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Human remains found in search for U.K. reporter Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira missing in the Amazon, Brazil's president says

Human remains have been found in the search for British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who disappeared in the Amazon after receiving threats, Brazil's president said Monday.

"The evidence leads us to believe something bad was done to them, because human innards were found floating in the river, which are now undergoing DNA testing," President Jair Bolsonaro said.

Phillips's niece Dominique Davies told AFP via text message that "two bodies have been found" in the search, and that relatives were awaiting confirmation from federal police as to whether they are the missing pair -- although police in Brazil denied the report.

Search operation for British journalist missing in Amazon jungle
Police officers and rescue team members stand on a boat during the search operation for British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who went missing while reporting in a remote and lawless part of the Amazon rainforest, near the border with Peru, in Atalaia do Norte, Amazonas state, Brazil, June 12, 2022. BRUNO KELLY / REUTERS

The families of 57-year-old Phillips, a veteran correspondent, and Pereira, a respected 41-year-old indigenous specialist, have been enduring an anguished wait for news on their fate since they disappeared a week ago Sunday.

The two went missing while on a reporting trip to Brazil's Javari Valley, a remote jungle region rife with illegal fishing, logging, mining and drug trafficking.

Bolsonaro, whose government has faced accusations of failing to act urgently enough in the case, said hope was fading.

"Because of the time that's passed -- eight days now, approaching the ninth -- it's going to be very difficult to find them alive," the far-right president told CBN Recife radio.

"I pray to God for that to happen, but the information and evidence we're getting suggest the opposite."

Federal police said Sunday they had found personal items belonging to the two men, including Pereira's health card, pants and boots, as well as Phillips's backpack and clothing.

Brazil Amazon
Federal police officers arrive at a pier with items found during a search for Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and freelance British journalist Dom Phillips in Atalaia do Norte, Brazil on June 12, 2022. Divers from Brazil's firefighters corps found a backpack and laptop Sunday in the remote Amazon area where Pereira and Phillips went missing a week ago, firefighters said. Edmar Barros / AP

Britain's Guardian newspaper, where Phillips was a regular contributor, said the two bodies were found tied to a tree, according to information given to Phillips's family by an aide to Brazil's ambassador in London.

"We all remain upset and distressed at this time," Phillips's niece told AFP.

Phillips's Brazilian wife, Alessandra Sampaio, said she had also been told by authorities that two bodies had been found, and that investigators were working to identify them, according to journalist Andre Trigueiro of TV Globo, Brazil's biggest broadcaster.

Sampaio's mother-in-law said Sunday the family had lost hope of finding the pair alive.

"They are no longer with us. Mother Nature has snatched them away with a grateful embrace," she posted online.

"Their souls have joined those of so many others who gave their lives in defence of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples."

Police have arrested a suspect in the case, 41-year-old Amarildo Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed "Pelado," whom locals said they saw threaten Phillips and Pereira, then pursue their boat with his own just before they disappeared.

Earlier, police reported finding traces of blood in the suspect's boat.

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