Police were focused on the wet, thick and buggy forests of northeastern Manitoba on Thursday as they hunted for two teenage murder suspect on the run from British Columbia.
Officers from the western provinces and Ontario were in the Gillam area to search for 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky and his 19-year-old friend Kam McLeod. The teens are charged with second-degree murder in the death of one man and are suspects in the fatal shootings of a young couple.
RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said there were two confirmed sightings of the teens before an SUV police believe they had used to drive to Gillam was found burned out on Monday.
“There have been no stolen vehicles in that area,” she said. “At this point in the investigation, we believe they are still in the area.”
The terrain is unforgiving, Courchaine said.
“There’s lots of dense bush, forest, swampy area, so it is very challenging,” she said.
An RCMP emergency response team was part of the search, she said, and the RCMP was getting help from the Ontario Provincial Police.
Courchaine said more than 80 tips had come in over the last 40 hours alone.
Police have been asked asking people not to approach Schmegelsky and McLeod if they see them and to call police instead.
To the north, the mayor of Churchill — a community accessible only by rail, sea and air — warned residents to be on the lookout.
“The RCMP is doing important and difficult work in the Gillam area,” Mike Spence said in a statement. “We should all remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity directly to the RCMP.”
Police charged the two young men Wednesday in the death of University of British Columbia lecturer Leonard Dyck, whose body was found July 19 near their burned-out truck in northwestern B.C.
The bodies of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese were found four days earlier along a highway more than 450 kilometres from where Dyck was discovered.
The teens were initially thought to be missing, but police labelled them suspects this week after they were spotted in Meadow Lake, Sask.
Mounties also said Thursday that they were investigating a photograph of Nazi paraphernalia allegedly sent online by one of the suspects.
Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said RCMP received photos that a Steam user said were sent by Schmegelsky, who was also pictured in military fatigues brandishing an airsoft rifle and wearing a gas mask.
The two suspects most recently logged onto their Steam accounts 13 days ago, about the time they told family and friends they were leaving their small Vancouver Island community of Port Alberni, B.C., in search of work.
Schmegelsky’s account shows he was a frequent player of a shooting game called Russia Battlegrounds, and both young men’s Facebook pages were connected to an account called Illusive Gameing, which had a modified Soviet flag as its icon.
Alan Schmegelsky, Bryer’s father, said he purchased the military fatigues and airsoft rifle for his son so he could play “battle” with his friends in the woods. He said the teenager loved strategy video games.
McLeod’s father Keith McLeod released a statement saying his son is a “kind, considerate, caring young man.”