The massive manhunt for two teens connected to a string of deaths in Northern BC is now entering its fourth day.
Police believe Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, have taken refuge in the northern Manitoban bush near the town of Gillam, a place with incredibly inhospitable terrain. It’s believed they’ve been there since Tuesday, which is when police found a burned-out vehicle the two were believed to be using.
It’s been almost two weeks since a couple, an American woman and her Australian boyfriend, were found shot dead in a ditch off a BC highway and a week since police found another man killed. McLeod and Schmegelsky are suspected of killing all three.
"We can now confirm there has been two established and corroborated sightings in the Gillam area,” said Cpl. Julie Courchaine at a Thursday press conference. “These sightings were prior to the discovery of the burnt-out car. There have also been no reported stolen cars that could be attributed to the suspects. We believe they are still in the area."
“There’s lots of dense bush, forests, swampy areas so it is very challenging,” Courchaine added.
The massive manhunt has ballooned the normally small population of Gillam, 1,200, as authorities have brought in numerous personnel and equipment to aid them in their search. For four days now, investigators with dogs have made their way through the thick bush while drones and helicopters have been flying overhead. For the residents of the town, it’s a tense time, as they have been advised to lock their doors and remain vigilant. One person said he’s been sleeping on his couch with a gun next to him.
The woods the two chose to flee into couldn’t be worse. It’s thick dense muskeg, chock full of biting insects, and hard to maneuver through. An inexperienced hiker can break through the peat moss and sink into the swampy murk, and the difficult terrain only makes finding food or water more difficult. Trapping and foraging are options, but a person would need to be experienced to do either. Brain Kotak, the managing director of the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, told the CBC that you would have to prepare diligently to survive out there.
"It's a spectacular area, but it's also a very intimidating area,” said Kotak. “If you don't know that area and you get lost in it, your chances of survival, I think, are pretty slim."
According to the father of Bryer Schmegelsky, the two have been going into the woods for two-and-a-half years and would consider themselves survivalists. One resident of the nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation told the CBC there are numerous abandoned buildings in the bush that the teens could be making use of.
Schmegelsky and McLeod are wanted in connection to the deaths of two tourists—Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and American Chynna Deese, 24— whose bodies were found on July 15 and have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 67-year-old Leonard Dyck. Dyck’s body was found two kilometres from the teens' burning truck on July 19. Initially, it was believed the men were missing, and possibly even victims, but on July 23 police said they were on the run and wanted in connection to the deaths.
Since then more information has come out about the teens, painting a dark picture of Schmegelsky in particular. The 18-year-old has been linked to a YouTube account featuring a Nazi insignia, a videogame account featuring a banner connected to the neo-Nazi connected Azov Battalion, photographs of a Nazi armband and Hitler Youth knife. Further photos viewed by VICE show that he once took a picture with a gun barrel in his mouth.
Schmegelsky’s father told the Canadian Press that his son is not a neo-Nazi and instead just thinks the memorabilia is “cool.” He did add that, less than a year ago, the two attended an army surplus store and he was forced to drag his son away in disgust when he got too excited over Nazi memrobilia.
A photo purporting to show Kam McLeod posing next to a front-page about the murders made the rounds on social media on Thursday night. However, on Friday morning police confirmed the photo was not of McLeod.
“We understand many people are experiencing fear & uncertainty over this incident but spreading online rumours doesn’t help,” reads a tweet by the RCMP.
Police consider the two men to be armed and dangerous.
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