Canadian fugitives remain at large

CMP officers inspect homes and buildings in the Gillam, Manitoba area.

CMP officers inspect homes and buildings in the Gillam, Manitoba area. Photo: AAP

Clint Sawchuk pretty much sums up the feelings of locals in the small northern Canadian town of Gillam.

“I just hope they bring the little bastards to justice so everyone can relax,” Mr Sawchuk, the operator of a wilderness tour in Gillam, said on Monday.

Mr Sawchuk has been sleeping with a 12-gauge shotgun the past week.

Most of his neighbours have sent their wives and kids out of town until ‘the little bastards’ – Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18 – have been captured.

“Our number one priority is to find these individuals,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police corporal Julie Courchaine told reporters on Monday.

It has been two weeks since the bodies of Australian tourist Lucas Fowler, 23, and his North Carolina girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, were found in a ditch beside a remote highway in British Columbia, about 3000 kilometres west of Gillam, Manitoba.

The Mounties have named McLeod and Schmegelsky, childhood friends and former Walmart employees from Vancouver Island, as the suspects.

The RCMP also blames the duo for the murder of a botanist, Leonard Dyck, on another BC highway four days after Mr Fowler and Ms Deese were shot.

McLeod and Schmegelsky fled in a stolen Toyota RAV4 across Canada and ended up in Gillam, a town of 1265 people that is literally the end of the road for anyone driving east in northern Manitoba.

The fugitives’ Toyota was found crashed in a ditch off a sharp bend on a gravel road a week ago just outside of Gillam.

It appears the teens lost control of the vehicle.

It was set alight and then abandoned, with camping gear left inside.

They likely escaped into bushland.

The RCMP and Gillam locals were dealt an emotional blow on Monday when a strong lead proved to be unsubstantiated.

Two men fitting the fugitives’ string bean 193cm tall, 77kg body types were spotted on Sunday at a rubbish dump about 90km west from Gillam at York Landing, but a thorough search failed to locate them.

Mr Sawchuk, operator of Nelson River Adventures, said it made sense to him the duo would end up at the garbage dump in York Landing desperately seeking food – no matter how rancid it was – after a week in the wilderness.

He believes they likely walked along a railway line, or hopped on a cargo train, that heads west out of Gillam toward York Landing.

“I said from the start, the only way you’re going to get out of Gillam is walking the railway line or travel by water,” he said.

Members of the Bear Clan, an indigenous community policing group, spotted two tall, skinny men at the dump.

The men fled into the wilderness after they were seen.

Locals are wondering why the two men would run away if they were not the fugitives.

Mr Sawchuk downplayed the chances of McLeod and Schmegelsky being attacked by wild animals while hiding out in bushland, particularly if they were heading west away from Hudson Bay.

“They are going the wrong way for polar bears and grizzlies,” he said.

“If they were heading to the east coast they would have been screwed.”

There are plenty of other dangers and obstacles.

“There’s swamp and heavy bush,” he said.

“You can walk through it, but it is slow going and you can be up to your knees in swamp and we just had rain so the mosquitoes are out in full force and the sandflies are still out.”

There is the prospect McLeod and Schmegelsky could get lost, die and never be found.

Gillam locals want closure so they can get back to their normal lives.

“I think everyone is hoping they don’t get lost and die out there,” Sawchuk said.

“They want to make sure they find these little bastards.

“Otherwise everyone is still going to be scared and left wondering what is going on.”

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