The mother of a young woman murdered on a remote Canadian highway with her Australian boyfriend last month says she’s sickened their suspected killers are still at large.
In a gut-wrenching interview, Sheila Deese said she has been in a state of shock since her daughter Chynna and Lucas Fowler were found dead on the Alaska Highway in British Columbia on July 15.
Police are hunting two childhood friends from the BC town of Port Alberni, Bryer Schmegelsky, 18 and Kam McLeod, 19, who are believed to have slain the couple and 64-year-old university professor Leonard Dyck, in a cross-country killing spree.
The teens have managed to evade a military scale manhunt involving helicopters, drones, dogs and hi-tech surveillance equipment that has sent investigators on a wild-goose chase spanning more than 3000km across four provinces.
“I’m just sick to my stomach, literally,” Ms Deese told Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
“I want them caught. I want them to have consequences … The story is about Chynna and Lucas, but so much of the focus is these boys, these evil, evil boys.”
WHERE ARE BRYER AND KAM?
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have admitted they have no idea where Schmegelsky and McLeod are now after their two most compelling leads came to nothing.
On Monday, it looked as if authorities had pair cornered in the northern Manitoba river town of York Landing, which has extremely limited access, after a compelling sighting of the pair scavenging for food at a landfill.
The dramatic development saw heavily armed SWAT team police and military aircraft shift the search from the one road town of Gillam, where fugitives dumped and torched a getaway vehicle on July 22, to the First Nations community of just 443 people.
The raids saw both towns go into lockdown for several days as officers searched hundreds of homes, cars and abandoned buildings, leaving residents with their nerves frayed.
But the RCMP was unable to substantiate the landfill sighting and returned empty-handed to Gillam, where the scaled-back operation will continue indefinitely.
Schmegelsky and McLeod have managed to stay at least three days ahead of their pursuers and there are many reasons for this — the most significant being the initial failure of police to link them to the three highway murders.
Ms Deese and Mr Fowler’s bodies were found on the Alaska Highway next to their campervan on July 15. On July 19, Mr Dyck was found murdered 500km away near Lake Dease.
Police found the abandoned, burnt-out wreckage of Schmegelsky and McLeod’s Dodge pickup truck less than 2km away but initially dismissed speculation of a link between the three crime scenes.
The teens were treated as missing persons for four days before the RCMP dramatic announced the pair as suspects in all three murders on Tuesday, July 23.
That was 24 hours too late for First Nations band constable Albert Saunders and gas station attendant Mychelle Keeper, who had separate run ins with the pair at the northern Manitoba town of Split Lake on Monday, July 22.
That evening, the suspects dumped and torched their last known getaway vehicle — a Toyota RAV4 SUV possibly belonging to Mr Dyck — near a rail line at a First Nations reserve 70km from Gillam.
And that is where the evidence trail has run cold.
QUESTIONS LINGER OVER NEW SIGHTINGS
With no confirmed sightings of the pair for 12 days, paranoia about them crossing more provincial borders has dominated police time, with reports of the pair popping up in towns across Ontario and even pulling a gun on a construction worker.
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) investigated sightings in at least ten towns including Kapuskasing, Parry Sound, Moonbeam, Iron Bridge, North Bay, Sudbury, Cochrane, Sault Ste Marie, West Nipissing and Wawa but failed to substantiate them.
All are located in the north of the province, some 2300km from Gillam.
However, there are a couple of leads that are still being investigated, including a report the suspects were seen at a Tim Hortons fast food restaurant in Timmins, northeast Ontario.
Timmins Police Service spokesman Marc Depatie said a man called the station claiming to have seen the suspects at an outlet near the town centre on Wednesday.
Officers were working with the restaurant’s owner to review surveillance footage from that day, he said.
Another sighting — shared on social media first before eventually making its way to police — involved a suspicious vehicle driving through a construction site on Highway 11 in Kapuskasing on Wednesday morning.
It remains unresolved with officers so far unable to identify the vehicle or its occupants.
The post was first shared on Facebook, before being picked up by community groups online and eventually being reported to police.
The OPP have not confirmed the identity of the people in the vehicle or the validity of the report.
“Anytime people are seeing two scruffy males together, we’re getting a call — which is fine,” OPP acting Sergeant Shona Camirand told the Post.
“We’re following up on every call because, we’re the police, it’s our job.
“When we look at common sense, how far from Gillam to Kapuskasing … if they’re in a vehicle, they’re going to have to stop, they’re going to need gas.
“The north-west region is a big place so to get through to the north-east region without getting without getting caught, I can’t say where they are because no one knows.”
‘I HAVE WATCHED THAT VIDEO 1000 TIMES’
Bizarrely, there has been no CCTV footage of Schmegelsky and McLeod buying fuel.
Early on in the investigation, police released video of the murdered couple making a fuel stop at the start of their road trip.
Mr Fowler is seen filling up the tank while Ms Deese gives the rear windows a quick clean before the couple share an embrace and drive off.
“I have watched that video 1000 times, just literally — the first night it came out, over and over and over,” Sheila Deese told The Globe and Mail.
“My daughter would not be the one to just sit in the van and wait on Lucas to fill up. She’s out cleaning every window — the front, the driver’s side. And I’m watching how meticulous she was, as I watched it over and over.
“On that embrace, I could hear them going, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s go.’ It was such a plan. It was a route they had planned out. It was not spontaneous.
“They had saved money, he had fixed up the van with a camper in the back. That video, being the last thing, is a gift to me, of how happy they were.”