BC RCMP say there is no heightened risk to public safety after two international tourists were found murdered near Liard Hot Springs near the B.C.-Yukon border this week.
In a press conference today, RCMP officials said their investigation in the killings of Lucas Robertson Fowler, 23, of Australia and Chynna Noelle Deese, 24, of North Carolina, sometime between July 14 and 15 is in its early stages, and again pleaded to the public with information to help their investigation.
"We recognize this news is troubling for the entire community and absolutely appreciate there are concerns for safety, in an area that is popular with nature enthusiasts and tourists," Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said.
"This investigation is in its very infancy and it is not yet clear whether Lucas and Chynna were targeted or is this was a crime of opportunity. At this point, we have nothing to indicate that their deaths are linked to any other active and ongoing investigations in the area, or if there is a heightened risk to public safety. Our investigators will consider any and all information carefully as the investigation progresses."
Shoihet said there were no truth to rumours on social media that a serial killer is on the loose. They called the killings a "unique circumstance," and that there has not be a spike in crime in the area.
RCMP say a blue 1986 Chevrolet minivan with Alberta plates was found at the scene, and are looking to speak with anyone who may have seen the vehicle or tried to help the victims. Police are trying to determine whether they or someone else were driving the van.
Police are looking to speak with anyone who travelled the stretch of highway between Sunday, July 14 at 4 p.m. and Monday, July 15 at 8 a.m. Police want to speak with anybody who has dashcam video of their travels through the area as they narrow down the timeline of the deaths.
Fowler was the son of New South Wales Police Chief Inspector Stephen Fowler. Family are are travelling with Australian police to Canada to help with the investigation and bring Fowler’s body back to Australia, the Herald reported. Consular services are being provided to the family.
Australian police will not assist in the investigation, contrary to reports from Australia media. The FBI is assisting RCMP with Deese's family in the U.S.
Deese was a graduate of Appalachian State University in North Carolina, with degrees in business and psychology.
In a Facebook post, Deese's brother, British Dwayne, said his younger sister had been visiting Fowler to help brand cows at the ranch he worked at, and to travel. The two had just begun a road trip, he said.
"24 hrs ago I found out why my little sis didn’t text me back. Chynna and Lucas’ lives were abruptly taken from a random act of violence while starting their road trip through Canada," Dwayne wrote.
"She’s is so deeply woven as a piece of my childhood and everyday life. I am forever indebted to her for being such an amazing life companion and giving me SO many reasons to smile."
The Zeta Tau Alpha sorority called Deese a "kind and adventurous soul."
"We have been honored to call her our sister," it said in a statement.
Deese's sister, Kennedy, wrote on Facebook: "It is with overwhelming sadness that I share my sister Chynna and her beloved boyfriend Lucas were recently found deceased. They were bright and beautiful souls. We are all still in shock and heartbroken."
The North District Major Crimes Unit and Northern Rockies RCMP are investigating.
Tourism operators along the stretch of remote highway say they are shocked by the news, but couldn't say whether they saw Fowler or Deese, or stayed at their lodges.
"It's really unusual for the area," said one lodge manager of the killings.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Northern Rockies RCMP at 250-774-2700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.