“And apparently what happened was they spotted the suspects in a garbage dump – there were bears in the area – they were acting very quickly in their motions, it was out of the normal so that’s when they called it in,” a patrol volunteer said on Sunday.
From the moment the report came in, the police took the sighting seriously, even tweeting instructions to the media and general public: “Please do not disclose officer locations by posting photos of our officers in the community to social media.”
The search has been based at the Gillam police station for some time now and upon receiving this tip, a number of tactical officers were deployed to York Landing – flying them in, ferrying them in and using the military’s aircraft to scour the area from above.
Police told locals in the remote community to stay inside and make sure all their doors and windows were locked.
It felt like the moment – and the strong lead – police, locals, journalists had been waiting for. This search continued from the time the call came in, through the night and into the following morning.
A new day dawned with many expecting to wake up and learn the pair had been arrested, but there was no such news. Then as the morning turned into afternoon, disheartening confirmation from the Manitoba Police, again via Twitter: “After a thorough and exhaustive search, RCMP has not been able to substantiate the tip in York Landing. RCMP resources will continue to be in the York Landing and Gillam areas.”
This was the first real sign that the reported sighting may be a false alarm.
Then police confirmed they were pulling out the heavy resources from York Landing.
This means all resources were sent back to the search base in Gillam. On Wednesday, the number of police cars, tactical officers and detectives here appeared to be about the same as prior to the reported sighting, although one officer said he was starting to send a few of his guys home.
He explained the manhunt is costing the Canadian government serious money. They’re paying officers overtime to work around the clock and the military is dedicating two aircraft to the operation until police say they’re no longer needed.
The reported sighting in York Landing was a massive anti-climax in what is currently the country’s most critical police investigation. Police have no clue to the motive but say the duo are potentially still armed, and undoubtedly, dangerous.
The fact that these crimes have connections to Australia and the United States just adds international pressure on police to catch the fugitives.
The 24/7 checkpoint police were running along the road leading into Gillam has been removed – so they’re no longer checking vehicles and speaking with drivers who are heading into town.
Authorities have confirmed they’ve now received more than 260 tips in the past week. From the information investigators have, there is no reason to think the pair has left Gillam. Which is why the search is effectively back where it began.
Just like a rollercoaster, it’s starting and ending in the same spot.
Police are in a holding pattern – they may as well stay in Gillam because it’s the last known place Mcleod and Schmegelsky moved through during their escape across Canada.
Conversely, they’ve searched the town several times over and yielded nothing.
The strong impression from officers on the ground is that until they get new information to indicate the men are elsewhere, they’re not going to move.