Bodies of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira returned to families

By George Wright

BBC News

Image source, AFP

Image caption,

Dom Phillips was writing a book on the Amazon

The bodies of UK journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira have been handed over to their families in Brazil, according to local media.

They were killed in the Amazon earlier this month while returning from an expedition in the Javari Valley.

On Thursday a fourth suspect handed himself into police in Sao Paulo.

The men’s families are now planning their funerals, to be held on Friday and Sunday.

Brazilian media reports that the ceremony for Bruno Pereira will take place in the city of Recife on Friday. Dom Phillips’s family will hold a cremation near Rio de Janeiro on Sunday – exactly four weeks since the pair were last seen alive.

Alessandra Sampaio, Mr Phillips’s widow, has released a photograph of her holding his wedding ring, which police reportedly found next to his body.

The Javari Valley is an expansive and remote region in Brazil’s far west, and is home to thousands of indigenous people from more than 20 groups.

Mr Pereira had been introducing the journalist to people he could interview for a book about the Amazon, when their boat failed to arrive near the border with Peru.

Image source, Alessandra Sampaio

Image caption,

Mr Phillips’s widow released a photograph of her holding his wedding ring

The fourth man arrested in connection with the killings, Gabriel Dantas, has given details on how the men were killed and buried.

He told officers he drove the boat that chased the two men, according to excerpts of his statement published by local media. But he claims he was not told any details about the trip or its purpose.

Dantas says he was given orders by another suspect – Amarildo da Costa Oliveira – who then allegedly shot Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira with a 16-gauge rifle inside their boat.

Dantas told officers he helped transport their bodies to be buried, with the help of other men.

Oliveira was the first man to be arrested following their disappearance. Police said he told them how both men were killed before leading officers to the location where their bodies were buried.

His brother, Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, has also been arrested, but denies any involvement. Another suspect, Jeferson da Silva Lima, was arrested last week.

As well as the four men in custody, five more have been identified by police for allegedly helping to hide the men’s bodies.

Image source, Getty Images

Mr Phillips had been living in Brazil for more than a decade and was a long-time contributor to the Guardian newspaper and was writing a book on the Amazon.

Mr Pereira who was on leave from his post with the government’s indigenous affairs agency Funai, was an expert on isolated tribes in the Amazon.

Mr Pereira had received death threats prior to taking the trip, indigenous rights groups said.

The area in which they were travelling has become known for illegal fishing, mining, logging and drug-trafficking activities.

It is also known for violent conflicts between these various criminal groups, government agents and indigenous people. It was these conflicts that Mr Phillips and Mr Pereira were documenting.