The British journalist Dom Phillips has been laid to rest in Brazil, exactly three weeks after he was gunned down while journeying through the Amazon with the Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira.
Pereira and Phillips, a longtime Guardian contributor, disappeared while travelling on the Itaquaí River on Sunday 5 June.
Their killings have sparked international outrage and highlighted the historic assault on Indigenous communities and the environment that has unfolded under Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
The men’s bodies were recovered from the rainforest on 15 June, after a local fisherman confessed to their murders, and returned to their families on Thursday.
Scores of mourners gathered at a cemetery in Niterói, a city near Rio de Janeiro, on Sunday to pay their respects to Phillips, 57, who had spent the past 15 years reporting on his adoptive South American home.
“He was killed because he tried to tell the world what was happening to the rainforest and its inhabitants,” his sister, Sian Phillips, told reporters and TV cameras gathered outside the chapel in which his coffin was laid, draped with the Brazilian and UK flags.
“His mission clashed with the interests of individuals who are determined to exploit the Amazon rainforest regardless of the destructive impact of their illegal activities.”
She said the family and friends of the murdered journalist were “committed to continue that work even in this time of tragedy”.
“The story must be told,” she added, to applause.
Phillips’ wife, Alessandra Sampaio, paid tribute to the Indigenous people who her husband had been writing about when he was killed, and who spearheaded the 10-day search for the two men.
Sampaio urged mourners to celebrate Phillips’ “enormous heart” and his love of humanity. “We will redouble our struggle so that other families of other journalists and environmental defenders will not have to face our pain and that of Bruno Pereira’s family,” Sampaio said.
Phillips’ sister and brother-in-law played two pieces of music on the accordion and Spanish bagpipes before friends and family shared memories of Dom with the crowded room.
Phillips’ will stipulated the music to be played at his funeral and the final moments of the service saw dozens of mourners dancing joyously to Chic’s Good Times. A connoisseur to the last, he had insisted on the 12” mix.
The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, said: “Dom Phillips was a brave, passionate journalist who died doing a thing he loved – seeking out and exposing wrongdoing.
“His deep care for Brazil, its land and its people shone through powerfully in his insightful journalism for the Guardian and many other publications. His memory will live long, and the reporting he did will be continued by colleagues and friends.”