Hope of finding Dom Phillips alive is gone, says mother-in-law and wife

The wife and mother-in-law of missing British journalist Dom Phillips said their hopes of finding him alive had been dashed, in a heartfelt and heartbreaking message that paid tribute to him and fellow traveler Bruno Pereira.

Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian, and Pereira, a seasoned indigenous defender, went missing on June 5 in a remote part of the western Amazon.

Days of searches by the army, navy, police and indigenous residents of the remote region turned up little trace of the two men, and Phillips’ mother-in-law said she had lost all hope of finding them alive.

“They are no longer with us,” he wrote on Instagram. “Mother Nature has snatched them away with a grateful embrace. The material has been undone and incorporated into the land that they loved and respected so much.”

“Their souls have joined those of so many others who gave their lives in defense of the jungle and the indigenous peoples. Today they are part of an immense and throbbing vital energy that emanates from this immense greenery that is the heart of Brazil”.

Phillips’ wife released the statement and said she agreed.

The two men disappeared at the end of a briefing trip Phillips took as part of a book project on sustainable development in the region.

I was traveling with Pereira, a regular guide and friend, to interview indigenous people in the Vale do Javari, an area nearly as large as Ireland and Wales combined. They were reported missing when their boat failed to show up at their scheduled return point in the city of Atalaia do Norte.

Authorities arrested a man, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, who was seen threatening Phillips and Pereira the day before they disappeared.

Traces of blood found on Da Costa de Oliveira’s boat, and what police called “apparently human organic material” found in the river have been sent for forensic examination along with DNA from the Phillips and Pereira families. Police, however, said they had not directly linked him to the incident.

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Pereira had previously been threatened for his work in the region, where he helped the 26 indigenous tribes monitor and protect their land. Illegal loggers, miners, hunters and fishermen covet the area’s natural resources, and drug traffickers ship their products through the area.

The Brazilian government department tasked with protecting indigenous peoples and their lands has been weakened by the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, a staunch supporter of Amazonian development.

An indigenous group that works closely with Pereira published a series of documents on Saturday detailing “the modus operandi of the criminal gangs” active in its territory.

Under Brazilian law, only indigenous people can hunt and fish on indigenous lands, but the UNIVAJA group shared details of boats loaded with turtles, wild animals and pirarucu, which, at up to three meters, is one of the largest freshwater fish of the planet.

Some of the prey is openly sold in markets in Atalaia do Norte, he said, naming local residents he claimed were involved.

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support the families of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. Donate here in english or here in Portuguese.


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