A 43-year-old British adventurer who sought to canoe alone from the source of the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean was robbed and murdered by a gang of river pirates – days after she joked on Facebook that she “will have my boat stolen and I will be killed too.”
Emma Kelty was traveling through the notorious Solimões area, which is known for pirates and a thriving drug trade, when she went missing, The Guardian reported. She sent out a distress signal last Wednesday that prompted an extensive search by Brazil’s police force and navy, but her body has not been found.
On Tuesday, three people were arrested for Kelty’s murder, with one of the suspects claiming that Kelty was camped on Boieiro Island at the time of her death.
Kelty was allegedly approached by two people before a gang of five others arrived, stole her belongings, and shot her twice with a sawn-off shotgun before dumping her body into the river. The group reportedly then tried to sell her belongings in nearby villages.
“People knew she had disappeared and indicated possible authors of her disappearance,” detective José Alfonso Barradas Júnior said.
He claimed that the region where Kelty went missing is so dangerous because it where drug traffickers from Colombia and Peru funnel narcotics into Brazil – and where roving bands of pirates ambush and kill traffickers. A drug war between rival gangs has resulted in hundreds of deaths in the area.
On Wednesday, police learned that the suspected gunman, Jardel Pinheiro Gomes, was killed inside his house in Coari, which is about two hours away from where Kelty was murdered.
“According to investigations, people supposedly linked to the drug trade in the area were named as responsible for the execution of the offender, who was 24,” police said in a statement. “He was rescued, taken to a hospital in the municipality, but succumbed to his injuries and died around 8:30 am today.”
According to Barradas Júnior, one of his officers told him that locals had tried to warn Kelty of the danger she was approaching just hours before she was killed. They tried to invite her into their home so that she could sleep safely, but she did not understand their language.
“Neither she nor they could communicate,” he said. “They were trying to tell her the risk she was running.”
In a tribute posted on Facebook, Kelty’s siblings remembered her as “an active and determined sister who challenged herself” in numerous grueling expeditions around the globe.
“In a world that is today a much smaller place, the explorer in our sister found herself seeking ways to prove that challenges were achievable,” they wrote. “We are extremely proud of our sister who was dearly loved by us all and her strength will be sorely missed. We wish to give our immense thanks to the Brazilian navy, police and Foreign Office for their action and support.”