Teen ‘killers’ evade cops after ‘sighting’
Two teens wanted over the brutal Canadian highway slayings of three people, including Australian Lucas Fowler, continue to evade authorities after they were reportedly sighted rummaging for food in bushland.
The large scale search operation for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18 and Kam McLeod, 19, shifted from Gillam to the isolated community of York Landing in Manitoba, some 80km from the previous search area and 1000 km north of the provincial capital of Winnipeg.
"After a thorough & exhaustive search, #rcmpmb has not been able to substantiate the tip in York Landing," The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said in a statement.
"RCMP resources will continue to be in the York Landing & Gillam areas.
"We thank the community for their patience & understanding & ask them to continue to be vigilant."
It comes after members of the Bear Clan Patrol, a community-based policing group, said they spotted the men before they ran into the trees. The group's James Favel told reporters the pair were scavenging for food near a dump about 4.15pm local time on Sunday.
"Last night, at approximately 5:00pm, the RCMP received a tip that two males matching the description of the wanted suspects were seen in York Landing, Manitoba," RCMP said in a statement.
"Based on the information received, the RCMP immediately deployed multiple resources to the community.
"Officers searched the York Landing area throughout the night and continue their efforts today. The Royal Canadian Air Force is also assisting today with the search."
The men reportedly appeared to be wearing the same clothing - Schemegelsky in a camouflage jacket and McLeod in a blue T-shirt - that they were pictured in six days ago in CCTV footage from a hardware store in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, according to News 1130.
RCMP Corporal Julie Courchaine told reporters on Monday that "officers on the ground have not made contact with the individuals, so we are not yet in a position to confirm that these are the wanted suspects".
"Our goal today remains to safely locate, apprehend and identify the individuals," she said.
Heavily armoured police descended on the small town of about 450 people with tracker dogs, helicopters and drones in a bid to locate the pair.
Police asked people not to post photos of their officers on social media, for fear of jeopardising their operations.
It is critical that residents of York Landing remain vigilant & stay indoors as much as possible with their doors locked, & to report anything suspicious by calling their local police immediately.— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 29, 2019
Leroy Constant, Chief of the York Factory First Nation, earlier said authorities were conducting "ground searches with dogs and heavily armoured officers" but poor weather conditions were hampering the air search.
"Currently heavy winds are limiting helicopters and drones," he wrote on Facebook.
"We are urging everyone to remain indoors with windows and doors locked. Patrols of the community will be done on a 24 hour basis."
The chief warned York Landing locals there had been a possible sighting of the teens at a community landfill.
"And all vehicles should be parked. Please share the message with those who don't have social media," he said.
"We received word that there was a possible sighting around our community landfill moments ago."
The town is serviced by ferries which leave every few hours on a two-hour trip to Split Lake.
Schmegelsky and McLeod are wanted over the murders of Mr Fowler, 23, his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, and university professor Leonard Dyck, 64, on highways in British Columbia, in Canada's west.
Unconfirmed reports began circulating on social media that the pair had been captured in a hail of gunfire, along with a video purportedly showing one of them being taken into custody.
But Royal Canadian Mounted Police Manitoba (RCMP) shut down those reports, stating no shots were fired and the fugitives remained at large.
All efforts are being made in York Landing to apprehend two individuals matching the description of the suspects. The safety of community members is our priority. We remind residents to stay inside & check all doors & windows to ensure they are closed & locked. #rcmpmb— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 29, 2019
The manhunt has sent locals into a panic and thrown transport lines servicing the remote region into chaos, with train service Arctic Gateway issuing a warning about delays as the search continues to expand.
"All efforts are being made in York Landing to apprehend two individuals matching the description of the suspects," RCMP Manitoba tweeted.
"The safety of our community members is our priority. We remind residents to stay inside & check all doors & windows to ensure they are closed and locked."
The lifelong friends are accused of going on a murderous rampage which claimed the lives of Mr Fowler, 23, from Sydney, and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, who were gunned down on a lonely road in British Columbia this month. Canadian man Leonard Dyck, 64, was also murdered a few hundred kilometres away on the notorious stretch.
Since Tuesday last week, the village of Gillam near Hudson Bay in the country's north had been on high alert for the pair. The fugitives were believed to have wound up in the area, after an epic 3200km chase across three provinces that began in British Columbia, on the Pacific coast, where their three victims were discovered earlier this month. The hunt for the killers moved to Gillam after police confirmed another two sightings of the suspects in the area.
SWAT teams, tactical assault vehicles, drones, helicopters and sniffer dogs descended on the remote town and appeared to be closing in on the teens. But police now believe they have already left the area, possibly with the help of an unsuspecting stranger.
Canadian police last week release footage of the teens suspects in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, on July 21.
"We are releasing this video as it may generate additional tips or sightings," authorities said.
The Canadian teens are considered to be armed and dangerous and police have warned the population not to approach them if spotted.
A polar bear was spotted during the search for the suspects earlier today – about 200km north of Gillam. Just some of the wildlife that can be found in northern Manitoba. pic.twitter.com/Z1hbbtOCxw— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 27, 2019
In a statement, RCMP said McLeod and Schmegelsky "may have changed their appearance and inadvertently been given assistance to leave the area by someone that was not aware of who they were".
"If anyone out there is hesitant to come forward - it is crucial for you call police immediately," the statement continued.
Chynna Deese's brother British Deese told news.com.au the ordeal was taking a huge toll on his "worn out" family.
"We didn't expect that this would get to much international attention but it's oddly comforting to have the world mourning with you," Mr Deese said.
Mr Fowler, from Sydney, and Ms Deese, from Charlotte in North Carolina, had been travelling through northern British Columbia en route to Alaska when they were found shot to death alongside their blue Chevrolet mini-van on July 15.
On July 19, Mr Dyck, a University of British Columbia lecturer, was found dead near Lake Dease, two kilometres from the teens' burnt-out Dodge and almost 500km from where Mr Fowler and Ms Deese's bodies were discovered.
As authorities continue the frantic search for the suspected killers, details have continued to emerge about the lead-up to the horrific ordeal.
Alan Schmegelsky, the father of Bryer Schmegelsky, said his son bought a black suit with his second pay cheque from the Walmart where he worked this year and told him he was heading to Alberta with McLeod to look for jobs.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted to learn two days later … that they were up in the Yukon," he told reporters.
"Now I realise it's his funeral suit."
The distraught father said his son was on a "suicide mission" and expected he would be killed by police within 48 hours.
"He wants his hurt to end," Mr Schmegelsky told Canadian Press.
"They're going to go out in a blaze of glory.
"Trust me on this."
Mr Schmegelsky last week revealed Bryer had told him he and McLeod had been "training in war" in the woods for more than two years and were masters of camouflage.
He described his son's upbringing as being troubled, with his parents going through a bitter separation in 2005.
The boy, then aged five, moved with his mother to the small Vancouver Island community of Port Alberni, where he met McLeod. They attended the same elementary school and quickly became inseparable best friends.
They were "everyday, good kids" who didn't get into trouble, but his son had problems at home and, at 16, briefly moved to Victoria to live with him, Mr Schmegelsky said.
Video games and YouTube became his main influences, and eventually he returned to Port Alberni to live with his grandmother before graduating from high school earlier this year, his father said.
"I'm so sorry all this had to happen. I'm so sorry that I couldn't rescue you," Mr Schmegelsky said through tears.
"Rest in peace, Bryer. I love you."
McLeod's father, Keith McLeod, released a statement talking up the compassionate nature of his son despite communities across Canada terrified of crossing paths with him.
"This is what I do know - Kam is a kind, considerate, caring young man," Mr McLeod wrote.
Branden McHale, a friend of McLeod's, described him as a big gaming nerd and a happy person, CBC reports.
He said McLeod was mostly into fantasy video games including League of Legends.
"He didn't have a lot of friends, but he was really funny," Mr McHale said.
"Bryer was really quiet with people. He was really loud-spoken in his friend group but pretty quiet in general."
A former classmate of one of the teenagers revealed Schmegelsky allegedly has history of making disturbing and violent comments.
Madison Hempsted, who shared a class with Schmegelsky when they were both 13, revealed to Global News that he had a habit of making some very disturbing comments.
The teen claimed she and her friends didn't speak with Schmegelsky very often but when they did he would allegedly turn the conversation towards different methods of murder.
"I don't want to be rude, but he was kind of a weird kid," she said.
"He didn't really talk to anyone, super into himself. But when he did talk to people, the things he said were kind of scary. All he ever said to me was how he wanted to kill me and ways he would do it."
Ms Hempsted said she and others that knew Schmegelsky made comments about his alleged remarks on Facebook but they were all deleted.
One of her friends has claimed they had heard the accused say he wanted to kill his whole family.
Ms Hempsted said some of the scenarios he would allegedly bring up were "pretty detailed".
"He would say things about how he would cut our heads off and then he would take a gun and put it in his mouth and shoot himself in front of us," she said.
She told the media outlet that, while his comments were disturbing, she didn't really think much of it until now.
"He didn't have very many friends," she said.
"We thought he was trying to be funny and make people laugh and make friends, because he was so quiet."