Brazilian police and indigenous search teams have dismissed reports that they had found the bodies of a British reporter and a Brazilian indigenous expert, dashing hopes of a quick resolution in the week-old case.
On Sunday, police said search teams had found the belongings of freelance reporter Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, a former official at federal indigenous agency Funai, in a creek off the river where they were last seen on June 5.
However, a federal police statement and a spokesman for local indigenous association UNIVAJA, which has organised search efforts since June 5, denied subsequent reports of two bodies turned up in the hunt on Monday.
“I’ve spoken with the team in the field and it’s not true,” said Eliesio Marubo, a lawyer for UNIVAJA, which has organised teams hunting for Phillips and Pereira.
“The search goes on.”
The two men were on a reporting trip in the remote jungle area near the border with Peru and Colombia that is home to the world’s largest number of uncontacted indigenous people. The wild and lawless region has lured cocaine-smuggling gangs, along with illegal loggers, miners and hunters.
News of the pair’s disappearance resonated globally and environmentalists and human rights activists had urged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to step up the search.
Mr Bolsonaro, who last year faced tough questioning from Phillips at a news conference about weakening environmental law enforcement in Brazil, said last week that the two men “were on an adventure that is not recommended” and suggested that they could have been executed.
State police detectives involved in the investigation told Reuters they are focusing on poachers and illegal fisherman in the area, who clashed often with Pereira as he organised indigenous patrols of the local reservation.