Wild Canada murder theories emerge
WHILE police in Canada hunted the two teen killers responsible for murdering three people, including an Australian man, amateur online sleuths conducted their own investigations.
Across social media and in the depths of forums, wannabe detectives dug into the backgrounds of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, and shared wild theories - including the belief that someone else was behind the seemingly random killings.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police spent 15 days searching for Schmegelsky and McLeod, who were wanted for the murders of Sydney man Lucas Fowler, 23, his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, and botanist Leonard Dyck, 64.
The bodies of the teenagers were found yesterday in thick bushland not far from where some of their belongings were discovered last week.
A widely spread claim online in the first week of the murders centred on a belief that someone else was responsible.
The teens, some online sleuths believed, were in fact victims of an American fugitive who snuck across the border at the end of June.
Canadian police in Manitoba issued an alert on July 10 about Derek Whisenand, a 27-year-old wanted for murder in Texas, who illegally entered Canada a fortnight earlier.
He should be considered armed and dangerous, the RCMP said. He was seen travelling with a large dog and was thought to be travelling east from Manitoba.
WANTED for Murder (Texas): 27yo Derek WHISENAND illegally crossed into Canada around June 24. May have a gun & is considered DANGEROUS. Travelling with a lrg mixed breed dog with a brindle coat. DO NOT APPROACH - If seen, call 911. #rcmpmb. For more info: https://t.co/GE7Mf6jCFq pic.twitter.com/Jc7qSKqmmW— RCMP Manitoba (@rcmpmb) July 9, 2019
Twelve days after the alert, Schmegelsky and McLeod were last seen in the same area and were initially referred to as being missing persons.
"There's a murderer from Texas supposedly in Manitoba and no one is talking about it," a man exploring the case on social media said.
Another observer shared the same suspicion about the timing of Whisenand's arrival in Manitoba but speculated that he was working with the Canadian teens to expand their kill count.
"I've said it from the beginning, these two are sympathisers of the guy from Texas and met up with him and killed these people to prove their loyalty," they said.
The RCMP was forced to comment publicly on the online conspiracy about the wanted American in a bid to quell false rumours.
"We had, in advance of naming Schmegelsky and McLeod as suspects in the homicides in northern BC, received numerous tips from the public in relation to Derek Whisenand's possible presence in Canada and a probable link to the homicides," Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet said. "The RCMP does not consider Whisenand a suspect."
Another theory to gain considerable attention online was that there were more than three victims connected to Schmegelsky and McLeod.
Two men disappeared from Surrey in British Columbia on July 17, and police said they held grave fears for their wellbeing.
Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr haven't been seen since, and social media sleuths were quick to link their disappearance to the young killers.
When officials confirmed the death of Mr Dyck, a university lecturer, was formally connected to the murders of Mr Fowler and Ms Deese, the theory spread further.
"They may have murdered the two men and disposed of the bodies someplace along their trip," one observer said. "Why else would they burn out the vehicle, they must be trying to hide all forensic evidence."
But the RCMP dismissed the speculation, saying it doesn't believe the missing men are related, nor are any other missing persons in the region.
The wannabe detectives online have also speculated that the teens must've had help from an accomplice given how long it took to find their bodies.
Surrey RCMP is requesting the public’s assistance in locating two missing men, Ryan Provencher, and Richard Scurr last seen at approximately 12:30 pm on July 17, 2019, in the 16400 block of 23A Avenue. https://t.co/7HDNeNkK3c pic.twitter.com/EQ6zJ9i3gJ— Surrey RCMP (@SurreyRCMP) July 22, 2019
That particular conspiracy could be invalidated, depending on the results of an autopsy to determine how long they've been dead.
But the belief is that at least one unknown person helped them by "guiding, telling these kids what to do" and how to survive in the wilderness.
Canadian authorities said at the halfway point of the manhunt that they suspected one person had unknowingly helped the teens, likely by giving them a ride.
Sgt Shoihet told the National Post that genuine tips from the public were always appreciated in any investigation.
But wild and baseless speculation or conspiracies only served to slow down officers, she said.
"Our investigations need to be focused and based on evidence and facts," she said.
"We appreciate there may be theories floating around, however we cannot allow these theories to determine the speed, direction and/or flow of an investigation.
"We evaluate each and every tip based on information we have gathered thus far in the investigation and determine the legitimacy of it as a possible investigative avenue."
The motive for the three murders isn't known, nor is how or when the teens died.