In the photo, Dom Phillips, wearing beige trousers, flip-flops and a cap on his head, has his face turned towards his interlocutor, who listens attentively. The two men are sitting on wooden planks by the Itaquai River in the Javari valley in the heart of the Amazon. Behind them, half a dozen rudimentary boats at the docks.
The man in shorts the British reporter is chatting with is nicknamed “Caboco”, sometimes “Caboclo”. He is known to the indigenous people of the region for fishing clandestinely in their territories. In the photo, “Caboco” smiles at the reporter. Dom Phillips is here for a book on the threats to the rainforest, which he has been working on for months and which he intends to call “How to save the Amazon”. He is interested, among other things, in illegal fishing, hence this trip. But Dom Phillips will never have the opportunity to publish this work. Two days after this photo, on June 5, 2022, the journalist and his guide, Bruno Pereira, were murdered on this Itaquai river, by illegal fishermen, members of the same community of “Caboco”.
This unedited photo, one of Dom Phillips’ last, could have been buried in the heart of the Amazon and never been published. It comes from one of Bruno Pereira’s mobile phones, miraculously found almost four months after the murder of the two men. under a pile of mud and branches by the guide’s colleagues, members of the EVU. An indigenous patrol he had formed within the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (Univaja), an indigenous organization representing the peoples of the region. At the time of the discovery, the team is accompanied by a journalist from the Forbidden Stories consortium, Sonia Bridi, who is making a documentary for the Brazilian TV Globo channel. “Bruno’s colleagues have returned to the protection of indigenous territories [sur les lieux du crime], with a metal detector, to look for evidence. In addition to the phone, they also found Dom’s glasses, his notebooks, soaked and therefore unusable, and his journalist card. They handed everything over to the federal police.”, says Sonia Bridi. Crucial elements to reconstruct the last moments of the two men before their disappearance and confirm the scenario established by the police investigators.
It took months of work to get the phone back on and using its data. Getting the latest photographs was almost unexpected. “The phone spent months in the water before the river level dropped”, recalls Sonia Bridi. These images were entrusted to the sixteen media members of the “Bruno and Dom” project led by the Forbidden Stories consortium to continue the work of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips on the looting of the Amazon. For a year, more than fifty journalists investigated land grabbing, livestock linked to deforestation, mining and illegal fishing, an investigation that ended up costing the lives of these two nature lovers.
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