GILLAM, Manitoba (NEWS 1130) – Mounties in northern Manitoba are investigating the possibility that the two young men from Vancouver Island who are wanted in connection with three killings in northern B.C. are no longer in the area.
“Our investigators are also exploring the possibility that the suspects may have inadvertently received assistance in leaving the area,” said Cpl. Julie Courchaine. “To state, there have been no confirmed sightings outside of the Gillam area.”
Courchaine said they will be going door-to-door to try and generate new tips.
In the ongoing search for the suspects, RCMP officers have started to canvass every home in Gillam & Fox Lake Cree Nation. In addition to the canvass, they are also thoroughly searching every abandoned home in the area – over 100 cleared so far. #rcmpmb pic.twitter.com/SdQhyqxJrn
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 27, 2019
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the military has been asked to provide air support to the RCMP’s search.
Investigators confirmed on Thursday two sightings of the pair near Gillam — about 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg — but those were on Monday.
Monday was also when a burned out car connected to 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky’s was found, on the Fox Creek Cree Nation territory just outside of the rural Manitoba town.
With no reports of stolen vehicles in the area in recent days, the two are believed to still be in the area, possibly moving around on foot.
However, the terrain they are facing is filled with forests, swamps, bushy vegetation, as well as bugs and wildlife, including wolves and bears. With a number of days passing since the two were last seen, questions are being raised as to where they could possibly be, and whether or not they are still alive.
The manhunt has people living in the community on edge and growing more nervous by the day.
“We’re a small community and not used to this kind of stuff,” Cheryl Friesen, who lives in Gillam, said. “Community that doesn’t normally lock their doors but is very much locking our doors and staying inside right now.”
.@rcmpmb have also shared pictures of the search, showing the rural terrain they're dealing with.
"There continues to be a heavy police presence in the Gillam area, as our officers conduct detailed & thorough searches of potential areas of interests," say Mounties. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/uKlM84ig7x
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) July 26, 2019
She said you don’t see as many people out on the streets now as you would have before the manhunt began.
Like many in the community, she wonders why McLeod and Schmegelsky chose Gillam — which has been thrust into the spotlight in recent days. “I don’t know where they would go,” she said. “I don’t understand why they would come here in the first place.”
The town, which has a population of about 1,000 people, is now overflowing with national and international media, as well as police, in the days since the pair was believed to have first been spotted in the northern community.
“Very heavy-duty police vehicles I’ve never even seen before,” Friesen recounted. “They brought in the dogs. You know we’re a town that normally has I think it’s four or five police officers that has a lot more now and they’re, you know, shopping, they’re in the community, they’re driving around.”
She said she isn’t surprised police still haven’t located the two men from Vancouver Island, adding Gillam is surrounded by trees.
"Very heavy duty police vehicles I've never even seen before. They brought in the dogs. We're a town that normally has I think it's four or five police officers that has a lot more now," says Cheryl Friesen.
McLeod and Schmegelsky were last seen in Gillam on Monday. @NEWS1130
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) July 26, 2019
“Manitoba RCMP has deployed a significant amount of resources to the Gillam area, including our emergency response team, our crisis negotiation team, police dog services and air services assets,” Manitoba RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said. “The RCMP Major Crime Unit is involved as well as the RCMP North District and RCMP resources from other provinces.”
Without knowing where exactly the pair is, a lot of misinformation and speculation has started to spread throughout the small communities in northern Manitoba.
A picture, appearing to show a smiling McLeod holding a newspaper from yesterday with the coverage of the manhunt splattered on the front page has been circulating online. Mounties in Manitoba tweeted Friday morning that the man in the picture is not actually McLeod adding, “We understand many people are experiencing fear & uncertainty over this incident but spreading online rumours doesn’t help.”
Our officers are working diligently to find these suspects and we will release updates as soon as we have concrete, confirmed information to share. We understand many people are experiencing fear & uncertainty over this incident but spreading online rumours doesn’t help. #rcmpmb
— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 26, 2019
And on Thursday night, a man wrote that he “100 per cent saw one of the accused killers walking down a street” in a community Facebook group for one of the towns. After about 150 comments from panicked residents asking “where and what’s happening,” it turned out to be false.
WATCH: RCMP believe teens tied to 3 B.C. deaths still in Manitoba
Some frustration has also been surfacing as the manhunt drags on.
This country-wide search was sparked earlier this week, when McLeod and Schmegelsky went from missing persons to suspects.
They are wanted for the second-degree murder of UBC sessional lecturer, Leonard Dyck, whose body was found near Dease Lake, B.C. near a burned out truck and trailer, which was later confirmed to belong to the two teens from Port Alberni.
They are also wanted in connection with the deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese. The pair of tourists were found dead along the Alaska Highway, south of Liard Hot Springs, a day before Dyck’s body was found.
Meantime, the RCMP said it was also investigating a photograph of Nazi paraphernalia that was allegedly sent by Schmegelsky to another user on a video game network.
Investigators apparently also received images of the 18-year-old in military fatigues brandishing an airsoft rifle and wearing a gas mask.
Canada-wide warrants are out for Schmegelsky and McLeod.
-With files from The Canadian Press