A suspect in the killing of British journalist Dom Phillips and his Brazilian guide turned himself into police early Saturday, officials said, a day after investigators confirmed that remains found buried in the Amazon were those of Phillips.
The June 5 disappearance of Phillips and his aide, indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, while on a reporting trip in a remote region of the Amazon had ignited an international outcry.
Veteran correspondent Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, went missing in an isolated part of the rainforest rife with illegal mining, fishing and logging, as well as drug trafficking.
Ten days later, a suspect took police to a place near the city of Atalaia do Norte in western Amazon state, where he said he had buried bodies. Soon after, the suspect’s brother was also detained.
A forensic analysis on Friday confirmed the remains to be those of Phillips and officials said they were still working to determine if the other body belonged to Pereira, who had received multiple death threats.
Police on Saturday identified the third suspect in the case as Jefferson da Silva Lima, describing him as an “outlaw” known as “Pelado da Dinha.” They said he had turned himself in at the police station in Atalaia do Norte.
Commissioner Alex Perez Timoteo told news site G1 that evidence and testimony collected so far indicated that the suspect “was at the scene of the crime and actively participated in the double homicide that occurred.”
On Friday, police said they believed the perpetrators had “acted alone, without there being an intellectual author or criminal organization behind the crime.”
Activists have blamed the killings on President Jair Bolsonaro for allowing commercial exploitation of the Amazon at the cost of the environment and law and order.
For his part, Bolsonaro sought to lay blame at the door of the men themselves for undertaking a “reckless” trip in an area where Phillips was “disliked.”
‘A powerful criminal organization’
Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian and other leading international newspapers, was working on a book on sustainable development in the Amazon with Pereira as his guide.
Pereira, an expert at Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency FUNAI, had received multiple threats from loggers and miners with their eye on isolated Indigenous land.
The Univaja association of Indigenous peoples, which had taken part in the search for the men, refuted the police’s conclusion that the killers had acted alone.
“These are not just two killers, but an organized group that planned the crime in detail,” Univaja said in a statement.
The group claimed authorities had ignored numerous complaints about the activities of criminal gangs in the area.