Manhunt brings global attention to Gillam, Man.
Published Sunday, July 28, 2019 2:38PM EDT
Anyone paying close attention to the manhunt for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky may have their own ideas about where the homicide suspects have gone and what has happened to them.
Alexis Daish has heard plenty of that speculaton.
"This is purely theorizing here, but if they were quick enough to burn that car and get on that train that came to Gillam that night – which left, I think, at about 11, that train would have taken them to Churchill," Daish said Sunday on CTV News Channel.
"Even if they got that train, they can only get so far – and then they're contending with wildlife and really difficult elements."
Though Daish's words might make her sound like a longtime northern Manitoba resident, the province wasn't even remotely on her radar until this past week.
Daish is a U.S.-based correspondent for 9News in Australia. She travelled to B.C. last week after learning that Australian tourist Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese had been found dead on the remote Alaska Highway.
As piece after piece of the tragic story has been revealed – the RCMP belief that the couple was shot and killed by two young men whose burned-out car had been found 450 kilometres from their bodies, the discovery of a third body near that car, and later the news that suspected killers McLeod and Schmegelsky had apparently been spotted three provinces away – Daish has been keeping Australians informed about every new development.
"We're hearing that back home it's all anyone is talking about," she said.
"No matter what country you're from, that really grabbed people and shocked people."
Daish isn't alone. The deaths of Fowler, Deese and Leonard Dyck, and the ensuing cross-country search for McLeod and Schmegelsky, have transfixed audiences around the globe.
At times this week, coverage of the deaths has been the top story on CNN's website and one of the most-read articles in all of BBC News. There has been coverage in Portugal and the Netherlands and Uruguay, and on Fox News.
It's a lot of attention for a town of 1,200 people that is typically ignored even by the Canadian media. Prior to this week, Gillam had been mentioned by name on CTVNews.ca in seven articles in the past five years – three times for issues related to passenger train service, three times because of allegations of racism tied to a nearby hydro development, and once because a pilot was killed when his personal aircraft crashed after takeoff from Gillam's airport.
Some of the journalists covering this story, whether on the ground or abroad, take more time to understand Canada's north than others.
The RCMP tweeted a photo Saturday of a polar bear spotted by one of the air search crews. The tweet was likely meant to showcase the natural diversity of northern Manitoba, as it is by no means unusual for polar bears to be roaming northern Manitoba, and parts of the region are considered to be among the best spots in the world for tourists to see the bears.
The Australian Associated Press apparently took another meaning from the tweet, declaring at the beginning of its next story on the matter that "the threat of a polar bear attack has become a reality" for the searchers. Britain's The Guardian retitled the story to focus even more on the exotic creature, running it under the headline "Canada murder hunt: search for teen suspects leads only to polar bear."
Daish made note of the polar bear on Twitter, but for her, covering the deaths has also meant learning as much as she can about the realities of northern Manitoba – from the places McLeod and Schmegelsky may have gone to what conditions they might be facing if they are in the vast wilderness surrounding Gillam, while also looking for every piece of actual new information about the investigation.
"I think the reason we have followed this so closely is the nature, the narrative of this horrendous crime. From what we know, it's completely random," she said.
"It's so unusual – people going to a tourist destination like Canada and something like this happens."