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Police believe the father suspected of killing his three children may have taken refuge in the British Columbia wilderness.

If he has, Allan Schoenborn is the latest in a long list of fugitives who have used British Columbia's vast, remote wilderness as an escape route or hiding place to elude police for days, weeks, months and even years.

Kevin Vermette shot four young adults at a campsite near Kitimat in July 1997 - killing three - and then reportedly fled into the forest. He was never seen again.

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Ernest Meigs walked into his former girlfriend's home in Surrey in May 2002, where he raped a tenant, beat the girlfriend's mother and dragged his former girlfriend into a car.

He drove into the B.C. Interior, where the woman was later found unhurt on a logging road near Merritt.

About five days later, Mr. Meigs knocked on an elderly woman's door on the outskirts of Merritt. Cold, hungry and tired, he said he wanted to turn himself in.

In November 2001, RCMP officers posing as journalists arrested John Bjornstrom, the so-called Bushman of the Shuswap, who had been hiding in an underground lair in the Shuswap Lake area near the southern B.C. city of Salmon Arm.

Mr. Bjornstrom had been stealing from cabin owners after walking away from a prison camp near Kamloops in 1998.

Mr. Schoenborn has been at large since last Sunday and while police have received many tips, there have been no confirmed sightings.

The bodies of his three young children - Kaitlynne, 10, Max, eight, and Cordon, five - were found inside a mobile home in Merritt, B.C., a ranching and logging community located 270 kilometres east of Vancouver.

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The Merritt area is dotted with logging, ranching and recreation roads that lead to grazing ranges, thick forests and numerous ramshackle fishing and hunting cabins in the woods near lakes and streams.

The area is also a junction for major highways leading west to Vancouver, east to the Okanagan and Alberta and secondary routes to tiny mining towns in the B.C. mountains.

The most the RCMP have said about Mr. Schoenborn's whereabouts is that they believe he fled into the bush with his dog, Van Gogh.

Police issued a menacing photo of Mr. Schoenborn, scarred and dishevelled.

He's short - five-feet-four inches - weighs about 130 pounds and is balding. His eyes are hazel, but can appear yellow, RCMP said. He has a distinctive scar down the left side of his face and scars on both ears.

He smokes.

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Merritt rancher Jolene Lawrence said she and her neighbours believe Mr. Schoenborn could easily find a secure hideout if he fled to the forests near Merritt.

"It's definitely possible that he could be hiding out in the area," said Ms. Lawrence who helps manage the Stump Lake Ranch, a 4,000-head cattle operation about 40 minutes drive east Merritt.

"Around the Merritt area, definitely, there is a lot of forest," she said. "There are a lot of old shacks and cabins and lakes."

Overnight temperatures in the Merritt region have hovered near or just below zero over the past week and a person, even slightly prepared, could survive in the wilds at this time of year, Ms. Lawrence said.

"It'd be different if it was January and there was a foot of snow on the ground and it was minus 30," she said.

A suburban Victoria police officer who's travelled frequently in the Merritt area agrees there are many places there where a fugitive could run for cover.

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"I'm familiar with the Merritt-Princeton area and it's a vast area," said Sergeant John Price of the Saanich Police Department. "We get glimpses of it as we drive down a highway that borders on a wilderness.

"But you get on a logging road and then follow the logging road until it ends and then get onto a deer trail and start walking.

"You're talking about a very vast country. It's very easy for people to disappear in the backcountry especially if they're equipped and they know what they're doing."

Mr. Schoenborn was reportedly seen in an outdoors store with his daughter the day of the killings. It's unclear what he may have purchased and its unclear what kind of experience he may have in the woods.

Sgt. Price said finding people in urban areas is easier than chasing somebody in the bush.

"The urban setting provides for more chance encounters and more chance of potential witnesses coming forward, saying, 'hey, I saw vehicle or I saw that guy at a 7-Eleven,' " he said.

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Sgt. Price said it is difficult for police to find people when they don't want to be found.

"The ones that want to be found, there's a trail, always a very obvious trail or a bunch of dots easily connected," he said. "But when you have somebody who doesn't want to be found, they're next to impossible to find."

In backcountry or bush situations, it's often an inadvertent incident that leads to the discovery of the fugitive, Sgt. Price said. A member of the public usually stumbles upon the wanted person and reports it to police, he said.

The public plays a huge role in helping police find people, which is why police release photos, vehicle descriptions and other pieces of information about the person they are looking for, said Sgt. Price.

"There's only so many police officers which equate to only so many pairs of eyes, and 35 million Canadians - all potential witnesses - are aids to police," he said.

A major part of a fugitive or missing person investigation also involves the police checking to see if the person has returned to old haunts, which could involve work, family or friends, Sgt. Price said.

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In Kitimat, residents of the northwest B.C. community are divided about what happened to Mr. Vermette.

About half of the community of about 9,000 residents believe he escaped and is alive somewhere. The other half believes he committed suicide or died in the forest and his body has yet to be discovered, said resident Nelson Almeida.

"We heard stories that he just took off," he said. "They couldn't find a single clue. He just disappeared out into the bush. Supposedly he was good in the bush. Never to be seen again."

In 1997, RCMP described Mr. Vermette, 42, as a skilled outdoorsman familiar with hiking trails and logging roads that crisscross the area.

The Mounties said they suspected Mr. Vermette was in the Kitimat area primarily because there were few escape routes.

"To the east and west you're talking hundreds of kilometres before you hit a main highway or built-up area," said Staff Sergeant Peter Howie. "And if you go down the channel you're 70 miles from open water."

In Merritt, the RCMP have more than 20 officers on the Schoenborn case and are chasing more than 100 tips from the public.

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