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Distance from Gillam to York Landing full of ‘challenging terrain,’ experts say

WATCH: RCMP confirms it received tip B.C. murder suspects were sighted in York Landing, Man.

A small community of less than 500 people, York Landing, Manitoba became the latest site in the ongoing manhunt for murder suspects Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19 this past weekend.

The two men were last spotted in Gillam, Man. on July 22. That’s where RCMP had discovered a burnt Toyota RAV4 — a vehicle that the two suspects had allegedly been using.

READ MORE: RCMP using ‘all possible’ resources as tip leads manhunt to York Landing, Man.

By Sunday afternoon, police moved their search to York Landing, which is located about 200 km southwest by car, after RCMP received what Cpl. Julie Courchaine called a “credible tip” about the suspects around 5 p.m.

By Monday afternoon, RCMP Manitoba tweeted that they have “not been able to substantiate the tip in York Landing” after a “thorough & exhaustive search.”

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“RCMP resources will continue to be in the York Landing & Gillam areas,” RCMP wrote. “We thank the community for their patience & understanding & ask them to continue to be vigilant.”

WATCH: A timeline of the B.C. murders

The northern B.C. murders: a timeline
The northern B.C. murders: a timeline

Here’s a look at the distance and the terrain between the two communities.

From Gillam to York Landing

Google Maps estimates the drive from Gillam to York Landing covers 204 kilometres along Provincial Road 280 (also known as PR280) and takes around three-and-a-half hours. This includes taking a ferry at Split Lake, a community located north of York Landing. 

 

 

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WATCH: RCMP confirm sighting of B.C. murder suspects in Split Lake, Man. prior to Gillam sighting

RCMP confirm sighting of B.C. murder suspects in Split Lake, Man. prior to Gillam sighting
RCMP confirm sighting of B.C. murder suspects in Split Lake, Man. prior to Gillam sighting

Cpl. Courchaine described York Landing as around 90 km southwest of Gillam and “only accessible by air or via a two hour ferry crossing in the summer.” She also said there is a rail line around 25 kilometres south. 

The search for the suspects is “very similar to Gillam,” Courchaine added, in that the area is “challenging terrain” with “lots of forest, lots of muskeg, waterways.”

James Favel, executive director of the Bear Clan Patrol, said it is a “very isolated and remote community.”

From Gillam to Split Lake, there’s an all-season road they could access, and then there’s a ferry that takes people across,” he said on Monday. 

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“I’m not quite sure how they got there — you have to be determined.”

Members of the Patrol — an Indigenous-led neighbourhood watch group — had spotted two men believed to be Schmegelsky and McLeod rummaging at a dump site there on Sunday.

READ MORE: A look at Bear Clan Patrol, a neighbourhood watch group in the Manitoba manhunt

Favel has previously said the volunteers had thought the men were associated with work at the nearby water treatment plant, and that the men ran into the bush after being spotted.

The area is “very unforgiving territory,” he said. “There’s bears, there’s wolves — everything’s going to be wanting a taste of those guys.”

READ MORE: ‘Military-style survival’: How B.C. murder suspects may be faring in the harsh Manitoba wilderness

Survival expert Sherman Kong painted a similar picture of the area.

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It’s dense, it’s foggy, it’s swampy, tonnes of bugs,” he said Monday.

“They’re going to have to maintain the ability to find shelter, water, fire, food,” he added. “I would imagine that the consideration of food is now becoming problematic for them.”

WATCH: RCMP discuss challenges facing them in search for B.C. murder suspects

RCMP discuss challenges facing them in search for B.C. murder suspects
RCMP discuss challenges facing them in search for B.C. murder suspects

York Factory Chief Leroy Constant told the Canadian Press that there are some 30 officers in the remote community, along with a dog team, emergency response teams, helicopters and armed men on all-terrain vehicles.

Constant said he would be surprised if the pair made it to his community on foot because the northern terrain is treacherous.

“You would have to go many miles to reach anything,” he said.

“One of the challenges is it’s heavily wooded and we are primarily surrounded by water — there’s only limited areas they can access.”

Manitoba Hydro confirmed there is “a transmission line corridor that runs in close proximity to the community.”

READ MORE: Who are Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky? What we know about the suspects in northern B.C. deaths

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The past weekend has seen officers canvassing 250 homes and buildings in Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation, combing the rail line, waterways, cottages and cabins for any signs of Schmegelsky and McLeod.

The Canadian Armed Forces deployed two military aircraft — one of which had infrared cameras and imaging radar — to aid in the search. 

A Via Rail train passing through Gillam and heading north to Churchill was also searched on the weekend.

WATCH: RCMP say Searching York Landing wasn’t a waste of time

RCMP: Searching York Landing wasn’t a waste of time
RCMP: Searching York Landing wasn’t a waste of time

RCMP have urged all Canadians to remain vigilant until arrests are made.

Investigators have discouraged people from posting tips online because it can create “substantial delays” in police response and hinder the investigation.

The suspects, both from Port Alberni, B.C., are still considered to be armed and dangerous. They also may have changed their appearance, police said. The RCMP have previously said it was possible the suspects received help in leaving town, possibly by someone who did not know they were fugitives.

With files from Rachael D’Amore and the Canadian Press

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