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In Split Lake, Man., RCMP officers and vehicles take the ferry to York Landing at 7 a.m. Monday to search for fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod.

Photography by Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

RCMP rushed to the small Manitoba community of York Landing on Sunday, following a reported sighting of the two men wanted in the killings of three people in British Columbia.

Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, have been the target of a week-long manhunt from British Columbia to northern Manitoba. On Sunday afternoon, members of the Bear Clan Patrol say they spotted two men fitting the descriptions of Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod near the garbage dump and water treatment plan of the York Factory First Nation. The community is about 200 kilometres southwest of Gillam, where the RCMP have focused their search.

Travis Bighetty, a coordinator of Bear Clan, said he was driving with fellow members Justin Coelho and Danielle McMaster just after 4 p.m. when they spotted two men matching the suspects’ descriptions about 40 yards from them at the dump. One wore a grey sweatshirt and the other wore a camouflage sweatshirt, he said.

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Bear Clan patrollers Danielle McMaster, Justin Coelho and Travis Bighetty.

Courtesy of Travis Bighetty

Mr. Bighetty believed the two were looking for food.

“We’ve seen them in an area that is not frequented because there are bears in the territory or bears near the area, and so people avoid on foot, and it’s only accessible by vehicle.”

He said the pair ran away when they heard the sound of the patrol’s vehicle.

Mr. Bighetty’s team called police and surveyed the grounds for a few minutes to see if they could determine in which direction the two ran. “It’s dense bush and I didn’t want to put my members in danger,” he said.

Mr. Bighetty said police radios weren’t working, so RCMP officers used gun fire as a means of communicating their location.

Late Sunday evening, RCMP said they had not made any arrests but that officers were continuing to investigate the reported sighting of the two suspects.

Inspector Kevin Lewis, the commander of the search for the fugitives in Gillam, said via text message that police were on the ground in York Landing and more officers were on their way. That was just before 6 p.m. He said it remained unconfirmed at that time whether the two men were indeed Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod.

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RCMP have been pursuing Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, across Western Canada. Here is some surveillance footage of the two released by the RCMP. Police warn that anyone who sees them should call 911 immediately and not approach them.

1

CANADA

2

3

4

B.C.

ALTA.

SASK.

MAN.

0

300

U.S.

KM

0

12

KM

Stephens Lake

280

5

6

Split Lake

7

July 15, near Liard Hot Springs:

Two bodies found on Alaska Highway

1

July 18, Jade City:

Suspects spotted

2

July 19, Dease Lake:

A body found two kms from truck

belonging to suspects

3

July 21, Meadow Lake:

Suspects spotted

4

July 22, Split Lake:

Band constables pulled the pair over

before they were named suspects

5

July 23, Gillam:

Suspects’ burned-out vehicle found

6

July 28, York Landing:

Suspects spotted

7

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN;

OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

1

CANADA

2

3

MAN.

4

B.C.

ALTA.

SASK.

0

300

U.S.

KM

0

12

KM

Stephens Lake

5

280

6

Split Lake

7

July 15, near Liard Hot Springs:

Two bodies found on Alaska Highway

1

July 18, Jade City:

Suspects spotted

2

July 19, Dease Lake:

A body found two kms from truck

belonging to suspects

3

July 21, Meadow Lake:

Suspects spotted

4

July 22, Split Lake:

Band constables pulled the pair over

before they were named suspects

5

July 23, Gillam:

Suspects’ burned-out vehicle found

6

July 28, York Landing:

Suspects spotted

7

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

0

300

July 18, Jade City:

Suspects spotted

July 15, near Liard Hot Springs:

Two bodies found on Alaska Highway

KM

CANADA

ALBERTA

SASK.

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

MANITOBA

July 19, Dease Lake:

A body found two

kms from truck

belonging to suspects

July 21,

Meadow Lake:

Suspects spotted

U.S.

0

12

July 22, Split Lake:

Band constables pulled the pair over before they were named suspects

KM

Stephens Lake

280

July 23, Gillam:

Suspects’ burned-

out vehicle found

July 28,

York Landing:

Suspects spotted

Split Lake

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

Gilbert Beardy said he was at the airstrip in town when a plane arrived and he saw eight police officers and a police dog come off the aircraft in an apparent rush. “The plane didn’t even slow down,” he said. “The door opened and the guys jumped out.”

They collected their equipment, he said, spoke to members of the Bear Clan and briskly departed by trucks.

The community remains on lockdown, he said. “I’ve been sitting here with my semi-automatic 22,” he said. “Everyone has a gun.”

York Landing resident Destiny Hill said a radio station has been alerting residents to the situation every few minutes and warning people to stay inside with the doors locked.

“They’re telling everyone to lock the doors, stay indoors and not to be driving around, that only the constables and the ones patrolling should be on the road,” she said. “I’m home alone right now and I’m kind of scared."

Leroy Constant, chief of the York Factory First Nation, posted on Facebook on Sunday afternoon that Mounties were on their way to York Landing. “Everyone please remain indoors with your doors locked. And all vehicles should be parked,” Chief Constant wrote, asking that people also share the message with community members who weren’t on social media.

Police search vacant trailers in Gillam late Friday afternoon as the manhunt continues. Gillam, a town of some 1,200 people, has seen the arrival of 40 officers so far during the manhunt.

Gillam residents watch a Canadian Forces aircraft take off for another search in the bush to the north.

The manhunt for the pair has drawn 40 police officers to Gillam, a remote blue-collar community of 1,200 people about 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Until Sunday afternoon’s possible sighting, the police have had few credible leads to go on. Earlier in the day, Inspector Lewis told reporters the search for the pair could stretch on for days or weeks in the remote wilderness of northern Manitoba. The day earlier he noted that the manhunt is “evolving and dynamic.”

“We’re just waiting for the right lead to lead us in the proper direction,” he said.

The search has involved police trucks, quads, sniffer dogs, infrared-equipped drones, helicopters, boats, and since Saturday, a Canadian Air Force CC-130H Hercules plane staffed with trained search and rescue spotters, there has been no sighting of the pair since Monday, when the SUV that police believe they were driving was found on fire in a ditch near Fox Lake Cree Nation. Another military aircraft was added to the RCMP’s arsenal late Saturday, a CP-140 Aurora that has specialty surveillance capabilities, including infrared camera and imaging-radar systems, a military spokeswoman said.

Although the RCMP on Friday said they believe it’s possible someone may have inadvertently helped the suspects leave the Gillam area, Inspector Lewis said northern Manitoba remains “ground zero” for their manhunt for the fugitives.

Police officers have gone door-to-door in Gillam and Fox Lake with the hope of gathering leads and had spoken with about three-quarters of residents by Sunday morning. They have searched more than 100 abandoned houses and former work camps in the region, home to several large hydroelectric dams, and have also turned to local hunters and anglers for guidance about the landscape and rivers.

The terrain is vast and harsh. The search area spans more than 250 kilometres north to Churchill and about 160 kilometres east to York Factory, once a large fur-trading post by the shores of Hudson Bay. It also spanned west to communities such as Split Lake. The land is dense with trees, bogs, and insects and the mossy ground often sinks when walked on. There are potentially dangerous wildlife to contend with, such as wolves, black bears and polar bears. While difficult to traverse, it is not impossible to survive in this wilderness. There are gravel roads, railways, power lines and rivers to walk along, berries and fish to eat, and many trapper cabins and abandoned buildings to hide in.

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The wilderness around Gillam is thick forest and swampy muskeg where wolves, black bears and even polar bears can be found.

A sign on Manitoba Provincial Road 290 is the farthest north you can travel by car in the province. It is about 26 kilometres north of where the suspects' car was found.

Clint Sawchuk, a hunter and river tour guide based in Gillam, helped with the manhunt on Saturday, taking RCMP officers onto his 28-foot jet boat to scour the Nelson River. They covered about 13 kilometres. Two other boats were used in the search on Saturday.

“We were watching the shores for something different, something that’s out of place a bit,” Mr. Sawchuk said Sunday. They looked for boot tracks, clothing and tarps, but Mr. Sawchuk said he didn’t spot anything of note on his search.

Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod have been on the move for weeks. Friends since childhood, the pair from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island told their parents they were headed to Yukon and Northwest Territories in search of work. They left around July 13 in a vintage Dodge Ram pick-up truck and Bigfoot camper top.

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

RCMP had initially declared Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod were missing after their pick-up truck was found on fire outside Dease Lake. But on July 23, police said the teens were now suspects in the three killings. The pair has been charged with second-degree murder in Mr. Dyck’s death.

That day, the RCMP had already been alerted to another torched vehicle, this one not far from Fox Lake Cree Nation and about 58 kilometres northeast of Gillam.

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Sylvia Saunders, a safety officer at Split Lake, about 175 kilometres west of Gillam, said the two suspects were spotted in the community last Monday, July 22.

They were in a gray Toyota SUV and drove past the check stop on the gravel road leading to the small community. The community is dry and stops all vehicles, looking out for alcohol or drugs.

When the Toyota didn’t stop, two band constables followed the pair and pulled them over, Ms. Saunders said. The constables searched the vehicle.

"They told the constables that they needed to gas up," she said.

It was around 2 or 3 pm. At that point, they weren't yet named by police as suspects in the killings of three people.

"This is when we didn't know anything yet," safety officer Crystal Chornoby said.

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They believe the pair then headed to Fox Lake Cree Nation, about 180 kilometres away. Their gray Toyota was found torched near Fox Lake around 7 p.m.

The sun sets over the forests near Fox Lake Cree Nation. This is by the ditch where the suspects are believed to have burned out their car before possibly escaping into the bush.

Elders sit at a community bonfire in Fox Lake Cree Nation. The community of about 200 has been on edge since reports of the suspects nearby.

Fox Lake residents Tamara Beardy and her husband, Billy, were out strawberry picking by Limestone River with their daughter when they noticed billowing black smoke around 7 p.m. on July 22. They scrambled to their truck and drove toward the smoke and found a 2011 grey Toyota Rav 4 on fire in a ditch. They called the RCMP.

Police believe Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod had been driving that vehicle. When they pulled the charred Toyota out of the ditch, they found cans of sardines, small propane bottles, forks, orange peels, loose change and partially eaten pork chops, said Ms. Beardy, who had returned to the scene.

Ever since, residents in Fox Lake and Gillam have been on edge. These are communities where drivers wave at each other as they pass, where many people don’t lock their doors at home and some leave their keys in the ignition.

That small-town affability hasn’t faded, but everyone is being cautious, keeping their kids at home, bolting shut their doors, and some, like the Beardys, are sleeping with a shotgun in their bedroom.

“Everything has changed,” Ms. Beardy said. “Everybody is just hoping that this will be over soon.”

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Billy Beardy of Fox Lake First Nation goes out daily in his construction vehicle to patrol areas near where he and his wife, Tamara, found the fugitives' car.

Tips about suspicious vehicles and lookalike sightings of Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod have poured into police agencies across the country, Inspector Lewis said. But there have been no confirmed sightings of the pair since July 22, in the area where the Toyota was found.

Fox Lake Cree Nation resident Lynda Neckoway hopes the fugitives have been found, but noted there have been many rumours about possible sightings previously.

“It’s hard to believe. It’s hard to know,” she said Sunday night while at the Gillam airport. “Let’s hope it is, because I would like this to be put to an end.”

Capturing Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod would bring a huge relief to Fox Lake, where about 200 people live.

“We could sleep at night again. Go back to normal. Feel safe,” she said.

Bear Clan Patrol volunteer Melissa Stevenson was at the Gillam airport. She said three Bear Clan members had been in York Landing. She had not been in contact with them.

The Bear Clan group arrived in Gillam on Saturday.

“Our main objective here was to support the community, because there is a lot of fear,” she said. “We want to try to alleviate some of that fear by providing our presence in the community and supporting the people and to let them know when they call us, we’ll be there.”​

With reports from Melissa Tait and The Canadian Press

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