A mural is displayed with the faces of missing British journalist Dom Phillips (L) and Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira after family members said they were contacted Monday about two unidentified bodies found in the Amazon. Photo by Joedson Alves/EPA-EFE
June 13 (UPI) -- Two unidentified bodies were found tied to a tree in the Amazon during a search for missing British journalist Dom Phillips and his Indigenous protector Bruno Pereira, according to relatives of the men.
Family members said they were contacted Monday by the Brazilian embassy in London.
"He didn't describe the location and just said it was in the rainforest and he said they were tied to a tree and they hadn't been identified yet," said Phillip's brother-in-law Paul Sherwood.
Federal police later denied claims that two bodies had been found.
On Saturday, searchers found personal items, including a laptop, submerged in a river.
Brazil's Federal Police said they identified Phillips' backpack, which was found underwater and tied to a tree in a flooded part of the Amazon forest. A health card and clothes belonging to Bruno Pereira were also found.
The belongings were discovered one day after investigators found blood inside a boat belonging to a fisherman, who was arrested and is the only suspect in the disappearance. It was unclear who the blood belonged to or whether it was human.
Phillips, 57, a freelance reporter with more than 14 years of experience covering Brazil for newspapers including The Washington Post and The New York Times, was last seen June 5 in the Javari Valley on a boat with Pereira, a veteran Indigenous rights protector for Brazil's FUNAI.
Phillips was working on a book about the environment and was traveling with Pereira, who had received numerous death threats for defending Indigenous groups against illegal mining, fishing and logging.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro believes "something wicked" was done to the missing men.
Speaking on Brazilian radio Monday, Bolsonaro said tests were being conducted on suspected human material found floating in one of the region's rivers.
"The indications are that something wicked was done to them," he said.