By Jake Spring ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil (Reuters) -The search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest was nearing the end on Tuesday as the area left to search kept shrinking, a spokesman for indigenous group Univaja said. Phillips and Pereira went missing more than a week […]
Search for missing journalist in Brazil nearing the end, indigenous group says
By Jake Spring
ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil (Reuters) -The search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest was nearing the end on Tuesday as the area left to search kept shrinking, a spokesman for indigenous group Univaja said.
Phillips and Pereira went missing more than a week ago on a remote stretch of the Itacoai River in far western Brazil, near the border with Colombia and Peru.
Eliesio Marubo, a lawyer for Univaja, said that indigenous searchers tipped off the authorities after discovering traces of the men in the area, helping to focus the search.
“We understand that we are heading toward the end. The search area has been further reduced,” Marubo said late on Monday.
On Sunday, police said searchers had found belongings of the two men in a creek off the river near to where they were last seen on June 5.
A Reuters witness on Tuesday observed that authorities had opened a larger channel in the brush leading to the creek where the belongings were found, allowing for bigger boats to gain access to expand the search.
In a letter addressed to the Phillips family, reviewed by Reuters, the Brazilian ambassador in London apologized on Tuesday for passing on incorrect information that bodies had been discovered.
Information received from investigating officials in Brazil misled the embassy, ambassador Fred Arruda wrote, adding, “I wholeheartedly apologize.”
Brazilian federal police said that they expect to conclude this week the forensic analysis of a blood sample collected from the boat of a man suspected of a possible role in the case.
Sunday’s police statement said the belongings of the missing men that were recovered included an ID card for Pereira. A firefighter on a search team told reporters of a backpack with clothes and a laptop tied to a half-sunken tree trunk.
Pereira, a former head of isolated and recently contacted tribes at the government’s indigenous affairs agency Funai, was traveling on a research trip with Phillips, a freelance reporter who has written for the Guardian and the Washington Post and was working on a book on the Amazon.
They were in the remote jungle area that is home to the world’s largest number of uncontacted indigenous people. The lawless region has lured cocaine-smuggling gangs, along with illegal loggers, miners and hunters.
News of the pair’s disappearance echoed globally, with human rights organizations, environmentalists and free press advocates urging Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search.
Indigenous protesters, carrying banners depicting the faces of the two men, walked to Brazil’s Ministry of Justice in capital Brasilia on Tuesday to demand justice and answers. Staff of Funai went on a one-day strike to demand greater security for indigenous experts working in the field.
Bolsonaro, who once faced tough questioning from Phillips at a news conference over weakening environmental law enforcement, said last week that the two men “were on an adventure that is not recommended” and speculated they could have been executed.
(Reporting by Jake SpringWriting by Anthony BoadleEditing by Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien)