Brazillian authorities identified a Colombian fish trader as the man behind the deaths of an indigenous expert and a British journalist last year. Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, nicknamed Pelado, was a fisherman, who was provided with the means to kill the pair by Colombian businessman Ruben Dario da Silva Villar. The fisherman later confessed to killing British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in June 2022.

Associated Press reported that Silva Villar is accused of ordering the deaths of Pereira and Phillips after he reportedly made phone calls to his hired killer before and after the crime and had even paid his lawyer. He is also charged with using false Brazilian and Peruvian documents as well as conducting illegal fishing operations. Reports from the investigation said he had been financing local fishermen to fish within the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory.

The assassin he employed, was a local fisherman as well. Costa de Oliveira confessed that he shot his two victims to death. He has remained under arrest ever since. He and three of his relatives stand accused of participating in the killing and were charged in July. The accused are locals of the impoverished riverine community inside a federal agrarian reform settlement between the city of Atalaia do Norte and Javari Valley Indigenous Territory.

Silva Villar denied his involvement in the crime, however, a statement from the local Indigenous association UNIVAJA said they believed there were others involved who were more significant in its planning. 

Pereira, 41, was an employee at the indigenous association while Phillips, 57, was a freelance reporter that had written for many major global news outlets. The pair disappeared last year when they took a trip to the remote Javari Valley, on the border between Peru and Colombia. They were both doing research for a book on sustainability in the Amazon but the boat the pair took never returned. Just days after they had vanished, Costa de Oliveira confronted indigenous patrols in the area and confessed to killing the missing victims. Their deaths renewed concerns for reporters and indigenous leaders working in the area, as many illegal miners, loggers, poachers, and narcotics traffickers often compete for territory and resources in the region. 

Demonstrators during a protest in honour of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous affairs specialist Bruno Pereira Demonstrators during a protest in honour of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous affairs specialist Bruno Pereira in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by: Reuters/Pilar Olivares