Canadian police believe that two men charged with the murder of a Vancouver university professor – and suspected in the murder of a young Australian-American couple – are still on the run in the inhospitable surroundings of a remote town in northern Manitoba.
Authorities have deployed an emergency response team, crisis negotiators and “air service assets” to track the teenagers down, who they believe still on the run in the community of Gillam.
Police have received 80 tips over the last two days and have warned the public to remain vigilant but not to approach the men.
A burned-out Toyota Rav 4 known to have been driven by Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, was found near Gillam on 23 July. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesperson Julie Courchaine said on Thursday that the police force believe the two are still near the town.
Courchaine also said the RCMP have confirmed two sightings of the pair in the Gillam area, both prior to the discovery of the car. The pair have managed to lay low since leaving the vehicle, with no further confirmed sightings.
Using dogs, high-tech equipment and multiple police forces, the RCMP are continuing to look at a “large area” around the town, she said.
“This is very challenging terrain … there’s lots of dense bush, forests, swampy area,” Courchaine said. Such an inhospitable landscape takes time to search – but also time to traverse, if that’s what Schmegelsky and McLeod are doing.
No cars have been stolen from the town, Courchaine said, and the one road in and out is being watched.
Gillam, with a population of around 1,300, sits at the northernmost point reachable by road in the province.
The community is more than 2,000km from Highway 37 in northern British Columbia, where the body of Leonard Dyck, 64, was discovered on 19 July near the burned-out remains of the first car McLeod and Schmegelsky were known to be travelling in.
Four days earlier, the bodies of Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and US citizen Chynna Deese, 24, were discovered shot, 500km away on the same highway.
The fugitive pair were originally considered to be missing. On 23 July, they were named as suspects in Deese and Fowler’s murders. On 24 July, they were charged in absentia with one count each of second-degree murder in Dyck’s case.
“Manitoba RCMP has deployed a significant amount of resources to the Gilliam area,” Courchaine said Thursday, “including our emergency response team, crisis negotiation team, and air services assets.”
She declined to give an update in the murder investigation, referring reporters at the press conference to the British Columbia RCMP.