Police in Canada are investigating three suspicious deaths and the disappearance of two teenagers which took place within days of each other along a remote Canadian highway.
But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said there is “nothing to indicate” that the double murder of Australian Lucas Fowler, age 23, and US citizen Chynna Deese, age 24, was related to the discovery of a burning car and a man’s body some 500km south, and the disappearance of two Canadian teenagers.
Fowler and Deese were nearing the end of a two-week road trip to Alaska when their van broke down along the Alaska Highway about 20km south of Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, a popular tourist spot. Several locals stopped and asked if they needed help, but the pair appeared to have the situation under control.
Their bodies were discovered by the roadside on 15 July, but it took three days for police to identify them. The RCMP believe they were killed sometime between 14 July and 15 July.
On Friday, four days after the bodies of Deese and Fowler were discovered, police in the town of Dease Lake – several hours’ drive south – launched a search for Kam McLeod, age 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, age 18, after their truck was discovered in flames near the town at Dease Lake. The two youths had been travelling to Whitehorse in the Yukon in search of work.
During that investigation, the body of a man who was neither McLeod or Schmegelsky was found two kilometres down the road, the RCMP said. “It is unclear at this time how this deceased male might be connected with [the] vehicle fire or the two missing men,” the force said in statement.
Police cautioned the public to take routine safety precautions in the remote region where there is little or no cellphone coverage – such as notifying others of a planned route – but said there was no reason at this point to suspect that the same perpetrator may have been responsible for both incidents.
“At this point, we have nothing to indicate that their deaths are linked to any other active and ongoing investigations in the area, or if there is a heightened risk to public safety,” said Janelle Shoihet, media relations officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in a release.
Fowler, whose father Stephen Fowler is one of New South Wales’s top police officers, had been living in British Columbia when Deese came to visit him from Charlotte, North Carolina.
The couple had met at a hostel in Croatia in 2017 and had travelled together across the US and abroad to Mexico, Peru and elsewhere.
After their bodies were discovered, a New South Wales police force spokesperson told reporters the couple “may have been shot”. But the RCMP have not yet released a cause of death for the pair.
“We recognise this news is troubling for the entire community and absolutely appreciate there are concerns for safety, in an area that is popular with nature enthusiasts and tourists. This investigation is in its very infancy and it is not yet clear whether Lucas and Chynna were targeted or is this was a crime of opportunity,” Shoihet stated.
Some media speculated that the deaths could have been be the work of a single killer or that they may be linked with the “Highway of Tears” – the remote stretch of road where at least 40 Indigenous women have gone missing or been found murdered since 1970.
But no police statements support the theory. Several murderers are believed to have been responsible for the crimes along the notorious section of British Columbia’s Highway 16 – which is approximately 1,000km away from the current investigations.
Fowler’s family released a statement, saying: “To lose someone so young and vibrant, who was traveling the world and just enjoying life to the full, is devastating.”
Members of the NSW police are accompanying the Fowler family to Canada, but they will not participate in the investigation, Shoihet said.