Suspected teenage killers Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod are dead, and the hunt across Canada for them is over – but the investigation into their apparent murder spree goes on.
The teenagers’ bodies were loaded on to separate RCMP planes on Thursday afternoon (AEST). They were to be flown to Winnipeg for autopsies, which will hopefully reveal how the pair died.
Canadian journalist Joe Scarpelli said the bodies were found in such a difficult location on the Nelson River that they had to be taken by boat to a loading dock. From there, they were taken to Gillam’s airport.
The final flights came after the exhaustive three-week manhunt for Schmegelsky and McLeod, both 19, ended overnight on Wednesday (AEST), when Canadian police revealed they had found two bodies in the remote Manitoba wilderness.
“We believe they are, in fact, the individuals we were searching for,” RCMP British Columbia assistant commissioner Kevin Hackett said.
“I’m confident it is them but to identify them officially and to be sure we have to go to autopsy.
“I am confident there is no further risk to the public.”
But Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett acknowledged that the families of the teenagers’ alleged victims – Australian Lucas Fowler, his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, and Canadian botanist Leonard Dyck, 64 – might never know why their loved ones were killed.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult for us to ascertain definitively what the motive was,” he said.
“Obviously we will not have the opportunity to speak with the suspects.”
Two planes bound for #winnipeg tonight carrying two bodies believed to be Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, will land within hours and be sent for autopsies. #canadamanhunt #bcmurders https://t.co/B4I9lCS3t1
— Brittany Greenslade (@BrittAtGlobal) August 8, 2019
Until then, Schmegelsky and McLeod had not been seen for weeks, despite a search stretching 5000 kilometres across Canada – further than the distance between Sydney and Perth.
It began on July 15 in the western province of British Columbia, when the bodies of Mr Fowler, 23, and Ms Deese, 24, were found in a ditch beside their broken down Chevrolet van.
Four days later Professor Dyck, 64, was found dead on another BC highway. His Toyota RAV4 was missing and two kilometres away a Dodge pickup truck had been set on fire.
The Dodge was identified as McLeod’s. But he, along with best mate Schmegelsky, had vanished. The RCMP initially treated them as missing.
The teenagers drove the stolen RAV4 3000 kilometres east to Gillam. On July 22, they dumped it in bushland and set it on fire.
On July 24, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police named the two teenagers as suspects in the three murders.
A huge deployment of police manpower descended on Gillam and more than 11,000 square kilometres of wilderness was searched by officers on the ground and drones, helicopters and Royal Canadian Air Force planes. The teenagers were not found.
Schmegelsky and McLeod’s families said they had bush skills. But survival experts warned plenty of danger lurked in the Manitoba forest.
A polar bear was spotted during the search for the suspects earlier today – about 200km north of Gillam. Just some of the wildlife that can be found in northern Manitoba. pic.twitter.com/Z1hbbtOCxw
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 27, 2019
It wasn’t the black bears, polar bears and wolves who were the biggest danger, according to Dave Arama, from WSC Survival School in Ontario – It was the relentless blood-sucking deer flies, mosquitos, sand flies and other bugs.
“They eat you alive,” he said. “They won’t stop biting until until your eyes close and you can’t see no more.
For a while, it appeared the duo had fled a further 2000 kilometres east to Ontario after the public – following widespread media and social media coverage – provided more than 30 false sightings and tips within one eight-hour period.
Searching continued in the Gillam wilderness despite no confirmed sightings of the pair since a July 22 petrol stop.
“Our officers knew that we just needed to find that one piece of evidence that could move this search forward,” RCMP Manitoba assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy said.
The breakthrough came on Friday with the discovery of “items” on the shoreline of the Nelson River, about eight kilometres from where the duo dumped the RAV4.
The RCMP still will not say what those items were, other than they were “directly linked to the suspects”. But whatever they were, they meant police could narrow down their search.
Specialised searchers began scanning high-probability areas, including dive teams who went into the river.
About 10am on Wednesday Manitoba time (2am Thursday AEST) RCMP officers “located two male bodies, in the dense brush, within one kilometre from where the items were found”.
The RCMP passed the news on to the victims’ families. Ms Deese’s mother told the ABC she was “speechless, upset and overwhelmed”.
— Kylie Stanton (@kyliestanton) August 7, 2019
Mr Fowler’s father is one of NSW’s highest ranking police officers, Chief Inspector Stephen Fowler for Sydney’s north-west Hills district.
Canadian authorities have declined to make many aspects of their investigation public, including how they were able to determine Schmegelsky and McLeod were responsible for the three BC deaths.
Mr Fowler and Ms Deese were killed 467 kilometres away from Mr Dyck.
“Suffice to say that there is significant evidence that links both crime scenes,” Inspector Hackett said.