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Missing teens could be connected to murdered tourists, Canadian police say


By Moira Warburton

(Reuters) - Two concurrent investigations in northern Canada - a search for two missing teenagers, days after a double homicide of an Australian and an American on a remote highway - could be connected, Canadian federal police said on Monday.

"It's unusual to have two major investigations of this nature going on at the same time in northern B.C. (British Columbia), so we recognize the possibility that these could be linked," Janelle Shoihet, public relations officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said at a press conference.

Lucas Fowler, 23, from Sydney, Australia, and his girlfriend, Chynna Deese, 24, from Charlotte, North Carolina, were wrapping up a two-week-long road trip through Canada when their bodies were found on Highway 97, 20 km (12 miles) south of Liard Hot Springs, a popular tourist destination.

The pair were victims of gun violence, the RCMP said on Monday.

The RCMP believe their murder occurred between 4 p.m. PDT (2300 GMT) on July 14 and 7 a.m. (1400 GMT) on July 15. It took three days for the bodies to be identified as those of Fowler, son of a chief inspector with the New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF), and Deese.

RCMP also said they are searching for two missing teenagers believed to have been driving a vehicle that was found in flames on a highway about 500 km (310 miles) from the site of the couple's murder, leading to speculation in local media about a connection between the two cases.

A body was found two kilometers from the burning car, which was identified as not being either of the missing teens. Police cannot confirm any relationship but are searching for information regardless.

The search for the two teens remains a missing persons case.

"We're hopeful that they're going to get in contact with us when they see this news broadcast going out," Shoihet said.

The RCMP's major crimes unit is investigating both cases.

"To lose someone so young and vibrant, who was traveling the world and just enjoying life to the full, is devastating," Fowler's family said in a statement released by the New South Wales Police, adding Deese's death was also "too cruel. All our love and best wishes go to Chynna's family and friends."

Members of the NSWPF have accompanied the Fowler family to Canada, although the RCMP said they will not participate in the investigation.

Stephen Fowler, the victim's father, told reporters "nothing prepares me, nothing prepares my family, for what we're going through now."

The RCMP asked the public to come forward with any information.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chris Reese)

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