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article imageMassive manhunt in Canadian wilderness for teen murder suspects

By Jacques LEMIEUX (AFP)     Jul 26, 2019 in World

Two teen triple murder suspects on the run in the central Canadian wilderness -- perhaps holed up in thick, insect-infested forest inhabited by wolves and bears -- were staying one step ahead of a massive police manhunt Friday.

Since Tuesday, the village of Gillam near Hudson Bay has been on the alert for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, who are wanted for three murders.

They are believed to be behind the killings of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend, Chynna Deese, as well as Leonard Dyck, a 64-year-old Canadian man.

Police consider the Canadian teens to be armed and dangerous, and have warned the population not to approach them if spotted.

The fugitives wound up near the Manitoba province village 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) north of Winnipeg after an epic 2,000-mile chase across three provinces that began in British Columbia, on the Pacific coast, where their three victims were discovered earlier this month.

The teenagers were initially considered by police in British Columbia to be "missing" after their car was found torched last Friday.

But police then discovered the body of a man later identified as Dyck, a botany professor at the University of British Columbia, near another burned-out vehicle believed to have been used by the pair.

Earlier this week, the police named the two natives of Vancouver as formal suspects in the three murders.

A video grab from CCTV footage taken on July 13  2019 and released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Pol...
A video grab from CCTV footage taken on July 13, 2019 and released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police shows murder victims Lucas Fowler, 23, and Chynna Deese, 24, at a gas station in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

Fowler, 23, and Deese, 24, were discovered shot to death on July 15 along the side of the Alaska Highway near Liard Hot Springs, British Columbia.

The teens had been spotted driving a Toyota across northern Saskatchewan. That vehicle was found by strawberry pickers late Monday near Gillam, triggering a massive manhunt, with trackers using teams of dogs to hunt down the fugitives in the thick woods and swamps.

- 'Atrocious' insects and bears -

There were two reported sightings of the wanted teens in Gillam, but none since Monday.

"We believe they are still in the area," Julie Courchaine, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said Thursday.

Police had received 80 tip-offs about the suspects in the previous 48 hours, Courchaine said, and a roadblock has been set up on the only road -- an unpaved track -- leading into and out of Gillam.

As well as tracker dogs, police officers were deploying drones and armored vehicles in their search of the area's dense forests, where vegetation in some places is nearly impenetrable.

Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman said that if conditions on the ground were tough for the police, they were much worse for the fugitives.

"They're up against some brutal terrain. It's a swamp, heavy-treed area. The insects are atrocious through [the] swamps," he told CTV television.

The woods are full of black bears and the occasional polar bear that wanders in from the Hudson Bay area, around 100 miles away, Forman said.

An undated and unlocated photo released July 19 courtesy of the Fowler family via the Facebook page ...
An undated and unlocated photo released July 19 courtesy of the Fowler family via the Facebook page of the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force shows Lucas Fowler (R) and Chynna Deese, whose bodies were discovered on July 15 along a remote stretch of highway in British Columbia

"I would be extremely surprised if they could survive a long duration up here," the mayor said.

"It's tough going up here. If they don't have bug jackets, once that sun goes down, the bugs are out like crazy, enough to drive you insane," said Clint Sawchuk, owner of an outdoors equipment store.

Sherry Benson-Podolchuk, a retired Manitoba police officer, said: "If they're not in a vehicle, then they have to be on foot, and that must be pretty brutal for them."

"They don't have the training, they don't have all the equipment that you would need to survive for several days without food or water," she added.

Peter German, a former high-ranking federal police officer, added: "One would hope that these young fellows would simply give themselves up at this point and no harm would come to them or to the police or public."

"Time is actually on the side of the police at this point because these fellows are not prepared for what they're experiencing if they are in the woods," German said.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Schmegelsky's father said his son was deeply troubled and wanted "his pain to end."

"He's on a suicide mission... he's going to be dead today or tomorrow," Alan Schmegelsky said, explaining that his son never recovered emotionally from his parents' divorce in 2005.

"I'm so sorry all of this had to happen. I'm so sorry that I couldn't rescue you," said the older Schmegelsky, in tears.

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