3 men charged in Brazil’s rainforest with murder of indigenous expert and British journalist

Prosecutors have charged three people with the June murder of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the western reaches of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, a statement said.

All are local residents, and their motive was that Pereira asked Phillips to photograph them as they passed by in a boat, the statement said. The area is a hotspot for illegal fishing and poaching.

Phillips and Pereira had encountered indigenous people near the entrance to the indigenous territory of the Javari Valley, which borders Peru and Colombia, and were traveling along the Itaquai River to the town of Atalaia do Norte when they were attacked. Their disappearance sparked intense international outcry and pressure to act, and with the help of local indigenous people, authorities found their bodies hidden in the forest.

Prosecutors presented their charges on Thursday, noting that two of the men – Amarildo da Costa Oliveira and Jefferson da Silva Lima – confessed to the crime, while testimonies indicate that Oseney da Costa de Oliveira also participated, according to the statement.

Alessandra Sampaio, left, wife of Dom Phillips, is shown June 26 in Nireroi, kissing her in-laws Sian and Gareth Phillips, siblings of the murdered journalist. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

Pereira had previously had clashes with fishermen when seizing their catches and had received multiple threats. He carried a gun on his person and had left the federal Native Affairs agency in order to teach local natives how to patrol their land and collect geotagged photographic evidence of crime.

On the day they were murdered, Pereira was transporting this evidence to the authorities of Atalaia do Norte, and he was shot three times.

Phillips, who was doing research for a book called How to save the Amazonwas killed “solely because he was with Bruno, in order to ensure impunity for the prior crime,” according to the prosecutors’ statement.

There has been speculation in the Brazilian press that their killing may have been ordered by the leader of an illegal fishing ring. Earlier this month, police arrested a fourth man as he presented false documents, believing he might be involved, but no charges have been brought to date.

Day 610:38Around the world, land defenders are under attack: Global Witness

Brazilian police now claim a man has confessed to the murder of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian land rights activist Bruno Pereira, who failed to return from a fact-finding trip to a remote part of the Amazon . Global Witness is a non-profit group that has been tracking killings of land defenders for 10 years. Marina Comandulli, an activist with Global Witness’ Land and Environment Defenders Team, says attacks and killings happen regularly around the world and often go unreported.