Police in Brazil say they have arrested a second man in connection with “the alleged murder” of the British journalist Dom Phillips and the Brazilian Indigenous defender Bruno Pereira.
Oseney da Costa de Oliveira, 41, was arrested on Tuesday and is being held in Atalaia do Norte, the isolated river town Phillips and Pereira were trying to reach when they vanished on Sunday 5 June.
In a statement federal police said Oliveira, who is known by the nickname “Dos Santos”, had been arrested “on suspicion of involvement in the case” along with his brother Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, the prime suspect, who has been in custody since last week.
Speaking outside the police station where both men are now being held, the civil police chief Alex Perez told reporters he had been arrested at his home in Atalaia do Norte and did not resist arrest.
“Witnesses placed them both at the scene where the crime supposedly took place,” said Perez, who was surrounded by rifle-toting police federal police agents.
Asked by the Guardian what specific crime the suspect had been arrested on suspicion of, Perez replied: “Suposto homicídio qualificado” (“alleged aggravated murder”).
Investigators suspect Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, who is known as Pelado, was responsible for ambushing Phillips and Pereira as they travelled down the Itaquaí River on the way back from a four-day reporting trip.
Federal police also said they had seized a number of bullet casings and an oar while executing two search warrants. Forensic officers were seen arriving at the port in Atlaia do Norte with the oar on Tuesday afternoon, as the search for Phillips and Pereira continued in a patch of flooded forest where Indigenous volunteers found several of the men’s items on Saturday.
Pelado has reportedly denied any involvement in the disappearances. A report in Brazil’s O Globo newspaper on Tuesday said that during interrogation he claimed that he had not left his home in the riverside village of São Gabriel on the day the men vanished.
The suspect admitted he had seen Pereira’s boat on the day of the disappearance but said he had only gone out the following day, when Pelado claimed he went to hunt pigs in his own boat.
Police sources allege Pelado was seen pursuing Phillips and Pereira down the river in his boat with four other people, who investigators have been trying to identify.