Canadian police will conduct door-to-door investigations amid warnings two fugitive teens may have changed their appearance and received inadvertent help from the public.
Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, are suspected of the gruesome killings of Australian traveller Lucas Fowler, 23, and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, on July 14 in the western Canadian province of British Columbia. A third victim, Vancouver botanist Professor Leonard Dyck, 64, was found around the same time near the fugitives’ burnt out vehicle.
The pair have already been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Professor Dyck.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say they are working hard to also approve double-murder charges for the deaths of the young couple, whose bodies were found on the Alaska Highway, 20km away from popular tourist spot Liard Hot Springs in BC.
“I know for the investigators that’s a priority for them,” RCMP spokesperson Sergeant Janelle Shoihet told Global News.
“I don’t have a timeline, but we’re working really hard. We anticipate them, but we don’t know what that looks like.”
The news comes as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police released footage of one confirmed sighting of the pair at a co-op store in Meadow Lake in the neighbouring state of Saskatchewan on July 21 – almost one week ago.
The surveillance video shows the teenagers ambling down an aisle, with McLeod wearing a shirt with a “Cathulhu” logo on it and Schmegelsky in a button-down shirt with a camouflage pattern, and then exiting the store.
Police have also dismissed a photo which appeared to depict McLeod posing with a newspaper with a “Wanted” headline.
The image circulating online, which showed a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to the alleged teen killer, has been rejected as a “false alarm”.
“We can confirm that the current photo circulating online of a man posing with the front page of yesterday’s paper IS NOT one of our suspects,” the RCMP Manitoba wrote on Twitter.
Canadian authorities said the Gillam community in the state of Manitoba where the suspected killers are thought to be hiding was experiencing fear and uncertainty the longer the pair remained undiscovered in the wilds as experts warned they could strike again.
Police said door knocking would occur over a 72-hour period as they revealed that someone may have unknowingly helped the pair escape.
“Kam McLeod & Bryer Schmegelsky MAY have changed their appearance & inadvertently been given assistance to leave the area by someone that was not aware of who they were,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police posted on Twitter.
“If anyone out there is hesitant to come forward – it is crucial for you call police immediately.
“Over the next 72 hours, investigators will conduct door-to-door canvases in the Town of Gillam & Fox Lake Cree Nation, in hopes of generating new tips & information.”
Kam McLeod & Bryer Schmegelsky MAY have changed their appearance & 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. #rcmpmb
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 26, 2019
Experts have warned the two teenagers have the potential to inflict greater violence the longer they hide from authorities.
Walden University criminal psychologist Eric Hickey said the pair posed a threat to anyone they came across as they had “nothing to lose”.
“I suspect they’re in hiding for a short time until they run out of resources,” Mr Hickey told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
“There’s no turning back now,” he said.
Police have been inundated with tip-offs from the public but there are only two confirmed sightings.
Police said they were open to the possibility the pair may have escaped the region.
A heavy police presence continues in the remote region of north-east Canada in the state of Manitoba as they scour harsh and wild terrain for the runaways.
Earlier the mother of one of the Canadian teen fugitives urged her son to “come home” in a handwritten note.
Schmegelsky’s mother, who signed off as “Bryer’s mom” in a letter obtained by the DailyMail, described her 18-year-old son as loving and caring and said he would “never hurt anyone”.
“Please read this for me. Please. Please.
“Bryer is a careing, loveing [sic] boy, that would never hurt anyone. He grew up in a loveing [sic] home. WE miss, and love him dearly.
“WE want both boys to come home safe,” she said, with the DailyMail naming her as Deborah Sweeney.
The public plea came as the father of Schmegelsky said he expected his son’s alleged murderous rampage to end in “a blaze of glory” gun battle with police.
A distraught Alan Schmegelsky said his son was dealing with some “very serious pain”, was on a “suicide mission” and he expected him to be killed by police.
“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.”
Canadian locals in the remote northern swampy and insect-infected outpost of Gillam, Manitoba, doubt the two teenagers who went on a killing spree 3000km away can last much longer.
As a huge police presence, including SWAT teams, sniffer dogs and helicopters, tightened the net around the town on Thursday night (local time) with roadblocks at the only exit points, locals say their town is “at the end of the line” and there is no way out for the pair, believed to be hiding out in amongst the dense bush, thick forest and impenetrable swamp.
— Ian Froese (@ianfroese) July 26, 2019
As the search continues, more information is emerging to paint a picture of the young men who are suspected of three recent murders.
It is understood McLeod and Schmegelsky both have online accounts connected to extreme far-right politics, sexualised Japanese anime and violent video games, according to Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
Steam video game accounts believed to be owned by the suspected triple killers were last active a week before their pickup truck was found on fire on British Columbia’s Highway 37.
An anonymous online gamer sent a series of photos to The Globe allegedly showing Schmegelsky in military uniform carrying weapons, wearing a gas mask and brandishing a swastika armband.
The online gamer said he stopped playing games with Schmegelsky earlier this year after he continued to praise Hitler’s Germany.
Mr Schmegelsky said his son had a troubled upbringing since his parents divorced when he was five and believes he’ll go down shooting.
“Basically, he’s going to be dead today or tomorrow. I know that,” he said.
“Rest in peace, Bryer. I love you. I’m so sorry all this had to happen. I’m so sorry that I couldn’t rescue you.”
Mr Schmegelsky said his son spent a lot of time playing video games and watching YouTube.
“A normal child doesn’t travel across the country killing people,” he said. “A child in some very serious pain does.”
Mr McLeod’s father, Keith, released a statement emphasising his son’s compassionate nature despite communities across Canada being terrified of crossing paths with him.
“This is what I do know – Kam is a kind, considerate, caring young man,” Mr McLeod wrote.
If the teenagers did flee into the wilderness, littered with bears , Gillam’s deputy mayor John McDonald said they could not have picked a worse time.
“The sandflies came out three days ago and they’re just voracious,” he said.
“I’m quite sure they’ll be more than happy to have someone find them.”
The revelation came just hours after police warned the accused triple killers had been sighted in the area.
But Mr Schmegelsky said his son and Mr McLeod, childhood friends from the town of Port Alberni, were experienced in the wilderness and considered themselves “survivalists”.
“If there’s any hope that Bryer and Kam are alive, it’s because they … would have gone into the woods and they know how to hide, because they’ve been doing this for the last two-and-a-half years,” he said earlier this week.
There continues to be a heavy police presence in the Gillam area. We have deployed our Emergency Response Team & Crisis Negotiation Team. The RCMP Major Crime Unit is involved, as well as RCMP North District resources. #rcmpmb pic.twitter.com/LLB8rRfBcv
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 25, 2019
Mr Fowler, from Sydney, and Ms Deese, from North Carolina, were on a Canadian road trip when they were killed.
Gillam mayor Dwayne Forman told the National Post he was surprised the teenage suspects chose to drive to Gillam because to get out of the town, they would have to turn around and go back along the same provincial road.
Or they could catch a train north to the town of Churchill.
“We’re the end of the road,” Mr Forman said.
“You can’t go any further beyond us.”