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The Manitoba RCMP said two bodies have been found in the hunt for the B.C. murder suspects, believed to be those of Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod.

Officers discovered the bodies at approximately 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning in an area of “dense brush” about a kilometre from where some items directly linked to the suspects had been previously found and eight kilometres from where a burned-out SUV connected to the pair had been found three weeks ago.

“At this time, we believe these are the bodies of the two suspects wanted in connection with the homicides in British Columbia,” RCMP Manitoba Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told reporters on Wednesday.

MacLatchy said officers searching the area on foot discovered the bodies.

She added that autopsies still need to be done to confirm the identities of the bodies and the cause of death.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, British Columbia RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett said the investigation will continue in order to make sure all the possible evidence is uncovered. He added that the reason behind the murders may ultimately remain a mystery.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult for us to ascertain definitively what the motive was,” Hackett said. “Obviously, we will not have the opportunity to speak with these individuals. The examination of the where they were located today is still being dealt with and searched, so there may additional items that could help in that regard.”

This announcement follows the discovery of items directly linked to the two suspects last Friday, after an exhaustive search in northern Manitoba paralyzed the town of Gillam, about 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg. MacLatchy said the items were the “critical piece of evidence” that officers had been looking for in their three-week long search of northern Manitoba.

“We were at last able to narrow down our search,” she said.

Officers found the items on the same day they found a damaged boat along the shores of the Nelson River, however a dive team came up empty while searching the surrounding water.

Schmegelsky and McLeod, childhood friends from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, had evaded police for more than a week after they were identified as suspects in the shooting deaths of a 23-year-old Australian man and his 24-year-old girlfriend on a remote portion of a highway in northern B.C. last month.

The bodies of Lucas Fowler and Chynna Deese were discovered beside their van on the Alaska Highway on July 15. They were embarking on a three-week road trip through Canada to Alaska before they died.

Four days later, the body of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck, a professor at the University of British Columbia, was found at a highway pullout located approximately 470 kilometres southwest of where Fowler and Deese were killed. A burned-out camper truck belonging to Schmegelsky and McLeod was also discovered not far from Dyck’s body.

MacLatchy said she hopes Wednesday’s news offers the victims’ loved ones a sense of relief.

“To the families of everyone affected by the series of events over the last few weeks, I know it has been so very difficult and I hope today’s announcement can begin to bring some closure,” she said.

Following the discovery of the burned-out SUV outside of Gillam on July 22, the RCMP began an intense, three-week manhunt involving local police forces from across the country, as well as members of the Canadian Armed Forces, armoured vehicles, drones, K9 units, ATVs, boats, and several aircraft, both military and civilian.

The search spanned several provinces, including 11,000 square kilometres of dense northern Manitoba wilderness and more than 500 homes in Gillam, Man. and the nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation.

“It’s a dense place, very difficult to find anybody, really,” MacLatchy said. “Very difficult terrain, lots of land as well, it’s a huge area that we’re looking at. It’s hard to pinpoint anything in such a dense terrain.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale applauded the efforts of the RCMP and local police departments, noting the investigation spanned an area of Canada that would equate to travelling from London, England to Moscow, Russia.

“This has been a very challenging, very complicated, investigation and search if you consider the territory that’s involved here from the original scenes of crime in British Columbia to the manhunt search area in northern Manitoba,” he told reporters.

“The police and the people that worked with them have done an extraordinary job in dealing with a monumental challenge.”

MacLatchy thanked the public for remaining vigilant and providing tips to help in the search. She also thanked the communities of Gillam, York Landing and Fox Lake Cree Nation for their patience in what must’ve been a stressful time for the region.

The search is over. At 10am this morning, Manitoba RCMP officers located the bodies of two males, believed to be the BC suspects, near the shoreline of the Nelson River (approx 8km from the burnt vehicle). #rcmpmb pic.twitter.com/tZ7EBFsNDr

— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019

Our officers knew we needed just one piece of evidence to move the search forward & on Friday, August 2nd, the items found on the shoreline of the Nelson River & directly linked to the suspects, enables officers to narrow down the search. #rcmpmb

— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019

Specialized RCMP teams begin searching nearby high-probability areas, leading officers to the discovery of the two male bodies, in the dense brush, within 1 km from where the items were found. #rcmpmb

— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019

Thanks to the communities & the leadership of Gillam, Fox Lake Cree Nation, Ilford War Lake First Nation & York Landing - your lives have been disrupted, many of you lived with uncertainty & fear, but throughout, you were resilient & helped our officers get the job done. #rcmpmb

— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019

This was a search that could not have been successfully achieved without the help from our partners at the Canadian Armed Forces, from RCMP employees who came in from across the country and from multiple private partners. #rcmpmb

— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019

Above all however, it was a search that could only be successful if we had strong public engagement and support. Thank you to all Canadians for remaining vigilant, for calling us with information and most importantly, for being our partners. #rcmpmb

— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) August 7, 2019