Brazilian police have arrested a second suspect as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and British journalist Don Phillips in a remote part of the Amazon forest.
Federal police in a statement on Tuesday identified the man as fisherman Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, whom they said was “suspected of participating in the affair”.
The 41-year-old is the brother of the first suspect to be detained in the case, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, according to Brazilian media.
Amarildo, nicknamed Pelado, was arrested last week in the riverside village of Sao Gabriel where the two missing men were last seen on June 5. Police on Tuesday seized some ammunition and an oar during a search in the village, the statement said, without providing details on why the items were confiscated, who they belonged to, or where they were found.
Both suspects are being held at the police station in Atalaia do Norte, the nearest town, where the second man was arrested.
Indigenous people who were with Pereira and Phillips say Pelado brandished a rifle at them on the day before the two men disappeared.
Pelado has denied any wrongdoing. Oseney told The Associated Press news agency on Friday he visited his brother in jail and was told that local police had tortured him to get a confession.
The second arrest comes as the search for the two men, which is led by Indigenous people and Brazilian security forces, entered its 11th day amid fading hopes of finding them alive and persistent international pressure to resolve the case.
What do we know so far?
The disappearance of the two men – Pereira is a 41-year-old expert with Brazil’s government agency for Indigenous affairs, and Phillips a 57-year-old veteran contributor to The Guardian newspaper who was working on a book on environmental protection – sparked global concern from human rights groups, environmentalists, politicians and press freedom advocates.
The pair went missing in the Javari Valley as they were heading by boat on the Itaquai River to Atalaia do Norte. Their journey had started days earlier at Lake Jaburu, where they had interviewed local people.
The valley is a remote jungle region home to 26 different Indigenous peoples, many of whom live in isolation. Authorities warned that the region is “complex” because of the presence of rogue fishermen, miners and loggers who invade protected Indigenous lands to exploit their resources. Drug trafficking has also increased in the region in recent years.
On Sunday, the security forces said they had found personal items belonging to the pair, including Pereira’s health card, trousers and boots, as well as Phillips’s backpack and clothing. Officials said these items were found in the water near the home of Amarildo da Costa Oliveira.
Witnesses reportedly said they had seen the fisherman in a motorboat, following the boat Pereira and Phillips were in at high speed before they disappeared. Police said they found blood on a tarp in Oliveira’s boat.
Authorities are analysing the blood and what are believed to be human remains found in the area, and results are expected this week.
Confusion arose on Monday when relatives of the journalist said a Brazilian diplomat in London told them two bodies had been found and the remains were being analysed to see if they belonged to Phillips or Pereira.
But the federal police, who are the official spokespeople in the case, denied that bodies had been found. Indigenous people taking part in the search also issued a denial.