Doubts about ‘human remains’ in Brazil
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Doubts about ‘human remains’ in Brazil

Brazilian investigators question whether the remains found in a river could come from a British journalist who went missing in the Amazon rainforest on Sunday, two police officers involved in the case say.

Doubts about 'human remains' in Brazil

On Friday, federal police announced they had found “organic material” that was “apparently human,” raising hopes of a breakthrough in the search for reporter Dom Phillips and his traveling companion, Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.

However, a federal police officer and a state detective, who both requested anonymity to discuss the matter, said the location and condition of the material raised doubts as to whether it could be related to the missing men.

The remains were found near the port of Atalaia do Norte, a town more than 40 miles (40 km) downstream from where Phillips and Pereira were last seen on a slow-flowing river, the sources said.

The condition of the material suggested it might have been leftovers from a nearby butcher rather than remains transported far downriver, she added.

One of the sources said it appeared likely that the material came from an animal, not a human, but had been sent for forensic analysis as a precaution.

The other said the origin would not be clear until after that analysis.

Witnesses said they last saw Phillips, a freelance reporter who wrote for the Guardian and the Washington Post, last Sunday.

His companion Pereira, an expert on local tribes, was a senior official at the Funai indigenous government agency.

The two men were on a reporting trip in the remote jungle area near the border with Peru and Colombia, which is home to the world’s largest number of uncontacted indigenous peoples.

The wild and lawless region has lured cocaine smuggling gangs, illegal loggers, miners, and hunters.

The pair’s disappearance resonated worldwide, with Brazilian icons, from football great Pele to singer Caetano Veloso, joining politicians, environmentalists, and human rights activists urging President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search for them.

State police detectives involved in the investigation have told Reuters they are targeting poachers and illegal fishermen in the area, who often clashed with Pereira. At the same time, he organized indigenous patrols in the local reserve.

Police have arrested a fisherman, Amarildo da Costa, known locally as “Pelado”, on charges of gun possession and are holding him in custody as they investigate whether he was involved in the men’s disappearance.

Costa’s lawyers and family have said he legally fished the river and denied involvement in the men’s disappearance.

About 150 soldiers had been deployed via riverboats to hunt for the missing men and interview locals, joining indigenous search teams that had been searching for the couple since Sunday.