News World This is how the search for the Canadian teen suspects unfolded

This is how the search for the Canadian teen suspects unfolded

Chynna Deese and Lucas Fowler embrace at a service station a day before they were found dead. Photo: RCMP
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A manhunt for 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky had spread across three provinces and spanned hundreds of kilometres.

“If you look at the distance they travelled it’s like travelling from London to Moscow to put things in perspective, coupled with the fact that they were travelling in areas that are not highly populated,” British Columbia RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett said.

Police confirmed today that two bodies were found approximately 8km from where the pair dumped their stolen Toyota RAV4.

The suspects had used two stolen cars while on the run.

Mr McLeod and Mr Schmegelsky had originally been considered missing persons until police later announced they were suspects in the murder of Mr Fowler and Ms Deese.

They were also charged with second-degree murder over the death of Leonard Dyck, 64.

Police believe the pair may have crossed paths with Mr Fowler and Ms Deese near Liard Hot Springs, in the Yukon territory, on July 14 or 15.

Mr Fowler and Ms Deese were shot dead on the side of a highway. Their bodies were found on July 15.

Days later on July 18, Mr McLeod and Mr Schmegelsky were 350kms west in Jade City, the Vancouver Sun reported.

Cassiar Mountain Jade Store owner Claudia Bunce said the teenagers had visited her store for free coffee and were on their own.

The teenagers then allegedly murdered botanist Mr Dyck on a British Columbia highway, which is roughly 500km from where Mr Fowler and Ms Deese were found.

Leonard Dyck was found dead at a highway pull out.

The pair’s stolen Dodge pickup truck was found in flames on July 19, 2km from Mr Dyck’s body, near Dease Lake.

The teenagers were reported missing after failing to contact family members.

They are believed to have then driven east across Canada’s north, in a stolen Toyota RAV4, to the tiny town of Gillam, in north-east Manitoba, which is 3,000km from where the third body was found.

They were spotted along the way in another province, in northern Saskatchewan.

The Toyota was found days later dumped outside of Gillam.

Originally, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Royal Canadian Air Force used teams on the ground and planes with infrared cameras and imaging radar to search 11,000 square kilometres around the town of Gillam and nearby wilderness areas.

People familiar with the search area said the terrain was dense and swampy, and inhabited by wildlife like bears and swarms of insects.

At its peak, the investigation included members of the Canadian air force and military, as well as drones, dogs, emergency crews and RCMP major crime units.

The RCMP search honed in on the remote community of Gillam in northern Manitoba.

“Not only are our officers combing through kilometres of dense northern forest, they’re also challenged with searching and clearing large abandoned buildings,” RCMP Manitoba tweeted.

The huge presence of police was a shock to the tiny, remote communities of northern Manitoba

The residents of this tiny inland island locked their doors and hid inside after a tip-off that the Canadian fugitives may be hiding in nearby forest.
Days later police said they had scaled back the search, later revealing they were also looking into the possibility the suspects had some sort of assistance in fleeing the area.

Authorities were alerted to a possible sighting of the pair at a local dump in the York Landing area, which is 80kms away from Gillam. They later confirmed there was no sign of the teenagers.

While the focus remained on Gillam, authorities were also on alert in an area almost 5,000km away in the eastern Canadian province of Ontario after police received more than 30 tips within an eight-hour period on August 2.

Officers searched cottages, cabins, waterways, and along the rail line for any signs of the suspects.

The Ontario Provincial Police said they had set up an investigative team to follow up on potential sightings.

One unconfirmed sighting included “a suspicious” white vehicle driving through a construction zone on a highway in the small community of Kapuskasing, Ontario.

More than 260 tips were provided to investigators but none established that the suspects were outside of the Gillam area.

At the time, police had reminded the public that it was possible the suspects were no longer in the town.

“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,” RCMP Manitoba tweeted.

Sudbury Police also urged the community to rely on their social media/website as their trusted source of info.

“Should any sighting be confirmed we will issue a community notification immediately,” it said.

It was not clear at the time whether the boat was used by the fugitives.

After weeks of searching, RCMP announced on Saturday (local time) that underwater recovery teams were being called in to Gillam. Divers began searching the Nelson River on Sunday.

Earlier, Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported that a tinnie had been found along the shore, spotted during a helicopter search.

“We’re going to search in the area around where we found this boat just to make sure that there is nobody attached to it, whether that is our subjects or anyone else for that matter,” Inspector Leon Fiedler said.

The paper quoted Inspector Fiedler as saying it was not clear whether the tinnie was used by the two suspects.

Searches of the riverbank turned up “several items directly linked” to the two fugitives.

Police have not released details of the evidence that was found on the shoreline of the Nelson River, just 9km from Gillam.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said the critical evidence found last week helped police locate the bodies.

Following the discovery of the evidence, authorities were able to narrow down the search area.

Police then sent in specialised teams and began examining “high-probability areas”.

They later confirmed two bodies had been found within a kilometre of where the items were found and approximately 8km from where they left their Toyota RAV4.

A police helicopter initially spotted the damaged boat along the Nelson River last week. Photo: Reuters

Police said they were investigating all possibilities, including that the suspects might have drowned.

Ms MacLatchy said an autopsy would confirm the identities of the two bodies and causes of death.

British Columbia RCMP said the investigations into the deaths of Mr Dyck, Ms Deese and Mr Fowler were continuing.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult for us to ascertain definitively what the motive was,” Mr Hackett said.

“Obviously we will not have the opportunity to speak with the suspects.”

Mr Hackett said the area where the bodies were found was still being examined and it was “early days for the recovery of the suspects”.

Meanwhile, Deputy Mayor of Gillam John McDonald said the town was relieved the search was over, and leaders of the Cree indigenous communities in York Landing and Fox Lake requested trauma counselling for their members.