The bodies of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, murdered in the Amazon on June 5, were handed over to their families on Thursday, while a fourth suspect was arrested by police.
Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, were shot to death on their way back from an expedition in the Javari Valley, a remote part of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
Look: The British journalist and the indigenous expert were shot dead in the Amazon
His mortal remains were delivered by the Federal Police to the families for their respective funerals: Pereira’s is scheduled for Friday in Recife (northeast) and Phillips will be veiled and cremated on Sunday in Niterói, near Rio de Janeiro.
Phillips’ widow, Brazilian Alessandra Sampaio, disclosed a photograph holding her husband’s wedding band, found by police next to the body.
This Thursday, a fourth suspect turned himself in to the Sao Paulo police after confessing that he participated in the crime.
Gabriel Dantas, 26, said he was on the boat with the first detainee in the case, Amarildo Oliveira, when he shot the two men, according to excerpts from his statement recorded on video by police and reported by Folha de S. Paul and G1.
Dantas recounted that the morning of the crime, Oliveira asked him to drive his boat, without revealing where they were going or their purpose. When they caught up with Phillips and Pereira, who were traveling alone in another boat, “He (Oliveira) has already arrived shooting a 16 (gauge shotgun)”Dantas said.
After witnessing the murder, Dantas would have helped transport the bodies to the place where they were buried, with the help of other men.
Until now, the Federal Police that is handling the case have not ruled on this confession.
Oliveira admitted to the police that he had buried them and led the authorities to the difficult-to-reach place where the bodies were.
The Javarí Valley, which is home to indigenous land, is an area known for its danger due to the activity of drug traffickers, illegal fishing and gold mining.
Phillips, a contributor to the British newspaper The Guardian, was there working on a book on environmental conservation, mentored by Pereira.
Pereira was an expert from the government agency for indigenous affairs in Brazil (Funai), from which he had taken a temporary license to work with indigenous organizations on projects to monitor their territories.
His work earned him frequent threats from criminal groups operating in the area.
Since the double murder, indigenous leaders, environmentalists and colleagues from Pereira have mobilized demanding justice.
Pereira “was being persecuted precisely because he was going after who was invading indigenous lands,” Janete Carvalho, a Funai worker, told AFP during a protest in Brasilia.
“What happened to Bruno could have happened to any of us,” he said.