Brazilian police say businessman ordered killings of Indigenous expert, British journalist

Banner hung from bridge demanding justice for two slain men
A banner demands justice for British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, who were slain in the Brazilian Amazon last year.
(Bruna Prado / Associated Press)

Brazilian police said Monday that they planned to indict a Colombian fish trader as the mastermind of last year’s slayings of Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips in the Amazon rainforest.

Ruben Dario da Silva Villar provided the ammunition to kill the pair, made phone calls to the confessed gunman before and after the slayings and paid the gunman’s lawyer, federal police officials said at a news conference in Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state.

Fisherman Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed Pelado, confessed that he shot Phillips and Pereira and has been under arrest since soon after the killings in early June. He and three other relatives are accused of participating in the crime. They all live in an impoverished riverine community inside a federal agrarian reform settlement between the city of Atalaia do Norte and the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory.


Villar has denied any wrongdoing in the case. Before Monday’s announcement, he was already being held on charges of using false Brazilian and Peruvian documents and leading an illegal fishing scheme. According to the investigation, he financed local fishermen to fish inside the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory.

Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has promised to reverse the surge in deforestation in the Amazon but faces serious challenges.

Nov. 1, 2022

In a statement, UNIVAJA, the local Indigenous association that employed Pereira, said it believed there were other significant planners behind the killings who have not been arrested.

Pereira and Phillips were traveling in the remote area of the Amazon when they disappeared, and their bodies were recovered after the confessions. Phillips was conducting research for a book about how to save the world’s largest rainforest.