Public prosecutors have charged three individuals with the murder in June of the British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the remote western reaches of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
Phillips – a regular contributor to the Guardian – and Pereira had met Indigenous people near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia, and were travelling along the Itaquai River back to the city of Atalaia do Norte when they were attacked.
Their disappearance generated intense international outcry and pressure for action and, with the help of local Indigenous people, authorities located their bodies hidden in the forest.
Prosecutors presented their charges on Thursday, outlining that two of the men – Amarildo da Costa Oliveira and Jefferson da Silva Lima – have confessed to the crime, while witness testimony indicates Oseney da Costa de Oliveira also participated, according to the statement.
According to the prosecutors, all three are local people and their motive was that Pereira asked Phillips to photograph them when they passed by in a boat. The area is a hotspot for illegal fishing and poaching.
The prosecutors added that they considered this motivation to be “frivolous,” a designation that can make sentences more severe under Brazilian law.
Pereira had had previous confrontations with fishermen when seizing their catch and had received a number of threats. He carried a gun with him, and had left the federal Indigenous affairs agency in order to teach local Indigenous people how to patrol their land and gather geo-tagged photographic evidence of criminality.
On the day they were murdered, Pereira was transporting such evidence to authorities in Atalaia do Norte. He was shot three times. Phillips, who was conducting research for a book entitled How to Save the Amazon, was killed “only because of being with Bruno, in order to ensure impunity for the prior crime”, the prosecutors’ statement said.
There has been speculationthat their murder may have been ordered by the ringleader of an illegal fishing network. Police earlier this month arrested a fourth man when he presented false documents, believing he may have some involvement, but no charges have yet been filed.