Journalist Dom Phillips, who disappeared in Brazil’s rainforest, and his companion Bruno Pereira have still not been found. Now the discovery of a backpack stirs up serious fears.

The fear that British journalist Dom Phillips, who has been missing in the Brazilian rainforest for about a week, and his companion Bruno Pereira are no longer alive are becoming more and more realistic: according to the police, several personal belongings of the two were found on Sunday (local time). According to the fire department, they were near the house of a suspect in whose boat blood had been discovered days earlier.

According to police in the northwestern Brazilian state of Amazonas, Pereira’s health insurance card was found, as well as a pair of boots, black pants and a sandal that also belonged to the indigenous peoples expert. Phillips’ backpack with clothes was also discovered.

Journalists traveling in the border area of ​​Brazil and Peru

The 57-year-old British journalist, who regularly writes for the British “Guardian”, had researched together with Pereira in the remote Javari valley near the border with Peru for a book about violence against indigenous people, whose protected areas are increasingly being destroyed by illegal activities. In his research he was supported by Pereira.

The expert, who works for the government agency for indigenous affairs (Funai), has been fighting for years to preserve the indigenous people’s pristine lands. According to them, he was repeatedly threatened for his fight against poachers, illegal loggers and gold diggers, some of whom used violence to penetrate the protected areas.

The two men were last seen on June 5 while cruising their boat to interviews for the book. Witnesses said they saw the 41-year-old suspect chasing Phillips and Pereira’s boat. He was arrested last Wednesday after police found drugs and ammunition for an assault rifle on him during a random check.

Traces of blood were later found in his boat. Authorities then began searching the area around his home. The blood samples were sent to a laboratory for testing, but the result was still pending.

fading hope

The families of the two missing have lost all hope of seeing them alive again. On Sunday, they gathered with friends at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana Beach, where Phillips used to stand up paddle boarding every morning before he moved there last year.

“In the beginning we still had the crazy hope that they would have sensed danger and hid in the jungle. Not anymore,” said Phillip’s mother-in-law Maria Lúcia Farias. The 78-year-old later explained on Instagram that the “souls” of her son-in-law and his companion are now with the souls of others “who sacrificed their lives to protect the forest and the indigenous peoples”.

The relatives of the two missing persons, indigenous groups and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had accused the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of delaying the search for the men. Bolsonaro rejected this on Friday. Earlier, his comment that Phillips and Pereira had embarked on an “adventure” without proper company was met with harsh criticism.