Police recover bodies of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira after suspect confesses to killing and burying the duo at Amazon site, officials say.

The duo was last seen on their boat in a river near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia.
The duo was last seen on their boat in a river near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia. (Reuters)

A suspect has confessed his responsibility in the disappearance and killing of an Indigenous expert and a British journalist in a remote part of the Amazon and then took officers to where the bodies were buried, a federal police investigator announced.

Police said at a news conference in the Amazon city of Manaus on Wednesday that the prime suspect in the case confessed on Tuesday night to killing British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira 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 Pereira of Brazil and freelance reporter Phillips of Britain.

Torres said Pelado took police to a spot on Wednesday where they recovered human remains. The remains had not yet been positively identified, Torres said.

"We found the bodies three kilometres into the woods," the investigator said.
He said other arrests would be made soon in the case.

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 bags of dirt on the boat so it would sink," he said.

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

Pereira was on leave from the agency.

READ MORE: Hope fades as belongings of duo missing in Brazil's Amazon found

Grim conclusion

The police claim suggests a grim conclusion to a case that has raised the global alarm, hanging over President Jair Bolsonaro at a regional summit and stirring concern in the British Parliament on Wednesday.

Phillips, a freelance reporter who has written for the Guardian and the Washington Post, was doing research for a book on the trip with Pereira, a former head of isolated and recently contacted tribes at federal Indigenous affairs agency Funai.

They were in a remote jungle area near the border with Colombia and Peru called the Javari Valley, which is home to the world's largest number of uncontacted Indigenous people. The region has been invaded by illegal fishermen, hunters, loggers, and miners, and police call it a key route for drug trafficking.

The brothers were seen meeting on the Itacoai river just moments after Phillips and Pereira passed by on June 5, returning to the riverside town of Atalaia do Norte, a witness told federal police in a report seen by Reuters news agency.

The police report said witnesses heard Pereira say he had received threats from Pelado. 

A former official for Indigenous affairs agency Funai, Pereira had been instrumental in stopping illegal gold mining and fishing by poachers on rivers inhabited by Indigenous tribes of the Javari.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies