Manitoba

  

From the warmth of a small home in North Carolina, to a stretch of Canadian wilderness as vast as the Australian outback, all the way to Sydney.

Grief at the senseless murders of Sydney man Lucas Fowler, his American girlfriend Chynna Deese and Canadian Leonard Dyck stretches across the globe.

Today any hope of knowing why Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky took the lives of three people also died, at Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) headquarters.

Schmegelsky

  

In Surrey, about 40 minutes from Vancouver, the RCMP confirmed the two killers took their own lives.

“The two died in what appears to be suicides,” a RCMP media release said, adding that two firearms were found with the bodies.

“While both individuals were deceased for a number of days before they were found, the exact time and date of their deaths are not known.”

It may never be known how two teenagers from nearby Vancouver Island went from introverted computer game enthusiasts to some of Canada’s most notorious serial killers, but the RCMP said it would continue investigating

“Investigators are now assessing all items located in Manitoba… to gain more clarity into what happened to Leonard Dyck, Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese,” the statement said.

The killers’ motive dying with them inflicts further pain on the families, who are already struggling to understand how an adventure in Canada’s remote scenic country could end this way.

“I don’t think we’ll every truly know why,” Chynna’s brother, Stetson Deese, told Nine’s Today Show.

“It’s just hard to accept that such good people can be killed for whatever reason.”

Two young adventurers found easy love

In Charlotte, North Carolina, a city renowned for its blue grass and country tunes, Sheila Deese’s home is decorated with pictures of her daughter.

Also lining the space is sunflowers, Chynna’s favourite flower. They add light and memories.

Lucas Fowler

  

It was a home Sheila shared with Chynna and Lucas earlier this year as two committed travellers took some time off the road.

Deeply in love, Lucas impressed Sheila and the rest of the Deese clan with his commitment to Chynna.

“We were able to spend three months with him this year throughout all the holidays. And he just fit right in,” she said.

But Queen City couldn’t hold two young adventurers forever, and July brought a new adventure in far northern British Columbia, with plans to drive all the way to Alaska.

The family was relaxed about the trip.

The couple had travelled widely in South America, where tourists are more likely to encounter violence or theft.

The last known footage of the lovers alive was released by police. It captures the couple at a service station not far from where they were murdered.

It was a gift for Sheila Deese.

“I saw the photo where the back window had been shattered, and then when I saw that video at the gas station and she’s wiping the windows,” she said.

The murder site was discovered at Liard River hot springs on July 15, and it took about three days for information to make it all the way to Australia.

As police tried to make sense of an inexplicable act of violence, they found another body on July 19.

Mr Dyck was found about 2 kilometres away from another burnt-out van belonging to two teenagers, who were believed to have been travelling north seeking work.

Police initially also feared for the welfare of those teenagers, Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky.

By the next Tuesday, July 23, they would announce the teens were not potential victims but potential killers.

The teens had a head start as manhunt begun

During that time, the teens had travelled a distance equivalent to that of Perth to Darwin as they fled in Mr Dyck’s Toyota Rav 4.

They had days to drive unimpeded by police.

By the time they were announced as suspects, Mr McLeod and Mr Schmegelsky were in Canada’s remote Manitoba province.

They got all the way to Gillam, where the road literally runs out, and then burned the dead man’s car.

That was the last confirmed known location of the pair. An epic two-week manhunt began.

Gillam is the frontier. If you’ve been to a place like it, you’ll know.

The small village of dirt roads and cottages has a reputation as a party town for the thirsty workers who toil mostly for the local hydro company.

It also has its share of adventurers, recluses and those in search of a new life after trouble elsewhere.

Gillam is an unlikely venue for an international murder mystery.

The only way north is by rail, boat or air.

It’s also unforgiving wilderness and an unlikely location for two teenagers without serious training to be able to survive for long.

The thick bush around it is swampy and filled with bears and bugs.

Gillam

  

The ground gives way under your feet as you walk, too, and locals say quicksand-like terrain is not uncommon.

Mr McLeod and Mr Schmegelsky had an advantage, though — a four-day head start.

The search spooked Canada’s small towns

Soon, the Canadian army was flying in a Hercules jet to try and swing the search back in their favour.

More than 1,000 officers were brought in to help hunt the fugitives.

As armed tactical police roamed in backyards, the town took it in stride.

There are not many options for a feed, and the local pizza operator was doing a busy trade dropping off pies to the media contingent.

Things settled into a rhythm of military and police rolling through the streets at day. By night, the Hercules would return to the airport.

Late on Sunday, July 28, that was upended when police announced a credible tip that the teens had been sighted in the nearby Indigenous community of York Landing.

“Nearby” by local standards anyway. It was a two-hour drive on a dirt road, then a two-hour ferry across a mighty waterway.

A frantic 48 hours ensued, in which a curfew was enforced as SWAT teams roved through an even-smaller community of dirt streets.

Fear came here, too, as police warned out-of-control murderers could be nearby.

It was a tense scene straight from a horror movie — the thin walls on the cottages offered little protection.

In the end, the tip went the way of hundreds of other tips — and deliberate misinformation on social media.

Police couldn’t verify it. The search shifted back to Gillam.

On July 31, police announced that with no confirmed new sightings they just couldn’t maintain a search of this scale.

Two days later and 14,500 kilometres away in Sydney, Lucas Fowler’s family gathered for the 23-year-old’s funeral.

Father Stephen Fowler, a Chief Inspector with the New South Wales Police, celebrated the young couple’s love for each other, as well as his son’s adventurous spirit.

“It was a life that many of us envied,” he said.

Chief Inspector Fowler referenced a photo capturing this lust for life. It shows Lucas with a frozen beard.

Canada

  

“He texted: This is what happens when you are out checking fences on a snowmobile in -36C,” Chief Inspector Fowler recalled.

“I replied: Easy way to get a haircut. Just snap it off.”

Back in Canada, there were tips placing the teens as far away as Ontario, but police continued to focus on Gillam.

On August 2, a damaged dinghy was found along the Nelson river near Gillam.

The wild river added to the difficulty of the search. It’s surrounded by tangled terrain, and in many places, has steep sides and little bank.

But it was near the river, in thick bush, where police finally had their breakthrough.

They found the bodies of Mr Schmegelsky and Mr McLeod on August 7.

After two weeks of searching, the bodies were just 8 kilometres from Leonard Dyck’s Rav 4.

Today’s announcement means what drove them all this way may have died with them.

For all the families, it’s an extra weight amid an already heavy grief.

Back amid Chynna’s sunflowers in Charlotte, another of her brothers, British Deese, says they were a couple everyone wanted to be near.

“Just the most interesting people in the room, by far. But also the most personable,” he said.

“It really changed the dynamic of anything we were doing when they were there. It just made it so much better and so much happier.”

It’s likely now that any chance of justice for the couple died with Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky.