Police fielding over 200 tips on 2 fugitives, still focused on northern Manitoba
Homicide suspects are being pursued in searches of homes, abandoned buildings
More personnel and equipment are being poured into the gruelling hunt for two B.C. homicide suspects in the bug-infested and bog-strewn landscape surrounding the tiny northern Manitoba community of Gillam.
As the nearly week-long search for Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, intensified Sunday, the RCMP said there had been no new sightings of the pair and no new information to indicate they have left the area.
Investigators have received more than 200 tips over the last five days, RCMP said in an afternoon update on Twitter. "None have established that the suspects are outside of the Gillam area."
Police added they continue to believe it's possible the suspects were "inadvertently" assisted by someone and are no longer in the area.
The two Port Alberni, B.C., residents are wanted in connection with three homicides this month in Northern British Columbia. They are suspects in the double homicide of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Dees, and they are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck.
Police aided by tracking dogs and drones have been going door to door, checking every residence and abandoned building in and around Gillam as townspeople maintain a stressful vigil for the fugitives.
Not only are our officers combing through kilometers of dense northern forest, they’re also challenged with searching & clearing large abandoned buildings like this one (with approx. 600 rooms) at the Keewatinohk Converter Station Camp, near Gillam. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/rcmpmb?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#rcmpmb</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/manitobahydro?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@manitobahydro</a> <a href="https://t.co/IMkqMlKxx8">pic.twitter.com/IMkqMlKxx8</a>—@rcmpmb
RCMP officers came to Neil Houle's door in Gillam. He said police wanted to see who was in the house and to know if people felt secure.
Watch: Gruelling hunt for B.C. homicide suspects
Houle said he told the officers his family did — largely because he has been keeping his house windows locked and a bat by the door.
"Nothing is as normal as it was before," Houle said. "Everything's changed here and everybody is on edge. I'm always looking at the window. I don't get much sleep at night anymore. Just keeping on an eye on pretty much everything in the yard."
Matthew Ho, 21, from Vancouver said he is exploring the country on the Via Rail train. He arrived in Gillam from Churchill Sunday morning and is en route to Winnipeg.
The RCMP searched the train when it came into the town Sunday morning.
"I wouldn't be surprised because trains like these run really slow out here and it could really be plausible that, you know, the suspects could hop on the train," Ho said.
The aerial search effort got a boost Saturday with the arrival of a Canadian Air Force CC-130H Hercules aircraft and a CP-140 Aurora.
In an email to CBC News, the Department of National Defence said the Hercules will use trained search and rescue spotters to do visual searches of the landscape.
The Aurora, a long-range patrol aircraft, has "specialty surveillance capabilities" like infrared cameras to assist the search, DND said.
In addition, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said that it had requested help from the Bear Clan Patrol, an Indigenous-led neighbourhood watch group, and was co-ordinating teams to fly to First Nations communities including Fox Lake Cree Nation, York Factory First Nation, and War Lake First Nation.
Volunteer patrols who arrived Saturday will be returning to the city on Sunday. More volunteers are expected to arrive in the province's north Monday, executive director James Favel said.
RCMP asked Sunday that anyone with a tip call their local police detatchment, as "multiple" tips of sightings had been posted to social media instead of to authorities.
"If the tips are valid, it could create a substantial delay in the response by police," RCMP said.
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With files from Angela Johnston, Austin Grabish, Patrick Foucault and The Canadian Press