Second arrest in case of missing journalist and expert on the Amazon

Police say witnesses have tied two brothers to the area where Bruno Araújo Pereira and Dom Phillips went missing

Authorities in Brazil appear closer to solving the disappearance of a Brazilian indigenist and a British journalist missing in the Amazon rainforest since June 5th after making a second arrest in the case.

Oseney da Costa de Oliveira was detained on Tuesday in the riverside town of Atalaia do Norte where Bruno Araújo Pereira and Dom Phillips were last seen heading towards by boat when they disappeared in remote jungle near Brazil’s border with Peru.

The arrested man is the brother of Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, who has been in custody since last week and identified as a key suspect in the disappearance of the two men. Investigators told media accompanying the search efforts that Oseney is being held for “suspected aggravated murder”.

Police say witnesses have tied the two brothers to the area where Mr Araújo and Mr Phillips went missing. Suspected of involvement in illegal fishing in indigenous territory, Amarildo has a history of threats against local tribes.


On Sunday divers recovered a rucksack and other personal belongings belonging to the missing pair submerged along the bank of the Itaquaí river. Search efforts have been hampered by high water levels in the search area which have flooded the dense jungle along the river where the two men were last seen alive.

They were travelling in the Javari Valley which is one of the remotest corners of the Amazon and home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth. In recent years the area has become a violent flashpoint between indigenous peoples resisting incursion on to their lands by outsiders linked to criminal activity such as illegal fishing, mining and drug trafficking.

Staff at Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, from which Mr Araújo Pereira was on indefinite leave after being sidelined, staged a strike against the body’s president after he falsely claimed the two missing men were on demarcated indigenous territory without the required permission, a claim rejected by the local indigenous rights group they had been meeting. Mr Phillips travelled to the area researching an upcoming book on the Amazon.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday British prime minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” about the fate of Mr Phillips, and that his government had offered to provide support for the Brazilian rescue effort. He was responding to a question from his predecessor Theresa May, who called on him to elevate the case to a “diplomatic priority”.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America