Mounties to scale down resources in Gillam, Man., search for B.C. murder suspects continues

WatchIt's a crime that's captivated the nation and the world. But after 9 days of an intense search in the unforgiving terrain of Northern Manitoba, the manhunt for two B.C. fugitives is being scaled down. But the search is by no means over. Kori Sidaway reports.

Manitoba’s top Mountie says police will be scaling down the search for the B.C. murder suspects but they will still be looking for the pair from Port Alberni.

“We have not had any confirmed sightings of the suspects since the burned vehicle was located,”  Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said during a news conference Wednesday, referencing the suspect’s burned-out RAV4 discovered in Gillam last week.

“Taking into account all of the work so far, it’s come time to reassess our deployment of resources to the area. Over the next week, the RCMP will begin to scale down the scope of our search efforts in northern Manitoba. This will include the phased withdrawal of the majority of RCMP and RCAF personnel and assets over the coming week.”

RCMP update on reducing search force for B.C. fugitives

The Manitoba RCMP Commanding Officer is addressing the reduction of search efforts in Gillam, Man., at a press conference in Winnipeg. Police and military have been scouring the area for the two suspects wanted in connection with three B.C. homicides.

Posted by CBC Manitoba on Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Certain specialized and tactical resources are remaining in Gillam to look for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19. The Royal Canadian Air Force and other RCMP resources will also be able to return the area if the search picks up again.

“We are not ending this search,” MacLatchy said.

MacLatchy says officers have searched more than 11,000 square kilometres of wilderness using the best technology available, including frontline and tactical officers, police dogs, forensic identification specialists and major crime investigators. An RCMP plane with infrared capability was also used.

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

Every home was canvassed and every abandoned building in Gillam and the Fox Lake Cree Nation was searched. MacLatchy said rail lines, hydro corridors, lakes, rivers, areas of tundra and muskeg and dense forest and brush. Over 250 tips were received and followed up on.

Schmegelsky and McLeod are charged with second-degree murder in the death of University of British Columbia professor Leonard Dyck near Dease Lake in northern B.C. His body was found on July 19.

Police also consider them suspects in the fatal shootings of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, whose bodies were found on the Alaska Highway near Liard Hot Springs, B.C. four days before Dyck was discovered deceased.

MacLatchy offered her condolences to the Fowler, Deese and Dyck families Wednesday on behalf of Manitoba RCMP.

“I know that today’s news is not what the families of the victims and the communities of northern Manitoba wanted to hear but when searching for people in vast, remote and rugged locations, it’s always a possibility that they’re not going to be immediately located.”

A burned-out RAV4 were travelling in was found burned out near Gillam on July 22. Gillam is also where the last confirmed sightings of the suspects occurred before the burned-out vehicle was found.

MacLatchy also described the terrain in northern Manitoba as immense and unforgiving, with unpredictable weather.

“Additionally, it remains a possibility the suspects had some sort of assistance to flee the area,” MacLatchy said.

Prior to the discovery of the vehicle, the suspects were seen in Cold Lake, Alta. and Meadow Lake, Sask. on July 21. Police released some surveillance footage from Meadow Lake showing Schmegelsky in a T-shirt and McLeod in army fatigues walking around a store later Sunday in the hopes it would generate more tips from the public.

The search also expanded to York Landing, 90 kilometres south of Gillam, after a tip Sunday from the Indigenous-led neighbourhood watch group Bear Clan that that two men matching the descriptions had been seen at the local dump. Police were unable to substantiate the tip.

MacLatchy said the communities of Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation and York Landing showed resilience, strength and courage while the massive manhunt took place.

“I thank you for all the help you have provided to our officers during these challenging times,” MacLatchy said.

Anyone with information on Schmegelsky or McLeod or anyone who sees the suspects is asked to call their local police department.

With files from The Canadian Press 


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