‘Exhaustive’ search fails to find Phillips House boat as body testing begins

The Brazilian Federal Police continues to search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira’s missing boat as investigators prepare to start testing human remains found buried in the Amazon.

t come as a DNA test of blood found in the boat of a man charged with their murders showed it is not that of a British journalist.

Investigators added that tests to determine if it was Mr. Pereira had so far been inconclusive.

In a statement provided to the PA news agency on Friday, police also said that despite “thorough searches,” officers have so far been unable to locate the missing boat.

Fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, confessed to shooting the men and led officers to the human remains he had buried in the Amazon, not far from where the couple went missing.

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Federal police officers arrived with the found human remains at the federal police hangar in Brasilia on Thursday evening (Eraldo Peres/AP)

In their latest statement on the case, the police confirmed that the remains had not yet been identified. They added that testing will begin on Friday, with results expected next week.

A federal police plane delivered the remains to Brasilia on Thursday evening.

The discovery of human remains comes after a ten-day search for a missing British journalist and his Brazilian companion, who went missing on June 5.

Brazilian authorities have so far arrested two men on suspicion of killing the couple. On Thursday, police said Mr da Costa de Oliveira — the prime suspect — confessed to using firearms to kill Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira.

More arrests are expected in the coming days.

Police have given no clear explanation of the motive behind the killing, but officials have previously suggested that Mr. Pereira’s work to stop illegal fishing at the indigenous reserve angered local fishermen.

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Brazilian authorities accused of being ‘slow to respond’ to search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. (Joao Laet/AP)

Mr. Phillips’ family reacted with grief to the news of Mr. da Costa de Oliveira’s confession to his murder.

In a brief statement released by his son-in-law Paul Sherwood, Phillips’s UK loved ones said: “We were informed early this morning that two bodies had been found at a remote location after one of the men confessed to custody.

“We are heartbroken to confirm that Dom and Bruno have been murdered and offer our deepest condolences to Alessandra, Beatriz and the other Brazilian family members of both men.”

Friends and colleagues of the longtime champion of the Amazon and its indigenous peoples also paid tribute to the journalist.

Jonathan Watts, The Guardian’s chief environmental editor, said his longtime friend had died in “an undeclared global war against nature and the people who protect it.”

In an article shared by family members of the late Mr. Phillips, Mr. Watts also targeted the Brazilian authorities, as well as President Jair Bolsonaro.

“Police refused to take the helicopter into the air after two men were reported missing and the military said they had search capability but wasted more than a day waiting for orders,” he wrote.

Mr. Watts said the president, who had previously accused Mr. Phillips and Mr. Pereira of an “adventure” that was “reckless,” “encouraged illegal logging and mining, renounced indigenous land rights, attacked on environmental organizations and slashed the budgets and staff of forest and indigenous peoples.”

He added that “what happened to Dom and Bruno is not an isolated incident: it is part of a global trend.”

“Over the past two decades, thousands of environmental and land defenders have been killed around the world. At that time, Brazil was the most bloodthirsty country,” Watts said.

“Some of the deaths are causing a global storm, such as those of Chico Mendez, Dorothy Stang, and now Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips, but most cases are not reported or investigated.

“If anything useful can be learned from the latest horror, let it be the recognition that these are not isolated cases. Let journalists explore the patterns that link these crimes, let’s tell stories off the beaten path, and let’s try to find solutions to the problems of the planet, as the House tried to do.”