Search scaled back, but not over, for B.C. murder suspects in rural Manitoba

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The following statement was issued Wednesday afternoon by RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy on the current state of the search for B.C. murder suspects in northern Manitoba.

On behalf of every member of the RCMP in Manitoba, I want to offer my condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the homicides in British Columbia.

On the afternoon of July 23rd, the Manitoba RCMP became aware that two murder suspects from BC could be in our Province.

As you all know, a vehicle had been found burnt – out in a remote area, approximately 40 km kilometers from Gillam and close to Fox Lake Cree Nation. It was later established that this vehicle was indeed the vehicle the suspects had been driving.

Northern B.C. murders
A military plane from Canadian Armed Forces arrives in Gillam to assist with the aerial search for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, July 27, 2019.
Photo: Manitoba RCMP

Manitoba RCMP responded immediately, deploying front-line and tactical officers, police dogs, forensic identification specialists and Major Crime investigators to the Gillam area.

An RCMP plane with infrared capabilities was also deployed and conducted an aerial search of the area that same evening.

Over the last week, we have done everything we can to locate the suspects.

Using RCMP and Royal Canadian Air Force assets, we searched approximately 11,000 square kilometres in northern Manitoba.

We canvassed every home and searched every abandoned building in Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation. This equals to over 500 homes and buildings.

We searched rail lines, hydro corridors, lakes, rivers, vast areas of tundra and muskeg, dense forests and brush.

We conducted exhaustive searches on foot, with dogs and with all-terrain vehicles. We used boats on lakes and searched from the air with drones, helicopters and planes.

We used some of the most advanced technologies available and received assistance from some of the most highly skilled search and rescue personnel in the country.

In addition, over 250 tips were received and followed-up on.

RCMP and RCAF personnel have logged thousands of hours, working 24/7, during this search for the suspects.

Kam McLeod & Bryer Schmelgesky. Photo courtesy BC RCMP

However, even with this extraordinary effort, we have not had any confirmed sightings of the suspects since the burned vehicle was located.

Taking into account all of the work so far, it has come time to re-assess our deployment of resources to the area.

Over the next week, the RCMP will begin to scale down the search efforts in northern Manitoba.

This will include the phased withdrawal of the majority of specialized RCMP and RCAF personnel and assets over the coming week.

To be clear, we’re not ending the search – a number of tactical resources and specialized assets will remain positioned in the Gillam area and will continue with the efforts to locate the murder suspects.

In addition, all of our resources will be ready to respond to the region as required should new information emerge.

We have also received assurances that the RCAF will be ready to assist us if needed.

I know that today’s news is not what the families of the victims and the communities of northern Manitoba wanted to hear.

But when searching for people in vast, remote and rugged locations, it is always a possibility that they are not immediately located.

The terrain in northern Manitoba is immense and unforgiving. The weather is often unpredictable.

Additionally, there remains a possibility that the suspects had some sort of assistance to flee the area. This of course is still an area of consideration for the RCMP.

We continue to encourage the public to be on the lookout for these two suspects and to continue to submit tips. Something that may seem insignificant to you may be extremely valuable to our officers.

If you have information or if you believe you see the suspects, please contact your local police immediately.

As the search begins to scale down in the area, I want to thank the communities of Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation and York Landing for their incredible support and the resiliency they’ve demonstrated over the last week.

You have shown incredible strength and courage during a time of uncertainty. You came together and looked out for one and other.

I applaud you, and thank you for all the help you have provided to our officers during these challenging times.

I also want to assure you that our officers will still have a presence in the area and will be there for you. Do not hesitate for a moment to reach out to us if you need any help.

To the officers involved in the ongoing search efforts; you exemplify the professionalism and dedication that Canadians know they can expect from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Through difficult terrain, voracious bugs, all night shifts, and knowing you could be confronted by a dangerous fugitive at any moment, you never wavered in your duty, and I am incredibly proud of you all.

I would also like to thank the RCAF and RCMP Divisions from across the country who supplied incredible support to Manitoba over the last week.

While the search in northern Manitoba is being scaled down, it is not over, not by any means.

I want to assure everyone that the RCMP is continuing to work on this investigation and will not stop until there is a resolution.