Police recover boat used by Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

Boat found near bank of Itaquaí River in Brazilian state of Amazonas to be sent for forensic examination, police say

The boat used by British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira when they were killed in the Amazon jungle has been recovered by police.

Operatives with the fire service and the navy “found the boat used by the victims at around 20h20 on 19 June”, federal police in the state of Amazonas said in a statement. “The boat will be submitted to the necessary forensic examinations so as to contribute to a complete clarification of all the facts.”

The white metal craft was found at a depth of between 20 and 30 meters near the bank of the Itaquaí River, said police chief Alex Perez Timóteo. It had been weighed down by six sacks of earth. Police also found the 40hp Yamaha engine.

Phillips and Pereira were travelling in the boat on 5 June when they were reported missing after failing to appear at their destination in Atalaia do Norte, a small town close to Brazil’s border with Peru.

Phillips was working on a book about sustainable development called How to Save the Amazon, and Pereira, who had close contacts with local indigenous groups, was helping him with interviews.

Three men have been arrested in connection with the crime, with one confessing to murder. Last week, he led police to a remote spot in the jungle where Phillips and Pereira were buried after being shot. Another five people are wanted by authorities for participating in the hiding of the bodies.

Although officials have not posited any reason for the brutal killings, it is believed that Pereira was the main target.

A defender of Indigenous peoples and a former official with the federal government’s Indigenous foundation, he knew of the illegal fishing that was rife in the area and it has been alleged that he was threatened before by at least one of the men detained by police.

The area in the far west of Brazil is home to large quantities of turtles and pirarucu, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. The animals fetch high prices at markets in Atalaia do Norte, as well as across the border in neighbouring Colombia.

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The murder has prompted anger both in Brazil and Britain, where Phillips previously worked as editor of Mixmag magazine in the 1990s. It has shone an unflattering light on the far-right government of Jair Bolsonaro, a man many believe bears some responsibility for the crime.

Bolsonaro has weakened the state organs designed to protect Indigenous people and the environment and has encouraged loggers, miners and hunters to invade parts of the Amazon that are legally reserved exclusively for Indigenous groups.

The number of invasions and attacks recorded on Indigenous land rose from 111 in 2018, the year before Bolsonaro took power, to 263 in 2020, according to a study complied by the Indigenous rights group CIMI.


Andrew Downie in São Paulo

The GuardianTramp

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