Canada stabbings: one of two suspects found dead

Suspected attacker's body was found after police launched manhunt following deadly stabbing spree

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One of two brothers who were the targets of a massive manhunt after allegedly carrying out a stabbing spree that left 10 dead and 18 wounded in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan has been found dead, police said on Monday.

Rhonda Blackmore, the assistant commissioner of the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told a news conference that Damien Sanderson's "body was located outdoors in a heavily grassed area in proximity to a house that was being examined" by authorities. His body had "visible injuries", she added.

His brother, Myles Sanderson, remains at large, she said.

The stabbings in the James Smith Cree Nation Indigenous community and the town of Weldon in Saskatchewan are among the deadliest incidents of mass violence ever in Canada.

Evan Bray, police chief of provincial capital Regina, said suspected sightings late on Sunday suggested that the two suspects may be hiding in the city — 300 kilometres from the site of the attack.

“There's a lot of grief. There's a lot of anxiety in our province and in our communities this morning,” he said, vowing to continue the pursuit until the suspects are caught.

Police have released few details of the crimes, except for descriptions of the alleged attackers they say fled in a vehicle.

Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers issued a wanted list last May that included Myles, which said he was “unlawfully at large”.

The stabbings were reported early on Sunday morning and police issued a province-wide dangerous people alert at 8.20am.

By Sunday afternoon, similar alerts were also issued in Saskatchewan's neighbouring provinces Alberta and Manitoba.

Rhonda Blackmore, commanding officer of the Saskatchewan Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said authorities did not know if the two men had changed vehicles.

“Their location and direction of travel is unknown,” Ms Blackmore said. “It is horrific what has occurred in our province today.”

Police said the last information they had from the public was that the alleged assailants were sighted there around lunchtime on Sunday. There had been no sightings since.

Ms Blackmore told a news conference on Sunday that authorities believe “some of the victims were targeted by the suspects and others were attacked randomly.”

“To speak to a motive would be extremely difficult at this point in time,” she added.

Ms Blackmore said police were still in the initial stages of the investigation and trying to determine the relationship between the two alleged assailants and whether they were known to police.

Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore speaks at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police F Division headquarters in Regina, Saskatchewan, on Sunday. AP

The attacks were at several locations, including James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon in Saskatchewan, and there were 13 crime scenes that police were investigating, they said.

“If in the Regina area, take precautions and consider sheltering in place. Do not leave a secure location. Do not approach suspicious persons. Do not pick up hitchhikers. Report suspicious persons, emergencies or info to 911. Do not disclose police locations,” the RCMP said in a message on Twitter.

There may be more wounded victims who took themselves to various hospitals, police said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said it had called for more staff to help respond to the situation.

The attacks are among the deadliest mass killings in Canadian history.

The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history happened in 2020 when a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia, killing 22 people.

A man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto in 2019.

Mass killings are less common in Canada than in the US.

A scene where a stabbing occurred is photographed in Weldon, Saskatchewan, on Sunday. AP

Doreen Lees, 89, a grandmother from Weldon, said she and her daughter thought they saw one of the wanted men when a car came down her street early in the morning as her daughter was having coffee on her deck.

Ms Lees said a man approached them and said he was hurt and needed help.

She said the man ran away after her daughter said she would call for help.

“He wouldn’t show his face. He had a big jacket over his face. We asked his name and he kind of mumbled his name twice and we still couldn’t get it,” she said. “He said his face was injured so bad he couldn’t show it.”

She said the man was by himself and “kind of a little wobbly”.

“I followed him a little ways to see if he was going to be OK. My daughter said ‘Don’t follow him, get back here.’”

'Terrified to open the door'

Weldon residents have identified one of the victims as Wes Petterson. Ruby Works said Mr Petterson, 77, a widower, was like an uncle to her.

“I collapsed and hit the ground. I’ve known him since I was just a little girl,″ she said, describing the moment she heard the news.

She said he loved his cats, was proud of his home-made Saskatoon berry jam and frequently helped out his neighbours.

“He didn’t do anything. He didn’t deserve this. He was a good, kind-hearted man,″ said Ms Works.

She said the event had shaken a community where the sounds of sirens are rarely heard.

“No one in this town is ever going to sleep again. They are going to be terrified to open their door,″ she said.

Updated: September 05, 2022, 10:27 PM
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