Brazilian police have identified five more people who are allegedly linked to the killing of British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, taking the total number of suspects in the high-profile killings to eight.
The five new suspects are accused of helping the killers hide the bodies in a hard-to-reach area. Police told reporters all five have been identified and are under investigation, though they are yet to be arrested.
It comes after almost 10 days of gruelling search efforts to find the human remains of Phillips and Pereira came to an end after their bodies were recovered from a remote area of the Amazon jungle.
Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41 were declared missing on 5 June when they did not return at the end of a four-day reporting trip to the Itaquaí river in the far west of Brazil.
Three men have already been arrested in relation to the deaths, including one who police say confessed to shooting the pair and directed officers to where the bodies could be found.
Investigator David Da Rocha told the Guardian that with the identification of the new suspects and the formal identification of the bodies, the investigation in the case is “90 per cent complete” and that the expected arrests of the five would likely be the last step in the process.
The police hopes to charge them all with homicide, and said they were relatives of the two brothers already in custody.
Amarildo Oliveira, known as Pelado, and his brother Oseney de Oliveira, known as Dos Santos, were arrested by the police for their alleged involvement in the murders.
A third suspect named Jeferson da Silva Lima, also known as Pelado da Dinha, was arrested on Saturday after he turned himself into a police station in the city of Atalaia do Norte, according to police.
No other details or the names of the five new suspects were revealed by the police.
Police confirmed on Saturday that Phillips and Pereira were shot with hunting ammunition. While the British journalist was shot once, the indigenous activist was shot thrice.
They said that the suspects had acted alone – a statement that appeared to be intended to draw a line under the case, despite suspicions that the killings may have been ordered by a criminal group or parties with a vested interest who were angered by Phillips’ investigations into illegal logging in the Amazon.
The bodies were found in an area known as the Lago do Preguiça, reached from the nearest town of Atalaia do Norte via a 1hr 40min journey by boat along the river and another 3.1km by foot into dense forest.
Mr Amarildo is the suspect who, police say, led officers to the site where the bodies were buried.
Phillips was working with Pereira on research for a book that was to be titled How to Save the Amazon.
The deaths have put a spotlight on the growing dangers faced by those who defend or advocate for Brazil’s Indigenous communities, which are threatened with illegal fishing, mining, logging and drug-trafficking activities.
There has been a long history of violent conflict between criminal groups, government agents and indigenous people which were being documented by the duo before they were killed.
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