Manitoba

Suspects might have escaped Gillam, Man., with 'inadvertent' help, RCMP says

Someone might have "inadvertently" helped two homicide suspects elude police in northern Manitoba, according to the RCMP and, if so, they want to hear about it. 

Military will patrol from the skies, police will go door to door

Kam McLeod, left, and Bryer Schmegelsky, right, from Port Alberni, B.C., are suspects in the shooting deaths of a young couple gunned down in northern B.C. in mid-July and charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck. (B.C. RCMP/Alan Schmegelsky)

Latest

  • No confirmed sightings of Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky since Monday.
  • RCMP release July 21 surveillance video of suspects.
  • Police will go door to door in Gillam, Man., and Fox Lake Cree Nation this weekend.

Someone might have "inadvertently" helped two homicide suspects elude police in northern Manitoba, according to the RCMP and, if so, they want to hear about it. 

At a Friday afternoon news conference, Cpl. Julie Courchaine stressed there have been no confirmed sightings of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, outside the area of Gillam., Man., where a massive police search is concentrated.

But it's possible, she said, that someone did not recognize the fugitives — who may have recently changed their appearance — and helped them escape.

"Someone may not have been aware of who they were providing assistance to and may now be hesitant to come forward," Courchaine said. 

"I want to reiterate the importance of contacting police immediately."

She did not say if police have any specific evidence that this happened, but "we remain open to the possibility," she said. 

Meanwhile, a military aircraft has been called in to reinforce police efforts in northern Manitoba, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale announced late Friday.

"The RCMP have brought in significant outside resources from across Manitoba and across the rest of Canada," Goodale said, speaking in Regina.

"They are putting all of their resources on this and if they need additional help from the government of Canada or from other agencies, that will of course be forthcoming immediately."

Police from across Western Canada and Ontario are on the ground already, with emergency response, crisis negotiation and air services teams, as well as a canine unit, taking part in the hunt.

Authorities inspect a train before it leaves Gillam, Man. on Friday, where police are searching for McLeod and Schmegelsky. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

McLeod and Schmegelsky are suspects in the homicides of a tourist couple in northern British Columbia, and have been charged in a third death.

Courchaine said Friday that police will be canvassing door to door in Gillam, about 740 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, and nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation over the next 72 hours in the hopes of finding new leads, she said. 

She said officers have already examined "high probability areas of interest" and are following up on the more than 120 tips they've received.

The RCMP also released surveillance footage on Friday, from July 21, of the two suspects walking through a hardware store in Meadow Lake, Sask.

WATCH: Surveillance video of suspects in Meadow Lake, Sask.

RCMP have confirmed that Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were seen in Meadow Lake, Sask. If spotted, the suspects should not be approached, and RCMP say 911 or local police should be contacted immediately. 0:16

Police had previously released images of the men inside the store, which show McLeod in a blue T-shirt and Schmegelsky in a camouflage outfit. The 16-second clip shows the pair turning a corner and appearing to exit the premises without any bags.

Also on Friday, Mounties in Cold Lake, Alta., revealed that a resident in the city's north end came across the pair and their vehicle, which was stuck in a trail behind his residence, on July 21 around 9:30 a.m.

He helped the two young men pull out their vehicle, a Toyota RAV4, and after a "short, unremarkable interaction," the pair set off.

The last confirmed sighting of the pair was the next day, in Gillam, prior to a discovery of their torched vehicle on Monday evening. A significant police presence has since poured into the community.

Officers search the wilderness near Gillam on Thursday. (CBC)

Heavily armed officers have been travelling in groups, scouring the bush, abandoned buildings and every vehicle and train that goes in or out.

The RCMP have converged on the wooded area of Gillam. They believe the suspects are hiding since there have been no recent reports of stolen vehicles in the area.

The duo, from Port Alberni, B.C., is linked to the killings of Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and American Chynna Deese, 24, who were discovered shot to death along the side of the Alaska Highway, south of Liard Hot Springs, B.C., on July 15.

They have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck, a sessional instructor at the University of British Columbia. 

Four days after Fowler and Deese's bodies were found, McLeod and Schmegelsky's burnt-out truck was discovered more than 470 kilometres away, near the community of Dease Lake, B.C.

While on the run, the pair were spotted in Meadow Lake on July 21 and on two occasions in the Gillam area.

If the suspects are spotted, they should not be approached under any circumstances. People should instead call 911 immediately, or local RCMP. The phone number for Gillam RCMP is 204-652-2200, while those in the Thompson, Man., area can call 204-677-6911.

Courchaine also asked the public on Friday to refrain from creating or sharing online rumours, which has created fear and panic with unconfirmed sightings across the province.

She said members of the public should contact police before spreading information that is not verified.

"It is in our best interest to share confirmed facts as soon as possible."

One false alarm, she said, was a viral image of a man with an uncanny resemblance to McLeod — posing with a newspaper cover of the suspects — that was "unintentionally circulated on social media."

Watch RCMP search trains, houses for suspects:

RCMP search for 2 homicide suspects extends to trains, houses as fog rolls in. 1:39

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.