RCMP are investigating the homicides of two people found dead along the Alaska Highway in northern B.C.
Police have identified the victims as 23-year-old Lucas Fowler, the son of a senior Australian police officer, and 24-year-old American Chynna Deese.
The couple appears to have been shot at the location where they were found, Mark Jones, assistant commissioner with the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force’s North West Metropolitan Region Command, said at a news conference in Australia.
Jones said the NSW police have sent two of their officers to act in a liaison role and assist the Mounties in their investigation.
Those officers arrived at Vancouver International Airport on Friday night.
Wayne Walpole, detective chief inspector with the NSW Police, is one of them. He told media that he couldn’t say much about the investigation, nor could he offer an update on how the Fowler family was doing.
WATCH: The bodies of two people found along the Alaska Highway have now been identified and police are calling it a double homicide
“We have lost our dear Lucas Fowler, son, brother, grandson and friend in the most terrible of circumstances,” reads a statement from the Fowler family posted on the New South Wales Police Force Facebook page.
“To lose someone so young and vibrant, who was travelling the world and just enjoying life to the full, is devastating.”
The statement continues: “To know his beautiful girlfriend, Chynna Deese of Charlotte, N.C., also lost her life in this violent event is too cruel. All our love and best wishes go to Chynna’s family and friends.”
Chynna’s brother British said the couple had met in Europe when she was working at a hostel and had bonded over their love of travelling.
“They had a very well-planned trip to travel up the coast and pretty much see everything they can in Canada,” he said.
“They were planning on visiting all the national parks and seeing all the sights in Canada and just spending time together.”
He said the pair had both travelled extensively and were well versed in safety issues.
He said Chynna’s death had left her entire family reeling.
“Chynna was the sibling that brought everyone together, in a way. The least judgmental and the biggest glow in the room. It’s going to be really hard, because it’s a piece of my childhood and a piece of my everyday life,” he said.
WATCH: B.C. RCMP confirm names of victims in Alaska Highway double murder
The bodies were found Monday on Highway 97 about 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs. A blue 1986 Chevrolet van with Alberta licence plates was located at the scene, RCMP said.
Carrie Hawryluk of Fort Nelson, B.C., says she saw a young couple matching the description of Fowler and Deese by the side of the Alaska Highway on Sunday afternoon.
“We just saw their van on the side of the road and we saw a young couple, and the van hood was up like it had broken down and they were sitting in some lawn chairs in the ditch,” she said.
She said her husband, who had driven by about 20 minutes earlier, saw the pair and slowed down to approach, but “the couple didn’t really indicate that they were having problems.”
Hawryluk, who was travelling with her two aunts and a female cousin, said she hesitated to stop due to safety concerns but notified RCMP.
Hawryluk notes the area is popular with travellers from around the world.
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said it is too soon to tell if the victims were targeted or if their murders were a “crime of opportunity.”
RCMP also noted that there is nothing to indicate the deaths are linked to any other ongoing investigations.
Shoihet said Fowler’s family is travelling to Canada from Australia along with members of the New South Wales Police Force. The officers are travelling to support the Fowler family, RCMP said, and will not be part of the investigation.
RCMP are asking anyone who may have travelled that highway on Sunday or Monday and have dashcam footage to come forward.