Police scale down search for teen murder suspects


Police released CCTV images of the two suspectsImage copyright
RCMP handout

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Police released CCTV images of the two suspects spotted on 21 July

Canadian police say they are going to reduce the intensity of the search for two teenagers suspected in the murder of three people.

Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, were last seen near the remote community of Gillam, Manitoba province.

Police have focused their “exhaustive” manhunt around there for over a week, but have found no trace of the pair.

Now they say there will be a “phased withdrawal” of resources in the area in the coming days.

Military air assistance will also no longer continue.

“I know that today’s news is not what the victims’ families and the people of northern Manitoba wanted to hear, however this is always a possibility when searching in vast, remote and rugged areas with terrain that is difficult,” said Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy on Wednesday.

But she added that the manhunt for the two young men was not over, and some “specialised and tactical resources” would remain in Gillam.

Searchers have covered some 11,000sq km (4,250 square miles) of land by air or foot since 23 July.

The last confirmed sighting of Mr McLeod and Mr Schmegelsky was over a week ago, and a burnt-out vehicle they had been driving was found 40km (25 miles) from Gillam.

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Media captionManhunt for suspected killers hits Manitoba

Police subsequently searched some 500 homes and abandoned buildings in the area, and combed the region on foot and with all-terrain vehicles, and by air with helicopters, military planes and drones.

The search focused primarily around Gillam, though police descended for two days on the remote community of York Landing, about 90km to the south, following an unconfirmed sighting.

Ms MacLatchy insisted the authorities had done everything possible to find the suspects.

“It’s a very tough place to find somebody who doesn’t want to be found,” she said.

She noted that police were not ruling out the possibility that the two young men could have inadvertently received assistance leaving the region, or even that they could be deceased.

How did the manhunt unfold?

Mr McLeod and Mr Schmegelsky were initially considered missing when their camper van was found burnt out near Dease Lake, in British Columbia, on 19 July.

A couple of kilometres away, police found the body of Leonard Dyck, 64, a botany lecturer at the University of British Columbia.

On 23 July, the teenagers were named by police as suspects in the deaths of Mr Dyck, and the fatal shooting of a couple a few days earlier just south of Liard Hot Springs.

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New South Wales Police

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Chynna Deese and Lucas Fowler were killed between 14 and 15 July

Chynna Deese, a 24-year-old American, and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler, 23, had been on a two-week-long road trip across Canada when their bodies were found along the Alaska Highway.

Police have since charged Mr Schmegelsky and Mr McLeod with second-degree murder in the death of Mr Dyck, although no charges have yet been laid against them over the deaths of Ms Deese and Mr Fowler.

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Mr Dyck’s family said his death had “created unthinkable grief”

The two young men are believed to have travelled some 3,300km east before the vehicle they were driving was found outside Gillam.

They were also once pulled over during a routine alcohol check earlier in July in Manitoba but were allowed to continue as they had not yet been publicly named as murder suspects.

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