CANADA HUNT: Teen fugitives were caught by police but let go

THE two teenage fugitives wanted in connection to the murder of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese accidentally slipped through the police net, it's been revealed.

Nathan Neckoway, a local representative of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation at Split Lake, Manitoba, told Global News in Canada police stopped suspected killers Kam McLeod and Bryer Schemgelsky, as they drove through the Manitoba reserve of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, about 169km from the town of Gillam.

Neckoway said the pair was stopped during a routine check for alcohol in the dry community. The band constables reportedly didn't find anything amiss and let the pair go.

"We weren't aware of their status, of them being wanted," Neckoway said.

"Apparently after they came to our community that's when they sent out that wanted (status)."

Band Constables act as a "first responder" and do "front line policing" in remote communities before a member of the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) arrives.

The RCMP would not comment on Neckoway's comments.

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky have been dubbed “little Houdinis” for evading capture.
Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky have been dubbed “little Houdinis” for evading capture.

It comes as the RCMP confirmed a search of York Landing where the alleged thrill killers were last seen found no trace, almost 24 hours after the sighting.

"After a thorough and exhaustive search, #rcmpmb has not been able to substantiate the tip in York Landing. RCMP resources will continue to be in the York Landing & Gillam areas," they tweeted today.

The RCMP added: "We thank the community for their patience & understanding & ask them to continue to be vigilant."

Earlier a member of an elite sniper unit said he was preparing to leave York Landing.

The heavily armed, highly trained marksman said he arrived with his unit and an attack dog no more than an hour after the sighting at York Landing was reported at 4.15pm (local time) on Sunday.

"We were here in the fastest time possible but the dog picked up no scent and we couldn't find any trace of them," he added.

Top cop dad's personal search as hunt continues

THE senior NSW police officer father of slain Australian backpacker Lucas Fowler has remained in Canada to help investigate the vicious crime as a massive police manhunt ramped up in remote Canada for two suspected thrill-killers.

News Corp Australia understands that NSW Police Chief Inspector Stephen Fowler is still in Canada investigating the murders of his son Lucas and his son's American girlfriend, Chynna Deese.

Ms Deese's mother welcomed the support Inspector Stephen Fowler continued to give to the investigation.

New South Wales police chief inspector Stephen Fowler. Picture: Peter Whittle/ News Corp Australia
New South Wales police chief inspector Stephen Fowler. Picture: Peter Whittle/ News Corp Australia

"Lucas's family are really representing me there in a mighty way," Sheila Deese said.

"I am so appreciative for them.

"They are representing me because I can't. I don't have the expertise."

Meanwhile, Canadian police are looking into more than 200 tips from local community members following a potential sighting of suspected teen gunmen Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, at a food dump in York Landing.

They are suspected to have murdered Fowler and Deese, as well as a Canadian university lecturer.

A massive police manhunt is underway in remote York Landing in Canada for two suspected thrill-killers. Picture: Clint Brewer, NEWS360
A massive police manhunt is underway in remote York Landing in Canada for two suspected thrill-killers. Picture: Clint Brewer, NEWS360

But a Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokeswoman said overnight that police still had not located the pair, nor formally verified they were McLeod and Schmegelsky.

"Our number one priority is to find those individuals so we can at least go from there," Cpl Julie Courchaine told media.

"We have not made contact with them. We still need to try and locate these individuals and find out who they are.

Bears were spotted at the food dump in Yorks Landing where the suspects were believed to be scrounging for food. Picture; Clint Brewer, News Corp
Bears were spotted at the food dump in Yorks Landing where the suspects were believed to be scrounging for food. Picture; Clint Brewer, News Corp

"We are putting as many resources as possible into this area to identify them. It has been challenging up there. This is northern Manitoba, when we get a tip we can't just drive there in 20 minutes. It is challenging terrain."

Police admit the terrain is challenging as they search for the suspects. Picture: Clint Brewer, NEWS360
Police admit the terrain is challenging as they search for the suspects. Picture: Clint Brewer, NEWS360

York Landing sits in the centre of Canada's vast wilderness about 1000km north of the US border states of North Dakota and Minnesota, and is south of Hudson Bay.

Locals from York Landing are assisting search teams. Officers are concentrating on the so-called hydro lines that have cut a path through the surrounding forest and bush to the remote village. There is speculation the suspects followed the hydro lines, dotted with pylons that take electricity from the nearby hydro-electric dams, to homes around northern Canada.

Police rush to a helicopter to search for the Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia
Police rush to a helicopter to search for the Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia

 

Travis Bighetty from Winnipeg-based Bear Clan Patrol, an organisation set up to assist the Native Indian community across Manitoba, was patrolling in a pickup truck with a colleague in York Landing when he believes he saw McLeod and Schmegelsky.

"One of them was wearing a grey-coloured hoodie and the other was in army fatigues, just like in the wanted pictures.

"They weren't carrying anything, I didn't see any weapon; no guns, and they weren't carrying any bags.

Police are trying to cover the vast wilderness surrounding Yorks Landing. Picture: Clint Brewer News Corp
Police are trying to cover the vast wilderness surrounding Yorks Landing. Picture: Clint Brewer News Corp

"They were tall, too, just like how the police described them. They looked desperate."

Cpl Courchaine said the RCMP had deployed the Emergency Response Team, Police Dog Services, Containment Team members, Major Crime Services and Air Services assets. The Royal Canadian Air Force is also assisting today with the search.

"It is critical that residents of York Landing remain vigilant and stay indoors as much as possible with their doors locked, and to report anything suspicious by calling their local police immediately."

Police have received more than 200 tips from the community. Picture: Clint Brewer, News Corp
Police have received more than 200 tips from the community. Picture: Clint Brewer, News Corp

Twelve officers with a boat and quad bikes ordered that the only ferry servicing the town from Split Lake be launched early to take them to the area.

Patrols were launched throughout the day in York Landing on foot, pickup truck and quad bikes while a helicopter swept large areas.

Canadian police have dubbed the pair "little Houdinis" for evading capture by more than 1000 searchers, including the Canadian military, as they crossed the country over the past week.

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BEAR CLAN PATROL SIGHTING

Mr Bighetty from Bear Clan Patrol said of the possible sighting: "We saw two white guys rummaging around in the food dump and knew straight away something was wrong and out of the ordinary.

"I first thought they were sewage workers but there was no vehicle around, which was unusual.

"We were 40 yards (36m) away. As soon as they saw us they turned their faces away as if they did not want to be recognised.

"We didn't say anything to each other, I didn't shout out to them and I couldn't hear if they said anything.

Searchers from many different response groups have joined the searched. Picture: Clint Brewer, NEWS360
Searchers from many different response groups have joined the searched. Picture: Clint Brewer, NEWS360

"We got back into town in a few minutes and told the constable there had been a possible sighting."

Within the hour police from around the state began to arrive as the manhunt ratcheted up.

"There's been a lot of activity with police since then.

"I'm here with seven other members from the Bear Clan.

"We never expected this to happen out here.

"The community has been worried by the manhunt and we were here to reassure them, so for this to happen is a total shock."

BEARS RUMMAGE AT FOOD DUMP

Two brown bears were rummaging at the food dump where suspects McLeod and Schmegelsky were believed to have been spotted.

A bear trails a police officer at the food dump site where the suspects were believed to have been seen. Picture: Clint Brewer, News Corp
A bear trails a police officer at the food dump site where the suspects were believed to have been seen. Picture: Clint Brewer, News Corp

Locals also speculated that the teens followed a power line from where they were last seen in Gillam where they left a burnt-out Toyota Rav4 a week ago.

York Landing, with a population of around 500, cannot be accessed by road and there are about 100 homes in the Native Indian community.

Huge Canadian airforce Hercules aircraft have joined the search. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia
Huge Canadian airforce Hercules aircraft have joined the search. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia

It is serviced by a small airfield and a free car ferry which takes 15 vehicles that shuttles between it and Split Lake, about two hours' sail time away.

There is one food store and one petrol station.

A makeshift hotel has 30 rooms and is usually full of workmen maintaining power lines in the area that take electricity from the hydro electric dams across the region.

There is one restaurant.

LOCALS ARE 'WORRIED'

One local, who did not want to be named, said: "It is usually so quiet here, all this activity is alarming.

"We're all worried about this situation.

"To get here from Gillam they must have followed a power line.

"Electricity are dotted along the power lines and the ground is cleared so it's easy to walk along.

Gillam Police search Keewatinohk Lodge for the McLeod and Schmegelsky. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia
Gillam Police search Keewatinohk Lodge for the McLeod and Schmegelsky. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia

"It wouldn't be possible to walk through the bush to get here, it's too dense.

"There's no road, either.

"There's a track in the winter that can be used but it has to cross water so it can only be crossed when it's frozen."

CURFEWS AND LOCKDOWNS

The manhunt is dominating the Canadian news cycle and has seen residents in towns where the fugitives were spotted observe curfews and lock down their homes.

Searchers spent the morning completing a door knock of more than 250 homes and an abandoned worker's lodge near Gillam, where the teens were last sighted before the unconfirmed sighting in Yorks Landing.

Police have warned locals to stay indoors. Picture: Clint Brewer, News Corp
Police have warned locals to stay indoors. Picture: Clint Brewer, News Corp

"Somehow they must have walked there (to Yorks Landings) but it is a long way from where they were last known to be," said a member of the Bear Clan Patrol.

 

CCTV footage shows Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese inside FasGas, in Fort Nelson, Canada where the pair stopped to fill up their car and buy snacks. Picture: Supplied
CCTV footage shows Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese inside FasGas, in Fort Nelson, Canada where the pair stopped to fill up their car and buy snacks. Picture: Supplied

Accessible only by a two-hour ferry or by air, York Landing has only 500 full time inhabitants, who mainly earn their living through fishing.

Sylvia Saunders, First National Safety Officer in the town of Split Lake, from where a ferry takes two hours to get to York Landing, said locals were shocked at the drama unfolding over the water.

"There's a police helicopter in the air and drones, people have been told to say indoors," she said.

"It's a small community, about 500 people. There is a radio station there and no internet or phone service.

"The only phone service and Wi-Fi is by the airport.

"People there fish, that's how that make their money.

"No-one ever expected these boys to turn up there.

"It's such a remote and difficult place to get to."

Police waiting to get onto the ferry at Split Lake to York Landing at first light as the manhunt continues for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18 and Kam McLeod, 19. Picture: Clint Brewer
Police waiting to get onto the ferry at Split Lake to York Landing at first light as the manhunt continues for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18 and Kam McLeod, 19. Picture: Clint Brewer
A Hercules plane from the Canadian Air Force joins the search. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia
A Hercules plane from the Canadian Air Force joins the search. Picture: Clint Brewer/ News Corp Australia
The murder suspects were travelling in this burnt-out Toyota Rav 4.
The murder suspects were travelling in this burnt-out Toyota Rav 4.