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supporters of dominic phillips and bruno pereira

Supporters of Dom Phillips and Bruno Araujo Pereira, a British journalist and an Indigenous affairs official who are missing in the Amazon, held a vigil outside the Brazilian Embassy in London on June 9, 2022. (Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Police and Indigenous Group Deny Bodies Found in Search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira

The reporting sparked new demands for an independent investigation into the disappearance of the journalist and Indigenous expert.

Jessica Corbett

This is a developing story… Please check back for possible updates...

Brazilian police and a local Indigenous association are denying reporting Monday that a pair of bodies were found in the Amazon in the search for Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira.

"A full and transparent investigation is urgently needed."

Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian, and Pereira, an Indigenous expert, were last seen over a week ago in the Javari region of the Brazilian state Amazonas. Their disappearance has alarmed human rights and press freedom defenders around the world.

News of the alleged discovery of unidentified bodies "was first reported by the Brazilian news outlet G1, citing Mr. Phillips' wife," according to the Independent, which added that the claim was denied by both a federal police statement and a spokesperson for local indigenous association UNIVAJA, which has been involved with the search.

"I've spoken with the team in the field and it's not true," said UNIVAJA lawyer Eliesio Marubo.

The Guardian shared the police statement, which said that "the information being shared that the bodies or Mr. Bruno Pereira and Mr. Dom Phillips have been found are without merit."

"As was previously stated, biological materials and personal belongings of the missing men were found and are being examined," the police statement continued, referencing items found on Saturday in an area of flooded forest by an Indigenous search team. "As soon as any finds are made the family, and the media will be immediately informed."

The newspaper noted that the Phillips' family said that the claim about the bodies came during a call with an aide to the Brazilian ambassador to the United Kingdom:

"He said he wanted us to know that… they had found two bodies," said Paul Sherwood, Phillips's brother-in-law. "He didn't describe the location and just said it was in the rainforest and he said they were tied to a tree and they hadn't been identified yet."

Sherwood added: "He said that when it was light, or when it was possible they would do an identification."

Phillips' sister told the BBC it is an "incredibly distressing and awful situation," and that "I think it's likely they've been ambushed by some illegal criminal activity there, possibly to do with illegal fishing."

Pereira had recently faced threats from people involved with illegal fishing in the region.

Monday's reporting led to new calls for an independent investigation into the case.

PEN International tweeted Monday that "we urge the authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough, impartial, independent and transparent investigation into the disappearance of journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and hold those responsible to account."

The U.S.-based Freedom of the Press Foundation similarly said that "a full and transparent investigation is urgently needed" and "it is vital those responsible are held accountable."

Others expressed support for the loved ones of the missing men.

"We are shocked and horrified," said Rainforest Foundation Norway. "Our thoughts are with their families."


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