On the tenth day of research in the Amazon by a British journalist, Dom Phillips, and a Brazilian expert, Bruno Pereira, many questions still arose on Tuesday about the reasons for their disappearance, while great confusion reigned over the possible discovery of human remains.
• Read also: Disappeared in the Amazon: human remains found, identification in progress
• Read also: Disappeared in the Amazon: discovery of “apparently human” remains
Who are the missing?
Born near Liverpool, England, Dom Phillips, 57, has lived in Brazil for 15 years. A long-time contributor to the British newspaper The Guardian, he also wrote for other Anglo-Saxon publications, such as the Washington Post, the New York Times and The Intercept.
Passionate about the Amazon, to which he has devoted dozens of reports, he had been in the region for several days as part of research for a book on the preservation of the environment in the region, with the support of the Foundation Alicia Patterson, based in the United States.
During this expedition, he was guided by Bruno Pereira, 41, an expert from Funai, an organization responsible for indigenous affairs in Brazil, and a recognized defender of indigenous rights.
He had previously been coordinator of the regional branch of Funai in Atalaia do Norte, a town near the Peruvian border to which the two men were heading by boat when they were last seen. His work on behalf of indigenous peoples has earned him numerous threats from criminal groups that operate in the region.
The two men are married and Bruno Pereira is the father of three children.
Under what circumstances did they disappear?
Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were last seen on the morning of Sunday June 5, when they left the town of Sao Gabriel, a few hours by boat from their destination, Atalaia do Norte.
They were traveling in a new boat, with enough gas for the trip. Their journey had started a few days earlier, around nearby Lake Jaburu, where they had interviewed locals.
They disappeared in the Javari Valley, near the second largest indigenous reserve in Brazil, where 26 indigenous peoples live, 19 of them in total isolation.
This region, which is difficult to access, is located in the heart of the Amazonian forest, on the triple border between Brazil, Peru and Colombia, where the State has very little influence and where gangs operate that combine drug trafficking and environmental crimes such as timber smuggling and illegal fishing.
It has become a strategic axis for transporting drugs by river from the two neighboring countries.
What are the research results so far?
Research is carried out by agents of the security forces, in particular the army and the federal police, but also by volunteers from indigenous associations.
On Sunday, authorities announced that personal effects of the two missing had been found, including boots, clothing and a health insurance card.
According to the firefighters, these objects were found in a backpack tied to a tree under water, in a flooded area near the home of Amarildo da Costa Oliveira, the only suspect detained at the moment.
This 41-year-old fisherman was seen by witnesses following at high speed the boat in which Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira were on June 5.
Police identified traces of blood in the boat of the suspect, who denied any involvement in the disappearance of the two men.
Other traces of blood and "apparently human organic matter" were found on Friday and are being analyzed. The results are expected by the end of the week.
President Jair Bolsonaro spoke on Monday of "human viscera found floating on the river and brought to Brasilia to identify the DNA", without specifying whether it was this organic material found on Friday by the police.
Have the bodies been found?
On Monday, conflicting information circulated around bodies that were found during the search.
Several members of Dom Phillips' family say the Brazilian Embassy in London assured them that two bodies were being identified, information denied by the Federal Police.
In a press release published on social networks on Tuesday, the British's family deplored this confusion "which only complicates an already distressing situation".