Manitoba RCMP say they have found several items linked to B.C. homicide suspects Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky on a shoreline in northern Manitoba.
Police said Tuesday that several items were located on the shore of the Nelson River on Friday, about nine kilometres from where a burnt-out vehicle used by the suspects was found last month. (Police had earlier said the items were discovered Saturday, but later issued a correction.)
The vehicle police said was used by McLeod and Schmegelsky was found on July 22, about 40 kilometres from the town of Gillam and near Fox Lake Cree Nation.
RCMP have been focusing their search efforts around the Nelson River in recent days, after officers in the air spotted a damaged aluminum boat along the shore on Friday.
The Mounties brought in their underwater recovery team and set up a new roadblock near Sundance Creek over the long weekend.
An RCMP spokesperson declined to tell CBC News what was found, citing the ongoing investigation, but said they were personal items.
The mayor of Gillam said the stretch of river near where the items were found is very turbulent.
“It would not be a river that many people would survive. It’s not something you would go swimming in,” said Dwayne Forman.
Tuesday’s RCMP announcement comes after police said last week they would be scaling down their search for the two suspects, who are wanted in connection with three deaths in B.C.
The RCMP announced on July 23 — two days after the burnt vehicle was found — they had reason to believe the two suspects were in the Gillam area. They revealed days later that they had two established and corroborated sightings of the men in the Gillam area prior to the discovery of the vehicle.
This triggered a massive search in and around Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation that attracted international media attention. Police brought in officers from out of province, crisis negotiators, tactical teams, a drone and the canine unit, and called in the military for air support.
The hunt for the suspects seemed to turn up few leads until July 28, when Mounties got a tip from the Bear Clan Patrol that patrol members believed they spotted the two men in York Landing.
Police sent a massive amount of resources to the community by air and ferry but weren’t able to substantiate the tip and later returned to the Gillam area. The RCMP then had their officers knock on every door in Gillam and Fox Lake, but the trail seemed to go cold until Tuesday’s announcement. Gillam is about 740 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
Still trying to cope
Tensions in northern Manitoba continue to remain high. Residents are wondering if it’s safe to leave their homes, and the chief of Fox Lake says life has not gone back to normal.
The mayor said some people in the community are still “downright scared.”
Forman said he’s struggling to figure how to help.
“Right now my feelings are more for the people who are having the anxiety, the concerns. I want to do my best to alleviate, but I don’t know how. I’m not a magician,” he said.
RCMP met with about 100 people, including 30 from Fox Lake, for an information session in Gillam last Friday to try to answer questions about the search for Schmegelsky and McLeod. The meeting closed to media was at least the second since the manhunt began.
“It was evident people remain uneasy,” Walter Spence, chief of Fox Lake Cree Nation, said in a statement provided by a spokesperson.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government is taking the manhunt seriously. “Every police and governmental resource is being brought to bear,” he said on CBC’s Power and Politics.
“The police are leaving absolutely no stone unturned,” he said, noting that officers from across the country are involved in the hunt for the two men.
McLeod, 19, and Schmegelsky — whose 19th birthday was on Monday, according to his father — are suspects in the deaths of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese, two tourists shot dead near Liard Hot Springs, B.C. last month.
Police have also charged the pair with second-degree murder in the case of Leonard Dyck, a university lecturer found dead near Dease Lake, B.C.
The RCMP continue to ask anyone with information about the two men to come forward. Mounties have previously acknowledged the men may no longer be in the Gillam area and could have gotten help from someone inadvertently.