Grieving family and friends paid their last respects Sunday to British journalist Dom Phillips, who was murdered in the Amazon earlier this month along with an Indigenous expert.

Phillips, 57, and Bruno Pereira, 41, were shot dead while returning from an expedition in a remote region of the rainforest that is plagued by drug trafficking, illegal gold mining and fishing.

"Dom will be cremated in the country he loved, Brazil, which he had chosen as home," his widow, Brazilian Alessandra Sampaio, told reporters through tears after his funeral at the Parque da Colina cemetery outside Rio de Janeiro.

"Dom was a very special person, not only for defending what he believed in as a professional, but also for having a huge heart and a great love for humanity," Sampaio said.

"Let's celebrate the sweet memory of Dom and his presence in our lives."

The journalist's sister Sian Phillips said he was killed "because he was trying to tell the world what was happening to the Amazon and its people."

Three suspects have been arrested in the crime, including a fisherman who confessed to burying the bodies and led investigators to the scene.

Sampaio said the family will pay close attention to the investigation into the murder of her husband and his colleague, thanking all the Indigenous people who helped look for the two men before their remains were found.

Alessandra Sampaio, widow of British journalist Dom Phillips, who was killed in the Amazon forest along with indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, speaks to the press following a farewell ceremony
Alessandra Sampaio, widow of British journalist Dom Phillips, who was killed in the Amazon forest along with indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, speaks to the press following a farewell ceremony AFP / Luciola VILLELA

The disappearance of Phillips and Pereira on June 5 sparked an international outcry.

Activists have blamed the killings on President Jair Bolsonaro for allowing commercial exploitation of the Amazon at the cost of the environment and law and order.

Phillips, the author of dozens of articles on the Amazon and a long-time contributor to The Guardian newspaper and other major news organizations, was traveling to the Javari Valley as part of research for an upcoming book.

Pereira was serving as his guide, and had previously traveled with him in 2018 to the area.

An outspoken defender of Indigenous rights, Pereira had received multiple death threats before the double murder.

He was laid to rest Friday in his home state of Pernambuco, in northeastern Brazil, to solemn funeral Indigenous hymns performed by members of a tribe he spent his life and work defending.

So far, three suspects are in custody over the killings. A fourth turned himself in last week, but police said his version of events was not credible.

Police have said five other people who helped hide the bodies have been identified.

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