ATALAIA DO NORTE, Brazil (AP) – Brazil’s search for an Indigenous expert and a journalist who disappeared in a restive area of the Amazon a week ago advanced with the discovery of a backpack, laptop and other personal belongings of the men submerged in a river.
The items were found on Sunday afternoon, and were carried by Federal Police officers by boat to Atalaia do Norte, the closest city to the search. In a statement on Sunday night, police said they had identified the items as the belongings of both missing men, including a health card and clothes of Bruno Pereira, the Brazilian Indigenous expert.
The backpack, which was identified as belonging to freelance journalist Dom Phillips of Britain, was found tied to a tree that was half-submerged, a firefighter told reporters in Atalaia do Norte. It is the end of the rainy season in the region and part of the forest is flooded. The development came a day after police reported finding traces of blood in the boat of a fisherman who is under arrest as the only suspect in the disappearance. Officers also found organic matter of apparent human origin in the river. The materials are being analysed.
Search teams that found the laptop and other items on Sunday had concentrated their efforts around a spot in the Itaquai river where a tarp from the boat used by the missing men was found on Saturday by volunteers from the Matis Indigenous group.
“We used a little canoe to go to the shallow water. Then we found a tarp, shorts and a spoon,” one of the volunteers, Binin Beshu Matis, told The Associated Press.
Pereira, 41, and Phillips, 57, were last seen on June 5 near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia. They were returning alone by boat on the Itaquai to Atalaia do Norte but never arrived.