It’s Day 14 of the RCMP’s manhunt for two teen fugitives from British Columbia and Canada’s most famous outdoorsmen say the suspects could be just about anywhere but northern Manitoba.
Les Stroud, the Canadian survivalist known as ‘Survivorman’ and Terry Grant, a cowboy known as ‘Mantracker,’ think the reason the search for Kam McLeod, 19 and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, has dragged on is because the murder suspects aren’t hiding in the woods in Manitoba.
If they’re not in that bush, we have to wait for somebody else to get hurt
“I haven’t heard anyone say we’ve seen them go into the woods with an axe and banana, no one ever said that,” Grant said.
“I’m half thinking they met someone in a big town … and they’re long gone to Texas or the Bahamas.”
The RCMP have admitted they don’t know where the triple murder suspects are, but their efforts have zeroed in on Gillam, Man., a bog-ridden, isolated town with roughly 1,265 people — the last place they were seen.
Across the border
McLeod and Schmegelsky, from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, face a second-degree murder charge in the death of Leonard Dyck and may be linked to the deaths of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese according to police.
They managed to move across four provinces in 10 days and were spotted in Gillam on July 22 — at that rate, Grant and Stroud say the RCMP should not rule out the chance that the suspects crossed the U.S. border.
“Technically speaking, they could be very far away,” Stroud said.
“Could they have flown? That’s unlikely but they could drive just about anywhere. There’s lots of places to get over the border from Canada to the United States without being detected…. For all we know, they could be in a car on their way to Mexico or in Mexico at this point.”
The RCMP confirmed to the National Post they haven’t neglected this theory.
We have to be open to all possibilities
“We have to be open to all possibilities,” read a statement from Cpl. Chris Manseau, a media relations officer with the B.C. RCMP.
“As for me to speculate on them crossing an international border, I would suggest that it’s a possibility, however we have to continue searching near their last confirmed sighting.”
Grant also said McLeod and Schmegelsky could have gone south but believes the chances of then entering the U.S. are a “two out of 10.”
Stroud says the most likely scenario is that the suspects have found their way out of the bush and melted into a crowd.
“They’ve had time to utilize standard society to get away, so they could be well on their way,” Stroud said.
“Now we’re into the Hollywood movie kind of thing, because having probably watched too many things online, who knows what’s in their head. I can only tell you what I would do and I would likely disappear into society and do all those silly Hollywood tricks like change my appearance.”
Grant brought up the rush of phone calls to police about alleged sightings of McLeod and Schmegelsky in Northern Ontario, but thinks it’s too late for them to be in the province.
“Either they’ve been helped by someone, maybe they got to Winnipeg and stayed there, out of sight and now they’re heading east now that the heat is off,” he said.
“But if I was them, I would’ve been heading east about two days after the army moved into Gillam because that’s where the police and the whole army thinks they’re up there, so the last place they’re going to look for them is Northern Ontario … how they’ve got anywhere is beyond me.”
We’re not dealing with Oceans 11 here, this is a couple of kids too deep in a rabbit hole
There’s also speculation that someone has helped the fugitive teenagers but, Stroud says it is unlikely.
“This is not a heist, these are seemingly random killings on the west coast … we’re not dealing with Oceans 11 here, this is a couple of kids too deep in a rabbit hole. It’s highly unlikely there’s a system of people working with them.”
He also says the idea of the teenagers as survivalists has been overemphasized.
“It’s one thing to be experienced, it’s another to be a fugitive on the run … they’re kids,” Stroud said.
“Maybe they’re pretending they’re in Hunger Games. This is absolutely not Tarzan, this is fugitives doing whatever they can to escape and evade, they’re not war vets trained in wilderness survival, this is not Rambo, they’re not hiding in mud banks, these are a couple of kids on the run.”
If the suspects died in the woods, Grant says those bones may not ever leave the dense, thick Manitoban brush.
“If they’ve gone in there, four to 10 km deep and expired, they may never be found,” he said.
“All those guys had to do was go eight kilometres in or around the lake, expire over there. The animals would make most of them disappear and their bodies would just go back into the ground.”
Both Stroud and Grant say finding human remains would be near impossible with the unforgiving terrain that leaves no sight of any movement.
While their death is unlikely, a falling out between the duo on the run may be the most likely way they die.
“They could have had a fight on Day 5 and bopped each other over the head with a stick,” Grant said.
“If one is a leader and one is a follower and the leader expired, the follower is going to be totally lost, he’s not going to know what to do and he could expire just trying to get out. If the follower expired, the leader could say, ‘OK, he’s not going to hold me down anymore, I can get out of here now’.”
But as long as the teens stay warm, drink water and eat food while avoiding injury, their chances of survival are high.
In the water
The RCMP’s most recent attempt to track down the teenagers came after a beaten-up hunter’s punt was spotted washed up on the shore. The RCMP summoned an underwater recovery team to the Nelson River, a 644 kilometres long stretch of water between Lake Winnipeg and Hudson Bay.
“The only thing they could be looking for is backpacks, camping gear or bodies,” Grant said.
Stroud also said it was an example of police leaving “no stone unturned.”
“The likelihood that the aluminum boat belongs to the fugitives, if I made a haphazard guess, is slim,” he said.
Despite five divers plunging into the water over the long weekend, they brought no new leads to the surface with them and couldn’t connect the boat to the teenagers.
While some speculate the suspects may have used the rowboat to travel toward Hudson Bay, Stroud says that would hinder them more than it would help.
“They wouldn’t likely, because as soon as they do that, they’re wide open. You can bet law enforcement agencies would spot them,” he said.
Provincial Road 290, the road going north of Gillam, is blocked off near Sundance, Man., as investigators continue to search the area.
“Until new corroborated evidence is brought forward, we will focus our efforts in that area,” Cpl. Manseau wrote.
“Our policing partners are aware of the suspects, and they too remain vigilant in assisting the RCMP in locating and arresting the suspects.”
Grant hopes the duo are still in the woods, where the RCMP are searching.
“If they’re not in that bush, we have to wait for somebody else to get hurt,” he said.