A Suspect Was Just Arrested in Brazil Over Missing British Journalist and Activist

British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira went missing in the country’s Amazon region on June 5.

The Brazilian Police just arrested a man in relation to the disappearance of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous affairs expert Bruno Araujo Pereira in the country’s Amazon region.

Witnesses told authorities they saw the man who was detained—Amarildo da Costa de Olveira, also known as “Pelado”, who allegedly has ties to drug-trafficking organizations—chasing the boat carrying Philips and Araujo in another boat and with a gun in his hands, a day before the pair disappeared. 

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Authorities found traces of blood on a boat allegedly owned by Costa de Olveira, although they said it’s still too early to know if the blood belongs to either of the missing men.

“Right now we are still investigating and have no strong signs that this is related to a crime,” Amazonas police chief Carlos Alberto Mansur told reporters in a news conference on Thursday. 

Phillips, who writes for the Guardian and other newspapers including the Washington Post and Financial Times, and Araújo Pereira, who was formerly one of the top conservation specialists at the government’s Indigenous agency Funai, vanished on June 5 while conducting research for a book about conservation in the Javari region of Amazonas state. The pair had received death threats from illegal miners and loggers before their trip, the Guardian reported. 

After pleas from Phillips’ wife, Alessandra Sampaio, and his sister Sian, the Brazilian army started searching for the two men along the river near the town of Atalaia do Norte, the gateway to the Javari region.  

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Pelado was seen threatening Phillips and Araújo with a loaded gun at the Sao Rafael community after they told locals that they were going to the region of Atalaia do Norte, according to an anonymous witness speaking to Brazilian news outlet O Globo. 

“Both disappeared were traveling on a brand-new boat with a 40 horsepower motor and 70 liters of gasoline. But Pelado’s boat was faster,” the witness told O Globo.

Another witness said that two days before their disappearance, several men related to Pelado threatened them with a firearm.

“Bruno and Phillips went to visit a Univaja team [a nonprofit organization to protect Brazilian Indigenous communities] when a group of invaders arrived,” Paulo Barbosa Da Silva, general coordinator of Univaja told local news.

“They showed a firearm to threaten the journalist and he [Phillips] shot a photo and the men left to go back to their communities.”

On June 9. editors and journalists from some of the main international outlets addressed a letter to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro asking to find Phillips and Araújo. 

In a statement, the World Wildlife Fund office in Brazil accused Bolsonaro’s government of “acting too slowly” to find the couple. 

"The Brazilian government was very slow to act, in a situation where acting quickly is absolutely essential," the Fund said.

President Bolsonaro said during a press conference about the missing men: "Two people in a boat in a region like that, completely wild—it's an unadvisable adventure. Anything can happen.”