Police say two teens wanted in the killings of three people in Northern British Columbia may have received help in escaping the northeastern area of Manitoba that has been the focus of an intense manhunt.
At a briefing Friday, RCMP Corporal Julie Courchaine said police believe it’s possible that someone may have inadvertently helped the pair leave the area around Gillam, Man., about 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
“Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky may have changed their appearance. It is possible that some may not have been aware of who they were providing assistance to and may now be hesitant to come forward,” she told the media in Winnipeg.
The last known sightings of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, was July 22 in the Gillam area. Police later found the torched vehicle they were believed to be travelling in on the outskirts of the remote town.
The pair are suspects in the deaths of American Chynna Deese, 24, and her 23-year-old Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, who were shot to death on the side of a Northern British Columbia highway and found on July 15. Four days later, the body of Leonard Dyck was discovered on a road 500 kilometres away. On Wednesday, RCMP charged Mr. Schmegelsky and Mr. McLeod with second-degree murder in Mr. Dyck’s death.
Cpl. Courchaine said all Canadians need to be vigilant and on alert for the teen suspects.
Despite the theory that they may have left the region, Cpl. Courchaine said police are continuing their search of the area around Gillam.
She said investigators will be conducting a door-to-door canvass of Gillam and the nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation over the next 72 hours to gather tips and information.
As of Friday, Cpl. Courchaine said police have received about 120 tips from the public and are working through them.
RCMP officers from across Western Canada, with help from the Ontario Provincial Police, are searching an insect-laden landscape of dense bush, swamps, and forests surrounding Gillam.
The feeling in Gillam is “eerie,” resident Stephanie Linklater said Thursday, with a heavy police presence reassuring residents that they are looking out for their safety and reminding them that fugitives considered armed and dangerous are on the loose.
“There’s a lot of hunters around here,” said resident Dolores Cromarty. “And they’re keeping their guns close.”
A spokesperson for the RCMP in British Columbia said the Mounties have taken an interest in photos of Mr. Schmegelsky on social media, first obtained by The Globe and Mail, wearing army attire and holding Nazi paraphernalia. In an e-mail, Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet said copies of the photos have been provided to investigators. However, she did not reply to a question about the direction of any investigation. Mr. Schmegelsky’s father said he didn’t believe his son identified as a neo-Nazi, despite his fascination with the collectibles.