UK journalist’s widow thanks Brazil’s indigenous peoples at funeral

Dom Phillips was killed in the Amazon while researching a book about how to save the world’s largest rainforest.

Brazil Amazon
Brazil Amazon

Friends and family have paid their final respects to British journalist Dom Phillips who was killed in the Amazon while researching a book about how to save the world’s largest rainforest.

Speaking at a cemetery on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, his widow, Alessandra Sampaio, said: “First of all, I would like to express my eternal gratitude to the indigenous peoples, who are with us as loyal guardians of life, justice, and our forests.

“Today, Dom will be cremated in Brazil, the country he loved, his chosen home. Today is a day of mourning.”

Mr Phillips, 57, and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, 41, were killed on June 5 on their boat on the Itaquai river, near the entrance of the Javari Valley Indigenous Territory, which borders Peru and Colombia.

Three fishermen from nearby communities were arrested. Two of them confessed to the murders, according to the police.

Brazil Amazon
Alessandra Sampaio reads a statement to the media at the funeral of her husband British journalist Dom Phillips (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

The region has seen a long conflict between indigenous tribes and poor fishermen hired to invade the Javari Valley to catch arapaima, turtles and game.

Mr Pereira, who was an official of Brazil’s Indigenous affairs bureau, fought against these invasions for years and had received multiple threats.

“He was killed because he tried to tell the world what was happening to the rainforest and its inhabitants,” said Mr Phillips’ sister Sian.

“Dom understood the need for urgent change for political and economic approaches to conservation. His family and his friends are committed to continuing that work even in this time of tragedy. The story must be told.”

Brazil Amazon
Alessandra Sampaio, second left, embraces her sister-in-law Sian Phillips (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

Mr Phillips wrote about Brazil for 15 years, first covering the oil industry for Platts, later freelancing for The Washington Post and The New York Times and then regularly contributing to The Guardian.

He was versatile but gravitated towards features about the environment as it became his passion.

After living in Rio for several years, the couple had moved to the north-eastern city of Salvador, closer to Ms Sampaio’s family, where Mr Phillips taught English to students from poor communities.

They were also in the process of adopting two children.

“As we remember Dom as a loving, fun and cool big brother,” said Ms Phillips, “we are sad he was denied the chance to share these qualities as a father for the next generation.”

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