The murdered girlfriend of Aussie Lucas Fowler, who was also found dead on a Canadian highway, has injuries so brutal her casket will be closed
The son of a senior NSW police officer and his girlfriend were smiling and sitting in armchairs on the side of an isolated stretch of Canadian highway hours before they were shot dead, one of the last people to talk to them says.
In circumstances Canadian police are treating as a double homicide, the bodies of Lucas Fowler, 23, and Chynna Deese, 24, were discovered by the side of the Alaska Highway in the north of British Columbia about 7am on Monday.
About 16 hours earlier on Sunday afternoon, witnesses drove past the pair, and at least one stopped after seeing that their 1986 blue Chevrolet minivan with Alberta plates appeared to have broken down.
Sandra and Curtis Broughton, from Fort Nelson in British Columbia, said the young couple were relaxed and sitting in armchairs when they pulled up on the side of the road to offer them help at about 3pm on Sunday afternoon.
“Obviously their van had broken down, but they were still happy and smiling,” Mr Broughton told AAP.
“They were having lunch or a bit of a meal when we pulled up.”
After a quick chat with Fowler, Mr Broughton, a mechanic, realised the young man had the problem under control. “He seemed like he had everything diagnosed properly. The vehicle was flooded out and they were going to try and get it going again,” he said.
The Broughtons resumed their journey home to Fort Nelson but quickly contacted Canadian police when they later learned via social media that the young couple had been found dead.
“I can’t believe that this young couple are dead now,” Ms Curtis said in a Facebook post.
Fowler, who grew up in Hornsby on Sydney’s north shore, had been working on a ranch in Canada and had just begun a long road trip with Deese. He is the son of NSW Police Chief Inspector Stephen Fowler, who has since flown to Canada with other family members.
“To lose someone so young and vibrant, who was travelling the world and just enjoying life to the full, is devastating,” the Fowler family said in a statement. “To know his beautiful girlfriend, Chynna Deese of Charlotte, North Carolina also lost her life in this violent event is too cruel.”
It took at least two days after the young couple’s bodies were found for NSW Police to be informed that the young man was the son of one of its senior officers.
NSW Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones said it appeared that the young couple may have been shot near their blue Chevrolet minivan, which was found about 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs in a rugged part of British Columbia.
“[They were] fantastic young people who have met with what can only be described as horrific circumstances,” he told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
“Our briefing has been that they were shot near the motor vehicle.”
Canadian police said the killings occurred sometime between last Sunday and Monday, but that was no evidence to link the couple’s deaths to a serial killer, which had been suggested by some media outlets.
“It’s not yet clear whether Lucas and Chynna were targeted or … if this was a crime of opportunity,” Sergeant Janelle Shoihet of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Friday afternoon local time.
“This is a unique circumstance and not one that I personally am aware of in recent years.”
Another woman told local media that she drove past a young couple matching Fowler and Deese’s description, and that they appeared to be broken down.
“We just saw their van on the side of the road and we saw a young couple, and the van hood was up like it had broken down and they were sitting in some lawn chairs in the ditch,” Carrie Hawryluk said.
The family of Chynna Deese told US media that they had been led to believe that the killings of the young couple were “brutal”.
“Something happened on that road – some sort of conflict,” her brother, British Deese, told the Charlotte Observer newspaper in North Carolina.
Chynna Deese had recently left her home in Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit Fowler for the “branding of the cows” at the ranch he worked at before the pair set off “to travel through the top half of the globe”, her family said.
The pair met two years ago at a hostel in Croatia, and later travelled through other parts of Europe, Central America and Asia. They have posted images on social media of travels to Mexico, Panama, Jordan and Turkey in the past 18 months.
Two officers from the NSW homicide squad, Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Walpole and Detective Sergeant Adam Childs, arrived in Canada late on Friday, local time, to assist in the investigation and support family members. “We will just be providing assistance to the police here and to the families here,” Inspector Walpole said at Vancouver airport.
In November, Inspector Walpole was sent to Brazil to assist in the alleged murder of Cecilia Haddad, whose body was found by kayakers in Sydney’s north.