RIO DE JANEIRO — Federal police said Friday that some of the human remains found deep in Brazil’s Amazon have been identified as belonging to British journalist Dom Phillips.
The remains of two people were found Wednesday near the city of Atalaia do Norte after fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, nicknamed Pelado, confessed he killed Phillips, 57, and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, 41.
He told officers he used a firearm to commit the crime and led police to a spot in the remote forest to locate the remains.
Police announced the forensic identification of Phillips’ remains in a statement. They still have not identified Pereira’s remains.
The discovery ended more than a week of searching for the missing pair.
Pereira and Phillips disappeared June 5, 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.
Indigenous people who were with Pereira and Phillips have said that Pelado brandished a rifle at them on the day before the pair disappeared.
Official search teams concentrated their efforts around a spot in the Itaquai river where a tarp from the boat used by the missing men was found Saturday by volunteers from the Matis Indigenous group.
Authorities began scouring the area and discovered a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings submerged underwater Sunday. Police said that evening that they had identified the items as the belongings of both missing men, including a health card and clothes of Pereira. The backpack was said to belong to Phillips.
Police previously reported finding traces of blood in Pelado’s boat. Officers also found organic matter of apparent human origin in the river that was sent for analysis.
Authorities have said a main line of the police investigation into the disappearance has pointed to an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in the Javari Valley reserve, which is Brazil’s second-largest Indigenous territory.
Pereira, who previously led the local bureau of the federal Indigenous agency, known as FUNAI, took part in several operations against illegal fishing. In such operations, as a rule the fishing gear is seized or destroyed, while the fishermen are fined and briefly detained. Only the Indigenous can legally fish in their territories.
“The crime’s motive is some personal feud over fishing inspection,” Atalaia do Norte’s Mayor Denis Paiva speculated to reporters without providing more details.
While some police, the mayor and others in the region link the pair’s disappearances to the “fish mafia,” federal police have not ruled rule out other lines of investigation, such as narco trafficking.
After the news of the recovery of human remains, Phillips’ wife, Alessandra Sampaio, said the find “puts an end to the anguish of not knowing Dom and Bruno’s whereabouts.”
“Now we can bring them home and say goodbye with love,” Sampaio said in a statement. ”Today, we also begin our quest for justice.”