Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese. Picture: AFP.
Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese. Picture: AFP.

Murdered Lucas Fowler’s family’s selfless act

THE family of murdered Australian tourist Lucas Fowler, who was shot dead alongside his American girlfriend on a Canadian highway, has made a moving request ahead of his funeral.

Mr Fowler's sister, Savannah Fowler, took to Facebook overnight to inform wellwishers that her family wasn't endorsing any crowd-funding for themselves, despite many offers of support, and asked that those wanting to donate flowers or money instead give to charity.

"We know that many will want to send flowers as a tribute to Lucas and Chynna," Ms Fowler wrote.

"We would ask that instead, you consider donating to a charity close to your heart and that you notate the donation 'for Lucas and Chynna'.

"Our family have not and do not intend to endorse any crowd funding for Lucas.

"We thank you for all your support."

Mr Fowler, 23, and Chynna Deese, 24, were murdered a fortnight ago after their blue Chevrolet van broke down on a British Columbia highway.

A manhunt for the couple's alleged teenage killers - Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky - has so far failed to capture the pair on the run in remote northern Canada.

McLeod and Schmegelsky have been charged with the second degree murder of botanist Leonard Dyck, 64, whose body was found 2km from the suspects' burnt-out Dodge on July 19 - four days after Ms Deese and Mr Fowler turned up dead on the Alaska Highway.

Mr Fowler is set to be farewelled at a memorial service on Sydney's north shore on Friday as Canadian police continue hunting for his alleged killers.

Ms Deese was farewelled by her loved ones at a service at New City Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, a few days ago.

Mr Fowler and Ms Deese met at a hostel in Croatia two years ago and fell in love. The globetrotters were on a road trip across Canada when they were murdered.

Mr Fowler's family said after his death they'd lost a dear son, brother, grandson and friend in the "most terrible of circumstances". "To lose someone so young and vibrant, who was travelling the world and just enjoying life to the full, is devastating," they said in a statement. "To know his beautiful girlfriend, Chynna Deese, also lost her life in this violent event is too cruel."

Mr Fowler's father, Stephen Fowler, is a senior NSW Police officer.

 

 

The RCMP calls for dashcam footage near Muncho Lake, a popular picnic spot off the Alaska Highway, in the time frame of the murders of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese. Picture: Twitter
The RCMP calls for dashcam footage near Muncho Lake, a popular picnic spot off the Alaska Highway, in the time frame of the murders of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese. Picture: Twitter

 

MANHUNT SCALED BACK

Police today confirmed that Canadian Armed Forces have pulled out of the search for Mcleod and Schmegelsky.

The two teenagers suspected of killing three people sparked a major manhunt using helicopters, drones, boats and dogs that has lasted nine days and stretched across three provinces in the country's remote north.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Kevin Lewis said the force has decided they no longer need military assistance. At one point a military Hercules aircraft was used in the search.

"We want to again be focused with our own resources and determine where we should go from here," Mr Lewis said.

Manitoba Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said it wasn't what the victims' families wanted to hear but that searching for people in vast, remote rugged locations often takes time.

"Over the next week, the RCMP will begin to scale down the search efforts in northern Manitoba," she said.

"This will include the phased withdrawal of the majority of specialised RCMP and RCAF personnel and assets over the coming week.

"To be clear, we're not ending the search - a number of tactical resources and specialised assets will remain positioned in the Gillam area and will continue with the efforts to locate the murder suspects."

Ground and air searches will continue around Gillam, Manitoba, the last place Schmegelsky and McLeod were confirmed to have been seen. A vehicle that had been used by the suspects was found burned last week near the town, about 1000kms north of provincial capital Winnipeg.

Police on the ground in Gillam are understood to be retracing the steps of the teens from where they left their burnt-out car in the area.

The hunt involves 40 police. RCMP also said they will be returning to Fox Lake Cree Nation, where they have previously done door-to-door searches.

 

The last confirmed sighting of the suspects was in Split Lake on July 22. Their last known getaway car was found torched in Gillam later the same day. Picture: Supplied
The last confirmed sighting of the suspects was in Split Lake on July 22. Their last known getaway car was found torched in Gillam later the same day. Picture: Supplied

On Wednesday, the RCMP pulled its military-scale search operation out of the tiny river community of York Landing and returned to Gillam, to continue the manhunt.

The massive operation descended on York Landing after a sighting of Schmegelsky and McLeod rummaging for food at a landfill before fleeing into bushes after realising they'd been seen.

Despite dozens of officers, sniffer dogs and drones combing the remote towns - about 90km apart - there was no trace found of the pair and police said they were "unable to substantiate the tip".

"The heavy police presence in York Landing has been withdrawn and policing resources in the community will return to normal. The RCMP thanks the community for their patience and understanding," police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The York Landing tip included information that the two people sighted were wearing the same clothing - Schmegelsky in a camouflage jacket and McLeod in a blue T-shirt - that they were pictured in on CCTV footage from a hardware store in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

An exhaustive search of the area failed to locate the duo, childhood friends and former Walmart employees from Vancouver Island, who had either managed another miraculous escape or were never there in the first place.

 

Mr Fowler, 23 and Ms Deese, 24, were on the road trip of a lifetime when they were killed. Picture: Deese Family via AP
Mr Fowler, 23 and Ms Deese, 24, were on the road trip of a lifetime when they were killed. Picture: Deese Family via AP

 

The Toyota Rav4 SUV was still smoking when it was found abandoned in dense bush near a rail line at a First Nation reserve 70km from Gillam. Picture: Supplied
The Toyota Rav4 SUV was still smoking when it was found abandoned in dense bush near a rail line at a First Nation reserve 70km from Gillam. Picture: Supplied

But if it was Schmegelsky and McLeod searching for food, those closest to the hunt say the path they took to get there is littered with obstacles that would make hiding near impossible and very unpleasant. If the teens did make it to York Landing, they are not there now. The emergency response team and other resources that flooded the town were then sent back to Gillam.

"We thank the community for their patience and understanding and ask them to continue to be vigilant," police said in a statement.

But soon after again broadening their search in Gillam, the RCMP revealed that it has "now completed their door to door canvasses in Fox Lake Cree Nation and the town of Gillam".

"To date, over 500 homes have been visited by investigators," a statement read.

 

The SUV is believed to have been stolen from university lecturer Leonard Dyck (above), who was found murdered near the suspects’ burnt out car on July 19. Picture: Facebook
The SUV is believed to have been stolen from university lecturer Leonard Dyck (above), who was found murdered near the suspects’ burnt out car on July 19. Picture: Facebook

 

RCMP officers leave the river town of York Landing on Wednesday after failing to substantiate a sighting of the fugitives at a rubbish dump. Picture: RCMP
RCMP officers leave the river town of York Landing on Wednesday after failing to substantiate a sighting of the fugitives at a rubbish dump. Picture: RCMP

Top Canadian survivalist Dave Arama has predicted McLeod and Schmegelsky would have been unlikely to survive more than a few days in the wilderness unless they stumbled across a hunting cabin or another type of building.

In winter, temperatures drop to below -20C with the windchill pushing it down to the -50s.

But even the current summer months the temperatures have dropped below 10C and there have been rainstorms.

The fugitives are very tall and thin, each standing 193cm tall and weighing just 77kg, making it less likely they could survive a week outside without food and appropriate clothing.

Mr Arama said they would need to be wearing waterproofed wool and microfleece gear or risk getting eaten alive by insects.

The camouflage attire Schmegelsky is seen wearing in video surveillance footage was inadequate and the T-shirt McLeod was in was a certain death sentence, he said.

Mr Arama said he has had groups in the wilderness for nine or 10 days who on average lost 9kg to 23kg "just to try to stay warm".

"I'll be honest. With 40 years of experience, if you threw me out there with no knife, no tin can, no flint to start a fire, no tarp, no nothing, I'd rather die," Mr Arama said.

"This is no Crocodile Dundee movie. This is real."

 

 

 

 

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin

McLeod and Schmegelsky as they appear in their wanted posted, issued on July 23 — some 24 hours after they were let go by a First Nations officer unaware of their murder suspect status. Picture: RCMP
McLeod and Schmegelsky as they appear in their wanted posted, issued on July 23 — some 24 hours after they were let go by a First Nations officer unaware of their murder suspect status. Picture: RCMP
Australian Lucas Fowler and his girlfriend Chynna Deese, an American, were found murdered on the Alaska Highway on July 15. Picture: Facebook
Australian Lucas Fowler and his girlfriend Chynna Deese, an American, were found murdered on the Alaska Highway on July 15. Picture: Facebook
RCMP officers scour the dense and treacherous bushland of northern Manitoba on Wednesday, where Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod were last seen on July22. Picture: RCMP
RCMP officers scour the dense and treacherous bushland of northern Manitoba on Wednesday, where Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod were last seen on July22. Picture: RCMP