RCMP confirmed Monday that two men wanted in connection with three B.C. murders died by apparent suicide in northern Manitoba.
RCMP say 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.
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“However, there are strong indications that they had been alive for a few days since last seen in July and during the extensive search efforts in the Gillam area,” a press release reads.
Police also confirmed that two firearms were located with the deceased men, and forensic analysis is underway in order to definitively confirm that the weapons are connected with the three murders in B.C.
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According to the release, officers have completed their search of the area where the bodies were located, and investigators are now assessing all items located in Manitoba, along with the previous findings related to the homicide investigations.
“The assessment will review all the investigative findings to date, whether it is statements, evidentiary time lines, physical or digital evidence, and the BC RCMP have also engaged our Behaviour Analysis Unit,” the release reads.
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The RCMP say once its review has been completed in the next few weeks it will provide the families with an update and then will release the information publicly.
A massive manhunt for the two suspects ended after the bodies were discovered near the shoreline of the Nelson River on Wednesday morning, within one kilometre of the location where a broken boat and several unidentified items linked to the young men were found last Friday.
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RCMP assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy said the discovery should bring relief to the families of three people slain in northern B.C. and the people in Manitoba communities where officers have been searching for nearly two weeks.
The two young men were facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of Vancouver university lecturer Leonard Dyck last month and were also suspects in the shooting deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler and American Chynna Deese.
According to officials, the search for the pair stretched across the Prairies and into remote Manitoba, which police say is comparable to the distance between London and Moscow. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said Mounties “worked 24-7, logging more than 4,500 investigation hours during this search for the suspects” in an RCMP communication provided late Wednesday night.
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“We searched more than 11,000 square kilometres of terrain across northern Manitoba, scouring rail lines, trains, hydro corridors, winter roads, waterways, coastline and vast areas of forest and trails,” she added.
A host of equipment and resources were deployed in the search, including planes, ATVs, police dogs and drones.
While the RCMP have now found the bodies of the suspects, B.C. RCMP assistant commissioner Kevin Hackett previously told the Canadian Press the investigation is not over, as police never discovered a motive for the killings.
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Officials hope that the results of the autopsies will lead to more clues in the case, he added.
In addition to the motive of the suspects, a number of other questions were left unanswered over the course of the RCMP investigation, including why charges were never laid in the shooting deaths of Fowler and Deese, Dyck’s cause of death, how the police originally linked the suspects to the victims and the final cost of the elaborate search effort.
Hackett added that the homicide investigation generated more than 1,000 tips.
The mayor of Gillam, Dwayne Forman, said the town’s residents are relieved after weeks of living in fear. The investigation was centred around Gillam after a car believed to have been used by the suspects was found burned and abandoned near the town.
While the end of the investigation will bring closure to local residents, Forman says closure for the victims’ families is far from over.
In an phone interview on Monday, John McDonald, deputy mayor of Gillam, told Global News he thinks things are slowly returning to normal in the town.
“Now that it’s been confirmed I guess we can breathe a sigh of relief,” McDonald said. “Everybody hopes we can move on.”
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The mayor of Port Alberni, home to both fugitives, said in a statement Monday that she hoped the autopsy results and other information released by RCMP would answer some of the questions facing families struck by the tragedy.
“There may never be enough information to adequately answer all of their questions, but our council remains committed to supporting the RCMP as they complete their investigation into what led to this tragic series of events,” Mayor Sharie Minions said.
She shared her sympathies with those affected and reminded residents that there are numerous supports available to residents of the Alberni Valley.
“I encourage anyone struggling at this time to take advantage of the services,” she said.
— With files from the Canadian Press