Brazil’s ambassador to the UK has apologized to the Phillips family for incorrectly telling them that his body was found in the Amazon along with the body of his missing partner Bruno Pereira.
On Monday morning, an embassy staffer called Phillips’ brother-in-law and sisters to inform them that the body of a British journalist and expert on Brazil’s indigenous peoples was found tied to a tree, a week after the couple disappeared on the Itakuai River.
However, this information was later refuted by the federal police, whose forensic team investigated the area, where on Saturday afternoon, volunteer searchers from the indigenous population found items belonging to two missing men.
On Tuesday, Ambassador Fred Arruda wrote to the Phillips family to withdraw the embassy’s statement.
“We are very sorry that yesterday the embassy gave the family information that turned out to be incorrect,” Arruda said.
The Brazilian diplomat said that a multidisciplinary group set up at the London embassy to respond to the disappearances had been “misled” by information obtained from “investigators”.
“Thinking that there was precipitation from the multidisciplinary team, for which I sincerely apologize,” Arruda added, insisting that the search operation will continue without sparing any effort.
“Our thoughts remain with the House, Bruno, with you and other members of both families,” the ambassador said.
Phillips and Pereira disappeared on the morning of June 5th while returning from a four-day reporting trip to the Yavori region of the Amazon.
A search operation led by indigenous people has so far found a number of items belonging to the two men, in an area of flooded forest, near where they are believed to have been ambushed on the river.
However, contrary to information provided by the embassy to the Phillips family, the men have not yet been found.
The disappearances drew attention to the devastating deforestation in the Amazon and the dismantling of Brazil’s indigenous and environmental services under far-right President Jair Bolsonara.
Phillips, a longtime contributor to The Guardian, was in the region to chronicle the struggle for the future of the world’s largest rainforest, and wrote a book on the subject called “How to Save the Amazon”.