It is uncertain whether a crime was committed or whether the missing men were lost, Guilherme Torres, the head of the interior department of the Amazonas state civil police, told Reuters.
But he said Pereira recently received a threatening letter from a fisherman.
Several fishermen were interrogated but only one was taken to police stations in handcuffs, Denis Paiva, the mayor of Atalaia do Norte, told Reuters in an interview late Tuesday.
He identified the handcuffed man as Amarildo da Costa, popularly known as “Pelado”.
A state police detective, who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said da Costa was handcuffed because of previous gun violation law altercations, and da Costa denied breaking any laws or fishing protected stocks to have.
Two other fishermen – identified as “Nei” and “Caboclo” – are also wanted for questioning, the detective said.
Amazonas State Police said they have interviewed five people so far: “four people as witnesses and one other… as a suspect.”
Da Costa’s attorney, Ronaldo Caldas, said his client was not a suspect in the case and said da Costa was arrested because officers found an empty shotgun casing at the home where he was staying.
The disappearance of Phillips and Pereira, both of whom worked in the Amazon for years, has sparked global concern among human rights groups, environmentalists, politicians and press freedom advocates.
The families of the missing men have asked the authorities to intensify the search.
The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA), which first sounded the alarm about the couple’s disappearance, has criticized the Brazilian security forces for what they described as unnecessary delays in dispatching search teams.
The Navy sent a boat with men upriver on Monday, but they arrived after dark. The army deployed troops on Tuesday, sending dozens of soldiers in river boats to patrol nearby villages.
AFP via Getty Images)
President Jair Bolsonaro, who was harshly questioned by Phillips at news conferences over moves to weaken environmental legislation, said the two men “were on an adventure that is not to be recommended.”
“It could be an accident, it could be that they were executed, anything could have happened,” he said. “I hope and we pray to God that they will be found soon.”
Phillips was researching a book about the Amazon and its environmentalists. Pereira has worked independently with UNIVAJA and other indigenous groups since he was removed from his post at Funai during Bolsonaro’s presidency.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/wife-brit-who-vanished-amazon-27174425 Family of Brit who disappeared in desperate plea to Amazon saying 'every second counts' - World News