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Suspect fatally shot British journalist Dom Phillips, Brazilian police say

A suspect has confessed to fatally shooting Dom Phillips of Britain and his Brazilian companion Bruno Pereira in the Amazon, Brazil’s federal police have said (Edmar Barros/AP)
A suspect has confessed to fatally shooting Dom Phillips of Britain and his Brazilian companion Bruno Pereira in the Amazon, Brazil’s federal police have said (Edmar Barros/AP)

A suspect has confessed to fatally shooting Dom Phillips of Britain and his Brazilian companion Bruno Pereira in the Amazon, Brazil’s federal police have said.

Police said at a news conference in the city of Manaus that the prime suspect in the case confessed and detailed what happened to the pair who went missing on June 5.

The federal investigator, Eduardo Alexandre Fontes, said Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, nicknamed Pelado, told officers he used a firearm to kill the two men.

“We would have no way of getting to that spot quickly without the confession,” Mr Fontes said of the place where police recovered human remains on Wednesday after being led there by Pelado.

The investigator added that the remains are expected to be identified within days, and if confirmed as the missing men, “will be returned to the families of the two”.

“We found the bodies three kilometres (nearly two miles) into the woods,” he said, adding that rescue teams travelled about one hour and forty minutes on the river and another 25 into the woods to reach the burial spot.

Pelado’s family had said previously that he denied any wrongdoing and claimed police tortured him to try to get a confession.

Recovered human remains are seen in a police vehicle after being found during a search for Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira of Brazil and freelance reporter Dom Phillips of Britain, in Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, Brazil on Wednesday night
Recovered human remains are seen in a police vehicle after being found during a search for Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips in Atalaia do Norte on Wednesday night (Edmar Barros/AP)

Another officer, Guilherme Torres of the Amazonas state police, said the missing men’s boat had not been found yet but police knew the area where it purportedly was hidden by those involved in the crime.

“They put put bags of dirt on the boat so it would sink,” he said.

As federal police announced they would hold a news conference, colleagues of Mr Pereira called a vigil outside the headquarters of the Brazilian government’s Indigenous affairs agency in Brasilia.

The indigenous expert was on leave from the agency when he disappeared on June 5 while travelling with Mr Phillips, a British freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Guardian newspaper.

Mr Pereira, 41, and Mr Phillips, 57, were last seen on their boat in a river near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia. That area has seen violent conflicts between fishermen, poachers and government agents.

Developments began moving on Wednesday when federal police officers took a suspect they did not identify at the time out on the river toward search parties looking for the missing men.

Brazil Amazon
A federal police officer escorts a suspect towards a river in the area where Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and freelance British journalist Dom Phillips disappeared (Edmar Barros/AP)

An Associated Press photographer in Atalaia do Norte, the city closest to the search zone, witnessed police taking the suspect, who was in a hood.

Indigenous people who were with Mr Pereira and Mr Phillips have said that Mr da Costa de Oliveira brandished a rifle at them on the day before the two men disappeared.