Operations at the Prairie Green Landfill where police believe the remains of two Indigenous women may be located have been paused while city, provincial and Indigenous leaders continue to discuss the feasibility of a search.
Manitoba premier Heather Stefanson and Winnipeg mayor Scott Gillingham made the joint announcement late Thursday afternoon.
Winnipeg police believe Morgan Harris and Marcedes Myran, two woman alleged to have been killed by accused serial killer Jeremy Skibicki, are somewhere within Prairie Green Landfill, a private facility in the rural municipality of Rosser.
READ MORE: Winnipeg police chief says homicide victims’ bodies likely at landfill, but no plans to search
WPS Chief Danny Smyth said Friday that despite the belief the women’s remains were there, no search is planned, due in part to the amount of time that has passed and the fact that there’s no known starting point for the search. But after multiple calls from Indigenous leaders, elders and organizations to do more, the province and city say they want to investigate to see if it is possible.
“It’s an absolutely horrific tragedy that has taken place out there and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims,” Stefanson said. “We don’t want to presuppose what that may be, what comes out of that. I think it’s very important that for right now, we take this pause and we get this right.”
Stefanson said they reached out to the landfill owner and the RM of Rosser to help facilitate the request.
“Both are very cooperative in our wanting to put a pause on anything moving forward from here while we take the time to work behind the scenes to see what else and what the next steps are,” she said.
Thursday, the premier and mayor said they want to take the time to see if a search may be feasible and that pausing operations buys them some more time.
“Today is about the premier and I coming together,” Gillingham said. “The city and the province coming together to try to recognize the need the families have and to work with Indigenous communities as well… and assist them in the next steps.”
Earlier this week, Winnipeg Police Service Insp. Cam MacKid said there were several factors that contributed to the decision not to search for the women.
“We made the very difficult decision as a service that this wasn’t operationally feasible to conduct a search of this site,” MacKid said. “It’s a very emotional subject, and our hearts go out to the families and to the victims.”
READ MORE: Jeremy Skibicki to plead not guilty on all charges in 1st-degree murder case: lawyer
In May, Skibicki was charged with the murder of 24-year-old Rebecca Contois, whose partial remains were found in a garbage bin near an apartment building. Police later conducted a search of the Brady Road landfill where they found the rest of her remains.
“We caught a break with Rebecca Contois in the timing of that particular search,” Smyth said. “We were able to take some action to isolate a very specific area of the landfill within hours of discovering her other remains at the scene of the crime. We don’t have that luxury with these other victims.”
Skibicki was later charged with three more counts of first-degree murder for the the killing of Myron, Harris and a yet to be identified woman who elders have named Buffalo Woman.
While Stefanson said it is unknown how long operations will be stopped, she said nothing new will be dumped at the site for now.
“We need to assess the site,” she said. “I think we’ll learn a number of things over the course of the next while. That’s why we are taking a pause right now, to ensure we take that time and we get this right, we find out as much information as we can.”
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