Canadian killer’s final message to father
The distraught father of one the two young Canadian men accused of killing three people including Australian Lucas Fowler has said he cannot bring himself to say his son is a murderer.
Alan Schmegelsky also denied that his Christmas gift of a replica gun may have fed into his son's dark fascination with firearms.
But, his father said, the breakdown of his marriage led his son Bryer Schmegelsky to become "angry" and he admitted he "could have had a better upbringing".
Bryer, 18, was found dead, along with his friend Kam McLeod, 19, in a desolate area of northern Manitoba late last week.
"It hurts a lot; he was my only child. I'll never get to spend time with him again, never get to hug him.
"I wanted my son to be amazing. I wanted my son to have a future, I'm so sad he had to make this road trip," Mr Schmegelsky said.
Talking to Channel 9's 60 Minutes, he apologised to the families of the victims and revealed the final message Bryer sent him.
"I know they're hurt and from our country to the families, I am so sorry."
At one moment in the program, Mr Schmegelsky is visibly cheered by the fact his son had managed to pass unhindered through a police roadblock. "Kudos, boys," he said.
Reporter Sarah Abo spent two weeks with Mr Schmegelsky as the world's eyes focused on one of the biggest manhunts in Canadian history spanning three provinces and thousands of kilometres.
Two bodies believed to be those of Bryer and his suspected accomplice were found about 1km from the banks of the Nelson River, near the small town of Gillam.
The gruesome discovery came more than three weeks after the body of Mr Fowler, 23, from Sydney, and his girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, from the US were found in a ditch beside their broken down van on a remote road in British Columbia.
Days after the couple were killed the body of university professor Leonard Dyck, 64, was found close by. It's also thought he was murdered by the pair.
FINAL MESSAGE TO FATHER
Mr Schmegelsky said the last he heard from his son was a text. He told his father that he and McLeod were "off to Alberta". Having no driving licence, McLeod was behind the wheel.
Then the murders began to make headlines in Canada. Shortly afterwards, his son and McLeod were declared missing.
"It was Monday morning and I was reading the news and there was my kid's picture of the front cover of the Vancouver Sun (newspaper). That's how I found out".
Initially, he thought the pair may have been victims themselves. But then police said they were suspects and should not be approached.
"My heart just sank. I told myself there's a mistake, there's got to be a mistake."
As the Channel 9 filming took place, news came through that the teens had been spotted alive but had evaded a police checkpoint.
Mr Schmegelsky looked visibly relieved and even impressed by his son and McLeod.
"I knew they were still alive. These boys are smart, these guys are intelligent.
"Kudos boys. Kudos, kudos".
But asked by Abo how it felt that his son would be remembered as a killer, Mr Schmegelsky replied: "It's not very good at all. There's no glory in that".
"None of this I'd volunteer on any other parent".
WORD HE CANNOT SAY
However, there's one word Mr Schmegelsky has said he cannot utter.
"I'm not going to say my son is a murderer until I get some facts, OK. Nobody knows what happened out there."
The grief stricken father then began to break down: "Do you have brothers and sisters? Are they capable of murder? You don't know right?"
When he was 17 years old, Mr Schmegelsky bought his son an airsoft gun, a replica firearm that shoots pellets.
"The guns look realistic, they're like machine guns and they've got a realistic magazine. But they're still just a built in air compressor and they shoot a pellet," his father said.
But he refuted the notion that the replica gun may have spurred on an unhealthy obsession with firearms in his son.
"It was getting him out of the woods with his buddies.
"I can't second guess. I'm not going to say it's my fault I'm not going to do that.
"I never gave him a real gun … I never gave him a gun that would kill someone."
"You can't watch (cartoon characters) Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd and not see a shot gun; you can't blame airsoft (guns)."
Asked if there was a side of his son he knew nothing about, Mr Schmegelsky said there probably was.
"That's a good possibility. I'm not going to rule that out."
He told Abo that Bryer was heavily affected by breakdown of his parents' relationship. Mr Schmegelsky has himself suffered with mental health issues.
"He's been angry since his mother moved away with him when he was five years old. And he had a lot of time with very little attention given to him and I know that.
"He was raised by YouTube and video games. He could have had a better upbringing."
60 Minutes also spoke to a friend of McLeod, 18-year-old Ripley Janzen. The pair met online playing video games.
Mr Janzen said McLeod was "super cool" and the kind of person you'd want to hang out with. He said McLeod and Brier Schmegelsky were "best friends".
"It is definitely crazy for sure," he said talking about the pair being implicated in a killing spree.
"Like if you were innocent why you wouldn't just come to the police, right?"
As for Mr Schmegelsky, he remains shattered, in shock, over his son's death and the horrendous crimes now forever connected to his family name.
But he said he needed proof before he would give into the realisation that his son was implicated in the murder of three innocent people.
"He was my kid, he was a little me. It's heartbreaking, there's no sunshine, no happiness.
"This is the worst nightmare anyone could ever imagine".