Mounties are asking anyone who may have unwittingly helped two teenage homicide suspects give the slip to police in a northern Manitoba area to come forward.
Cpl. Julie Courchaine says police aren’t saying that’s what happened, but they aren’t ruling out any possibilities.
“It is possible that someone may not have been aware of who they were providing assistance to, and may now be hesitant to come forward,” she said at an RCMP update in Winnipeg on Friday.
“I want to reiterate the importance of contacting police immediately.”
Courchaine said Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and his 19-year-old friend Kam McLeod may have changed their appearance as a way to evade an intense manhunt that includes officers from several jurisdictions searching on foot, with dogs and using drones.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a tweet Friday evening that the military has also been called in to give the RCMP air support during their hunt for the teens.
Courchaine urged the public across the country to keep a careful watch out for the pair, who were last seen in northern Manitoba and wanted in the deaths of three people in northern British Columbia.
“It is critical that all Canadians remain vigilant for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky,” she said. ”If they are spotted, do not approach. Call 911 or your local police immediately.”
Courchaine stressed that there have been no confirmed sightings since one Monday in the Gillam area — an isolated region of bog and bush with one access road — so the search for the two was still focused there.
Schmegelsky and McLeod are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck, a botany professor at the University of British Columbia, and are suspects in the fatal shootings of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese.
A burned-out RAV4 the teens from Port Alberni, B.C., were travelling in was found near Gillam this week and police have said there have been no reports of stolen vehicles since.
Courchaine said police were planning to go door to door in Gillam and on the Fox Lake First Nation over the next three days looking for leads.
“We’re going to … try and generate some tips possibly,” she said. ”Maybe there’s something that seemed insignificant to them and maybe it’s something that will really help us in our investigation.”
Police were also requesting that people not post unconfirmed material about the search or the suspects on social media.
“I want to stress the importance of not creating and sharing online rumours,” Courchaine said. “The spreading of false information in communities across Manitoba has created fear and panic.”
She said police had confirmed that a young man with an uncanny resemblance to McLeod was not who they were looking for. A photo of the man holding a newspaper picture of McLeod next to his face appeared on Twitter Thursday.
Later Friday, RCMP in Cold Lake, Alta., confirmed a sighting of the pair early Sunday morning.
“At approximately 9:30 a.m., a north end resident of Cold Lake observed a vehicle stuck on a trail behind their residence,” police said in a news release. “Two younger males were observed outside of a Toyota RAV4. The resident assisted the pair in getting unstuck and they continued on their way after a short, unremarkable interaction.”
They said the man realized it was Schmegelsky and McLeod when he was on social media later that night.
RCMP also released some surveillance footage from Meadow Lake, Sask., showing Schmegelsky in a T-shirt and McLeod in army fatigues walking around a store later Sunday in the hopes it would generate more tips from the public.
A similar intense manhunt happened in the Prairies in July 2006, when it took almost two weeks for Mountie killer Curtis Dagenais to be arrested.