Manitoba

Mounties leaving York Landing, Man., as latest tip in search for fugitives comes up empty

Some of the RCMP officers in pursuit of two B.C. homicide suspects are leaving York Landing, Man., after their extensive search of the community appeared to turn up nothing. 

Bryer Schmegelsky, Kam McLeod wanted in connection with 3 B.C. killings

Heavily armed police officers search York Landing, Man., for B.C. homicide suspects Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod on Monday. (Gilbert Rowan/CBC)

Latest

  • Purported sighting near town dump unsubstantiated.
  • Some Mounties headed back to Gillam, community leader says.
  • If suspects are spotted, residents should call local police or 911 immediately.

Some of the RCMP officers in pursuit of two B.C. homicide suspects are leaving York Landing, Man., after their extensive search of the community appeared to turn up nothing. 

The emergency response team is returning to Gillam, and the major crime unit has left, according to York Factory First Nation Chief Leroy Constant.

More officers will leave the community by ferry on Tuesday, Constant said in a Facebook post shortly after 5 p.m. CT. The RCMP did not respond to questions about their deployment. 

The shift in strategy comes one day after officers received a "credible" tip that two men matching the descriptions of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were spotted near the remote community's garbage dump.

Police poured into York Landing on Sunday night, but the RCMP said in a tweet on Monday afternoon it could not substantiate the tip following a "thorough and exhaustive search" of the community.

The RCMP said at the time it would remain in the York Landing and Gillam areas, but did not immediately confirm on Monday evening if officers were being deployed back to Gillam.

The setback comes on the seventh day of a nationwide hunt for arguably Canada's most wanted men.

A helicopter aids in the search around York Landing on Monday. (Gilbert Rowan/CBC)

Schmegelsky and McLeod, both from Port Alberni, B.C., are suspects in the killings of Australian tourist Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend, Chynna Deese, and are charged with second-degree murder in the case of University of British Columbia lecturer Leonard Dyck.

Police concentrated their search — involving dozens of police officers, canine units, drones and military aircraft — around York Landing after arriving on Sunday night

Police officers search door to door overnight Sunday in York Landing. (Gilbert Rowan/CBC)

The community of about 500 people — which is 90 kilometres southwest of Gillam, and nearly 700 kilometres north of Winnipeg — is only accessible by air or by a two-hour boat ride. There is also a rail line about 25 kilometres south of York Landing, RCMP said.

A member of a community patrol group called in the tip of two men near the dump around 5 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Watch York Factory's chief describe the impact on the community: 

Travis Bighetty said 'it didn't click right away' after the Bear Clan patrol co-ordinator spotted what he believed to be the two B.C. fugitives in York Landing, Man. 0:29

Earlier in the day, Manitoba RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine was asking community members to stay indoors and remain vigilant for any sign of the two suspects.

"We understand that this is a trying time for the community of York Landing and that there is a lot of uncertainty," Courchaine said. "We want to remind residents that we have a lot of police resources in the area and that our priority is their safety." 

Roads in and surrounding the community were deserted Monday, with the exception of police.

"You never anticipate anything like this happening or them coming this way," Constant said. "To know that they're possibly in our community somewhere is very concerning."

York Factory First Nation is based in York Landing.

"It doesn't feel real. It's very shocking and concerning to know that these two gentlemen are possibly here," Constant said.

On July 22, a burning vehicle that police believe was driven by the fugitives was found near Gillam.

The land surrounding the community is treacherous, filled with muskeg and with few paths, and Constant said it would be a miracle if the two men survived the trek from Gillam. 

Images of murder suspects Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky recorded in northern Saskatchewan a few days after three people were found dead in B.C. RCMP are investigating a tip they have been spotted in the remote community of York Landing, Manitoba. (RCMP)

Police had been conducting door-to-door searches in Gillam and nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation. Members of the Canadian military were also called in to help.

Constables with Tataskweyak Cree Nation, also known as Split Lake, stopped the suspects in their vehicle at a gas bar last Monday as they drove through the community, before the vehicle was found burned near Gillam, band councillor Nathan Neckoway said.

Split Lake is a dry community and the constables were checking for any alcohol, and didn't know who the men were at the time, he said.

Watch York Factory's chief describe the impact on the community: 

Chief Leroy Constant of York Factory First Nation says local authorities are doing their best to ensure the safety of their community amid the ongoing search for two B.C. fugitives. 0:39

After news broke that police were investigating the possibility the suspects were in York Landing, Fox Lake Chief Walter Spence released a statement expressing solidarity with the community. 

"The ongoing stress of the large police, military and media presence in the community is starting to take its toll, and our community members look forward to a return to normalcy," he said in the statement. 

Community members are asking for privacy in this difficult time, he said. He said they've received good communication from the RCMP, as well as support from other First Nations organizations and the Bear Clan. 

Watch coverage of the moment the search focus shifted to York Landing:

RCMP officers are now searching the remote community of York Landing, Man., as they continue a large-scale search for two B.C. homicide suspects who have been on the run for nearly a week. 0:32

 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Tataskweyak Cree Nation band councillor Nathan Neckoway.
    Jul 29, 2019 10:30 AM CT

With files from Angela Johnston and Laura Glowacki