Police hunting two Canadian teenagers suspected of killing US citizen Chynna Deese and Australian Lucas Fowler have discovered the burned-out remains of a vehicle the suspects were traveling in – nearly 3,000km (1,864 miles) from the scene of the murder.
The search for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, suspects in the double murder and in the death of a second unidentified man, is now focusing around the town of Gillam in northern Manitoba, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Wednesday.
RCMP Manitoba spokeswoman Julie Courchene confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that a burned-out car found near the Bird reserve on Fox Lake Cree nation was the silver 2011 Toyota Rav 4 that the suspects had been seen traveling in.
The announcement confirms reports that McLeod and Schmegelsky have been speeding eastwards across the northern prairie provinces.
Police announced on Monday that they were looking for the pair, after their car was found in flames near the the town of Dease Lake in British Columbia.
The next day, McLeod and Schmegelsky were named as suspects in the deaths of Fowler, 23, and Deese, 24, who were found shot dead at the side of the Alaska highway about 20km south of Liard River Hot Springs provincial park.
“We believe they are likely continuing to travel, though we don’t have a possible destination,” an RCMP spokeswoman, Janelle Shoihet, told reporters late on Tuesday.
McLeod and Schmegelsky were spotted on Tuesday by employees at a hardware store in the city of Meadow Lake, in northern Saskatchewan, according to CBC News.
The pair are considered dangerous; the RCMP has warned anyone who spots them to call 911 and not approach.
McLeod and Schmegelsky are childhood friends from the small town of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, and had reportedly worked together at the local Walmart to save up money for their trip off-island.
The town’s local radio station reported that, according to Schmegelsky’s grandmother Carol Starkey, the pair had left Port Alberni on 12 July in order to find work in Whitehorse, in Yukon.
“They’re just kids on an adventure. They’re good boys,” Schmegelsky’s father, Al Schmegelsky, said on Monday – the day before the two young men were named as suspects.
It remains unclear if and when McLeod and Schmegelsky came into contact with Fowler and Deese, and police have yet to make any link between the couple’s death and the discovery of a second dead man 500km to the south, near the town of Dease Lake. The third victim has not yet been identified.
The two violent crimes have unnerved remote communities in the northern Canadian prairies – many of which have little police presence.
Gillam, which is considered populous for the area, had just 1,265 residents at the time of the 2016 national census, spread out over the town’s large 2,000 sq km area.
Limited roadways in and out of the community and few gas stations would make it difficult for the two fugitives to avoid detection.
“We’re as far north as you can go by road,” Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman told a British Columbia radio station. “Everybody in town knows everybody.”
A new face would be easy to spot, he said: “Even the RCMP, I can tell they’re not our normal contingency members driving around the town.”