Supporters of a British journalist and his Brazilian guide, now missing in the remote Amazon for a week, gathered solemnly Sunday on a Rio de Janeiro beach, with the Briton’s mother-in-law saying she has lost hope in their survival.
Journalist Dom Phillips, 57, and Bruno Pereira, 41, a respected specialist in indigenous peoples, had disappeared in a region plagued by illegal fishing, logging, mining and drug trafficking.
“At first we had a crazy faith that they had noticed some danger and had hidden in the jungle,” said Maria Lucia Farias, 78, as she joined the group on Copacabana Beach.
“Now, not anymore.”
And in a statement posted online and reported by The Guardian, a British newspaper to which Phillips contributed, his mother-in-law said: “They are no longer with us. Mother Nature has snatched them away with a grateful embrace.”
She added: “Their souls have joined those of so many others who gave their lives in defence of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples.”
Few of those gathered at the beach expressed much hope in the men’s survival, especially after authorities said they had found a second boat with blood marks, and had located possible human remains, still being analyzed.
One who did voice hope was Phillips’s 13-year-old nephew, Mateus Duarte.
“I used to come for walks on this beach with my uncle,” he said.
Phillips, who has contributed dozens of reports on the Amazon to The Guardian, had traveled to the Javari Valley while working on a book on environmental protection. Pereira, an activist in indigenous peoples’ causes, went along as a guide.
They disappeared June 5 while heading by boat to the city of Atalaia do Norte.
The authorities have detained one man in connection with their disappearance, but have not said what his possible involvement in the case might be.
“We have to know what happened,” said Fabiana Castilho, 47, a friend of Phillips, who wore a T-shirt bearing a photo of the two together.
“We want an answer.”
Others in attendance said they hoped the men’s disappearance would not be in vain.
“It should serve to raise awareness” about the environmental destruction of the Amazon, said Zeca Azevedo, Phillips’s brother-in-law and Mateus Duarte’s father.
“We have to honor their work.”
Mateus said he was clinging to the idea of being able to walk on the beach again with his uncle.