Huge twist in murder teens manhunt
The marathon search for the teenage suspected killers of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese on a remote Canadian highway has been reignited with the discovery of a potentially explosive new clue.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced on Saturday it was sending dive recovery teams to search the Nelson River near Gillam, the small northern Manitoba town where Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, dumped their stolen Toyota RAV4 on July 23 and disappeared.
To assist in the ongoing search for the 2 BC suspects, Manitoba RCMP's Underwater Recovery Team (URT) will be arriving in Gillam tonight & divers will begin to search a section of the Nelson River tomorrow, Sunday, August 4. #rcmpmb pic.twitter.com/lns2qlLaxw— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 3, 2019
A military scale search of Gillam and the even tinier settlement of York Landing failed to uncover any trace of the pair despite the deployment of heavily armed SWAT teams, helicopters, dogs, drones and hi-tech surveillance equipment.
Since then, sightings have been coming in thick and fast, with people claiming to have spotted the duo thousands of kilometres away in the neighbouring province of Ontario.
The new lead - believed to involve the discovery of a damaged rowboat on the banks of the Nelson River near Gillam on Friday - is the biggest breakthrough since authorities found the ditched RAV4.
RCMP Inspector Leon Fiedler said the boat was spotted during a helicopter search of the river on Friday afternoon. Authorities retrieved the green, flat-bottom aluminium vessel later that evening.
"It had gone through some rapids and had been significantly damaged," Insp Fiedler told the Globe and Mail.
"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."
The dive team is the latest attempt by the RCMP to bring closure to a manhunt that began more than 3000 kilometres away on July 14 in Canada's western province of British Columbia.
When the trail ran cold after the suspects seemingly vanished into the dense, swampy bushland that surrounds Gillam, locals speculated they could have made their way to Port Nelson, Churchill or York Landing and escaped in one of the many small boats and canoes that line the waterways and shorelines.
There are many such towns across Canada's north. Just east of Gillam, where the Nelson river joins Hudson Bay lies Port Nelson. It's now a ghost town. Talk about money wasting - this 17 truss railway bridge was built over one hundred years ago, and never used. pic.twitter.com/J5YWPyZMvm— Jake Andrew Giddes 🇨🇦 (@JakeGiddes) July 27, 2019
McLeod and Schmegelsky have been charged with the second degree murder of University of British Columbia professor Leonard Dyck, 64, and are suspects in the murders of Ms Deese, 24, and Mr Fowler, 23.
The couple was found shot to death alongside their campervan on the Alaska Highway on July 15. Mr Dyck's body was found four days later on another highway - 2km from the teen suspects' burnt-out Dodge pick up truck.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced on Friday it had set up an investigative team to follow up on potential sightings of the pair - including one claiming they were travelling in a white Ford Focus, and another placing them at a fast food restaurant.
The OPP said it received more than 30 tips in less than eight hours on Thursday.
Survival experts predict the teenagers would struggle to stay alive if they attempted to hide in the swampy, bug-infested wilderness around Gillam without shelter and equipment.
While the area is populated with polar bears, black bears and wolves, locals say the suspects have most to fear from the sandflies, predicting they would get "eaten alive".