As It Happens

'An absolute sense of relief' in Gillam, Man., as hunt for fugitives ends, says mayor

Mayor Dwayne Forman is hoping the people of Gillam, Man., can "get back to a sense of normalcy," now that the massive police operation engulfing their community appears to be over. 

2 bodies found in northern Manitoba believed to be pair wanted for string of homicides: RCMP

Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman says it's time for his community to heal now that police believe they have found the bodies of two fugitives on the run in the area. (CBC)

Transcript

Mayor Dwayne Forman is hoping the people of Gillam, Man., can "get back to a sense of normalcy" now that the massive police operation engulfing the community appears to be over. 

RCMP say they believe they have found the bodies of B.C. fugitives Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, whose 19th birthday was Aug. 4, in a dense brush near the Nelson River in northern Manitoba. 

The men were charged with second-degree murder in the death of B.C. botanist Leonard Dyck, 64, and are suspects in the shooting deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, whose bodies were found on a highway south of Liard Hot Springs, B.C.

An autopsy will take place in Winnipeg to confirm the identities and causes of death. 

In the meantime, the news is bringing a sense of closure to Gillam and its surrounding communities, which have been at the centre of the Canada-wide police search in recent days. 

As It Happens guest host Piya Chattopadhyay spoke to Forman about these latest developments. Here is part of their conversation. 

When you got that news, what were you thinking?

Just an absolute sense of relief for the communities of Gillam and Fox Lake.

What have these past days been like for you as the mayor of your community, and for your community at large?

For myself, it's been a whirlwind of emotions, up and down. Just never knowing what's going to happen the next day. Waiting for the next update. Doing my best to accommodate the RCMP in any way I can, and work with the town, Manitoba Hydro and Fox Lake to make sure that the RCMP has everything that they need to possibly bring closure to this. And, thankfully, it's come to that.

A still taken from surveillance footage released by the RCMP shows Kam McLeod, left, and Bryer Schmegelsky leaving a store in Meadow Lake, Sask., on July 21. (RCMP)

What else are you feeling today?

Now that it's more or less over for the manhunt, the community can start to heal. Now focus has to be put on condolences put towards the family of the victims.

Those people are not going to have answers now, and they're very sad. 

You mentioned your community needs healing. What kind of healing is needed?

There's going to be some individuals within the community [who are] emotionally scarred, and we have to be there for them and do our best to give them any resources that they need to get back to a sense of normalcy.

We'll be there for anyone in the community when they come to it. And we're going to take our steps almost immediately to just try to get our sense of community back between Fox Lake and Gillam — just be us again, be the North.

RCMP at the site where the Toyota RAV4 driven by the suspects was discovered, near Sundance Creek, northeast of Gillam, on July 31, 2019. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

We've heard of and from people in town locking their doors for the first time, not having left their house for many, many days. What's this been like?

It has been quite different for the community, absolutely. When you normally see children about all over the streets going up and down with their bikes, and for it to go overnight to almost silence on the streets, it was quite daunting.

But now that this news release has come out, I'm hoping that everyone can can start on the process of getting back to being able to be old Gillam, old Fox Lake.

Can you describe the area where these bodies were found for us?

I haven't been to the site myself, but if I'm going by the general logistics of what they're stating as far as the location of the vehicle and eight kilometres within that, anything in that area is going to be swampy, rough terrain, a lot of moss, heavy bush, fallen trees. It would not be the best tracking terrain to navigate through. It would be very difficult.

How has this transformed your community?

You know what? That's going to be revealed over time. This community's always been a very strong community, close-knit community, and I'm hoping that ultimately we just become stronger as a community because of this.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Laura Glowacki. Produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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