Dom Phillips, Bruno Pereira and questions about the police probe

Ears To The House has deliberately stayed quiet until now on the case of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. At the time of writing this article, the two men are in Brazil and were declared missing on June 5th – Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira has reportedly confessed to shooting the two men and took police to a site where human remains were dug up.

Our sympathies, of course, go out to the families of Phillips and Pereira, who must have been going through absolute hell over the past few weeks – and especially in recent days as it looked like this case was reaching the worst possible conclusion. But we only think it’s right to ask questions about how this case has been investigated.

The known facts are these. On June 3rd, Pereira and Phillips arrived at Lago do Jaburu to view the area and conduct interviews with the indigenous people. They later went to São Rafael community, with the purpose of meeting a local fisherman nicknamed Churrasco – the Portuguese term for grilled meat. However, the meeting never took place as Churrasco wasn’t there.

The meeting’s objective was to discuss joint work between riverside dwellers and indigenous people in the surveillance of the Javari Valley – an area with much criminal activity. Pereira and Phillips then travelled along the Itaguaí River towards Atalaia do Norte, which is where the mystery begins.

Questions must immediately be asked about the Brazilian police response. When the disappearance of the two men became apparent, they were slow to respond – initially stating they were investigating, but declining to reveal any further details. As mentioned earlier, these events occurred in an area well known for criminal activity – surely the police must have some kind of methodology for investigating in these circumstances, but was it used? If not, why not?

But don’t take our word for it. The Brazilian president Jair Bolsonato made a comment on the case on Monday, stating he believed “something wicked” had happened to the two men. Bolsonaro is a man whose role in the region and with the indigenous population of the area is controversial, to say the least – but he is almost certainly familiar through government briefings about the nature of crime that takes place there.

On June 7th, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira was arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs and owning ammunition of restricted use. He was picked up by the police after a tip-off alleging he was involved with a recent disappearance, and his speedboat was seized. Blood was found on the boat and sent for forensic examination.

And yet, Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira’s reported confession only came yesterday – a full eight days later. This, once again, only leads to suspicions that not enough resources were thrown at this case in its early days. Is it possible that vital evidence could have been tampered with or lost altogether in the time that has passed since?

But from a human point of view, surely the most spectacular mistake came from the Brazilian ambassador to the United Kingdom? On Monday, one of his officials telephoned Phillips’ brother-in-law and sister to say that the bodies of Pereira and Phillips had been found tied to a tree. That afternoon, federal police denied the claim, pointing out they had been investigating in that area.

The embassy apologised the following day, saying it had been “misled” by “investigating officals”, and “there was precipitation on the part of the multi-agency team”. Which just raises more questions than it answers – were the embassy deliberately given false information? Was there a misunderstanding somewhere down the line, and who on earth were the two men tied to the trees – if they even exist?

The latest news appears to confirm the worst has happened, with the prime suspect admitting he buried two bodies, claiming they were Pereira and Phillips. Police have since been to the site and have excavated the bodies – Interpol are now working with the state to identify the remains.

The wife of Dom Phillips, Alessandra Sampaio earlier issued a statement saying “Although we are still awaiting definitive confirmations, this tragic outcome puts an end to the anguish of not knowing Dom and Bruno’s whereabouts. Now we can bring them home and say goodbye with love. Today, we also begin our quest for justice. I hope that the investigations exhaust all possibilities and bring definitive answers on all relevant details as soon as possible.”.

We couldn’t agree more. Our deepest condolences from Ears To The House go out to the families and friends of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira at this difficult time.

Ears To The House Team

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