RCMP will begin to withdraw search resources from the area near Gillam, Man., around a week after a manhunt in the region began for two men suspected in a trio of homicides in B.C.

Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, commanding officers of the RCMP in Manitoba, said most search resources will be withdrawn in phases over the next week.

“To be clear, we are not ending this search,” she said, explaining some “tactical resources and specialized assets” will remain in the area. She would not say how many officers would stay.

“We will be leaving a presence there, but I don’t want to speak to numbers.”

MacLatchy also said should new information come to light, police will be ready to respond and the military has indicated it could be called in again to assist.

“I know today’s news is not what the families of the victims and the communities of Northern Manitoba wanted to hear,” she said.

The search near Gillam for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 19, began after a burned-vehicle was found on the Bird Reserve of the Fox Lake Cree Nation on Monday, July 22. The two men have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Vancouver man and named as suspects in the deaths of an Australian man and American woman who were travelling in B.C.

In announcing the search was winding down, MacLatchy noted the uncertainty that goes along with searching “vast, remote and rugged locations.”

“Additionally, there remains the possibility the suspects received some sort of assistance to flee the area,” she said, encouraging people to be alert and share potential information about the case with police.

She also said police have not ruled out the possibility the suspects did not survive the north.

“Everything is possible at this stage, the north part of the province is a very unforgiving place.”

A wide-reaching search

MacLatchy said around 11,000 sq. km. in the north was searched by the RCMP and Royal Canadian Air Force.

“I think we’ve done everything we can, we pulled out all the stops on this thing from the moment we found out about it.”

She also more than 500 homes and buildings were either canvassed or searched, including every abandoned building in Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation.

“We searched rail lines, hydro corridors, lakes, rivers, vast areas of tundra and muskeg, dense forests and brush.

“We conducted exhaustive searches on foot, with dogs and on all-terrain vehicles,” she said, noting boats, drones, helicopters and planes were used, along with high-tech search equipment and the expertise of skilled search and rescue personnel.

“Even with this extraordinary effort, we have not had any confirmed sightings of the suspects since the burned vehicle was located,” she said.