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RCMP dive team members return from a dive in the Nelson River in Northern Manitoba on Sunday evening. The team searched eddies beyond the lower rapids near where a banged-up rowboat was spotted on Friday.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

The RCMP have found several items on the shore of the Nelson River “directly linked” to two men wanted in three deaths in Northern B.C., but the discovery hasn’t led police any closer to finding the fugitives.

RCMP Superintendent Sorab Rupa, district commander for Manitoba North, said Tuesday that police are coming toward an end on the latest search effort, triggered by the spotting of a wrecked rowboat below the Lower Limestone Rapids on the Nelson River on Friday.

Supt. Rupa would not disclose what items were found about nine kilometres from where a grey Toyota RAV4 that police believe fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod were driving was found burning in a ditch on July 22. Nor would he shed light on what those items indicate about the pair’s possible whereabouts.

Supt. Rupa was in Gillam to meet with the town’s mayor, Dwayne Forman, and Fox Lake Cree Nation Chief Walter Spence. He said the RCMP is now evaluating next steps for the search and how many police officers should remain in the area.

  • RCMP officers in Gillam, Man., carry one of two metal boxes that contain remains believed to be of the B.C. murder suspects. The boxes were loaded into police planes heading to Winnipeg, late Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019 where the coroner will examine the remains.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

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“We’ve done every single thing we can,” Supt. Rupa said late Tuesday afternoon after meeting with the two leaders. “We have brought a significant amount of resources to bear in locating the two suspects and we have been unable to at this time, for a variety of reasons, some of which we’ll never actually ever know unless we actually make an arrest.”

That uncertainty will leave a pall of anxiety over the remote communities of Gillam and Fox Lake, which are surrounded by a vast wilderness of dense bush and bogs.

The manhunt for Mr. Schmegelsky, 18, and Mr. McLeod, 19, shifted to this Northern Manitoba region two weeks ago, after the torched Toyota was found near Fox Lake Cree Nation.

Friends since childhood, the pair from Port Alberni, B.C., had told their parents they were headed to Yukon and Northwest Territories in search of work. They left around July 13.

Two days later, American Chynna Deese, 24, and her 23-year-old Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler were found shot to death near Liard Hot Springs in Northern B.C. On July 19, the body of Vancouver resident Leonard Dyck, 64, a lecturer at the University of British Columbia’s botany department, was discovered on a road near Dease Lake, about 500 kilometres southwest from the hot springs.

RCMP had initially declared Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod were missing after their pickup truck was found on fire outside Dease Lake. But on July 23, police said the pair were suspects in the deaths of Ms. Deese, Mr. Fowler and Mr. Dyck. The next day, RCMP charged Mr. Shmegelsky and Mr. McLeod with second-degree murder in Mr. Dyck’s death.

Tips about possible sightings of the young men have poured into police across the country. But none of those sightings have been substantiated. The last confirmed sighting of the suspects was on July 22, when the torched Toyota was found.

RCMP spokesperson Sergeant Paul Manaigre said police cannot say with certainty whether the aluminum rowboat was used by the suspects, “but it is a possibility that we must explore.” He said police officers will continue to search “areas of interest” that were identified during aerial patrols.

On the weekend, Inspector Leon Fiedler, the incident commander, told The Globe and Mail that a red-and-white water container had been found near the green-coloured boat. The discovery of the rowboat washed up on the shore at a back eddy of the Nelson River prompted Insp. Fiedler to call in an RCMP dive team from Winnipeg. The boat, the inspector said, “had gone through some rapids and had been significantly damaged.”

The dive team searched underwater for about an hour Sunday, covering roughly 29 kilometres around the location of where the rowboat was found. The search did not uncover any additional items linked to the suspects, Sgt. Manaigre said.

Since the discovery of the rowboat, a large team of officers have combed through the densely wooded area and shoreline on foot and ATVs. Police have used sniffer dogs and an RCMP helicopter equipped with an infrared camera. But the search did not lead them to the fugitives.

“Although there is a possibility that the suspects are deceased, we must continue to remain vigilant and investigate every tip and lead as till such time as we either locate a body or make an arrest,” Sgt. Manaigre added.

Supt. Rupa said the RCMP will maintain a footprint in the region, as it begins pulling out its specialized search resources. A five-member RCMP detachment is located in Gillam, but no police officer is based in Fox Lake Cree Nation, where about 500 people live.

“If we thought people were here, we would not be leaving,” he said. “The only time we would scale down is because at the end of the day, we are of the mindset and the belief that after everything we have done, we don’t see any likelihood of those suspects posing a threat at this point.”

Mr. Forman, Gillam’s mayor, said Tuesday he appreciates the resources the RCMP have poured into the manhunt. Like many residents, he was hopeful the discovery of the rowboat would lead to the police finding Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod.

He expects the uncertainty will be tough for some residents.

“I don’t know how people will react to this. I’ll find out over time,” he said. “Some people are going to be understanding of it and other people are going to be upset at the prospect of not having closure.”

With a report from Ian Bailey in Vancouver

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