British Columbia

Young couple shot dead along Alaska Highway remembered as 'bright and beautiful souls'

Australian police have confirmed that a young man found dead with a young woman along the Alaska Highway earlier this week is the son of a senior New South Wales police officer.

'They were bright and beautiful souls. We are all still in shock and heartbroken,' wrote woman's sister

Chynna Deese kisses Lucas Fowler in this undated image from her sister's Facebook page. The pair were found dead July 15 along the Alaska Highway, 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs in northern B.C. (NSW Police)

Police have identified a young pair of travellers who were found dead on Monday in a suspected homicide along a remote stretch of the Alaska Highway in northern B.C.

RCMP say Lucas Fowler, a 23-year-old from Australia, and his American partner, Chynna Deese, 24, of Charlotte, N.C., were killed sometime between Sunday and Monday.

Australian police say they appear to have been shot.

Their bodies were discovered around 7:20 a.m. PT on Monday along the Alaska Highway, 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs, a popular tourist destination in B.C.

A 1986 blue Chevrolet minivan with Alberta licence plates was found nearby. 

RCMP are looking to speak with anyone who was travelling along the road after 4 p.m. on Sunday or before 8 a.m. on Monday.

The New South Wales police force is sending two of its detectives to Vancouver to act as liaisons for the victim's families, said Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones

Fowler's father is an active member of the New South Wales Police Force.

Jones said the detectives will not be involved in the investigation and that he has "utmost confidence" in the RCMP.

Australian media reported that one of the investigators, Det. Chief Insp. Wayne Walpole, landed at the Vancouver airport on Friday evening.

'Beautiful young people'

Family and friends are mourning the loss of the young couple, who posted images earlier of this spring of their travels from Jordan to Turkey.

Kennedy Deese said her sister, Chynna, had been on a Canadian road trip with her boyfriend.

"It is with overwhelming sadness that I share [they] were recently found deceased, homicide victims along a remote stretch of highway in Canada," she wrote on Facebook. "They were bright and beautiful souls. We are all still in shock and heartbroken."

Chynna Deese, 24, of Charlotte, N.C. and Lucas Fowler, 23, of New South Wales on Australia's east coast were found dead on July 15, 2019. (RCMP/New South Wales Police)

In a statement, the family of Chief Insp. Stephen Fowler said they were devastated over the loss of Fowler and Deese.

"We are now travelling to Canada to be with our boy and to bring him home," the post read.

A 'solid, good guy'

Christoph and Erika Weder, ranchers from Hudson's Hope, B.C., had hired Fowler in February and remembered him as a "solid, good guy."

"He loved animals," Erika said. "He wanted to get more experience with animals, learn about ranching in Canada in general, just to experience the West. That was one of his dreams."

Chynna Deese, 24, and Lucas Fowler, 23, were passionate travellers. Deese's mother said they met in Croatia two years before their deaths. (New South Wales Police)

She described Fowler as "easy-going" and a passionate traveller who was part of their family. He left the ranch with Deese last Saturday for a trip up north. 

Weder said Fowler was planning on returning to the ranch by end of July, so that he could work there through August and September. 

"How can you react? It's a shock, of course," she said. "You hear about things like that in movies and all of a sudden it's someone you know."

Popular summer destination

The Alaska Highway, which begins from Dawson Creek, B.C. and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska, is known for its pristine wilderness and is a popular bucket-list destination for travellers.  

The Alaska Highway in northern B.C. runs through remote areas. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC News)

Bev Vandersteen, who works for Fort Nelson's visitor information centre, said nearly 200,000 people from all over the world travel through the highway during the busy summer season.

"This is an unprecedented event and it's tragic for the families," Vandersteen said.

"Northerners ... are extremely friendly, are extremely helpful. We're a resilient population up here, and we really enjoy meeting all the people that travel on the highway."

Anyone with information is asked to call Fort Nelson RCMP at 250-774-2700, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 if they wish to remain anonymous.

With files from Yvette Brend, Roshini Nair and The Canadian Press