Canada stabbings: Town ‘shattered’ amid stabbings manhunt

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By Jessica Murphy and Holly Honderichin Weldon, Saskatchewan, BBC News

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Two days after a deadly stabbing spree in Saskatchewan, the surviving suspect’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Police said Myles Sanderson may have been seen on the James Smith Cree Nation, before reversing themselves hours later in a province-wide alert.

He has been the target of a major police manhunt since Sunday after an attack that left 11 people dead and 18 injured.

The attack has rocked the otherwise peaceful Canadian region.

Police have warned people to “take appropriate precautions” in an alert sent to mobile phones in the area.

Tuesday’s false alarm will probably do little to calm the tension felt in the indigenous community of James Smith Cree Nation, where most of the victims were found, and the nearby town of Weldon, which is mourning the loss of 77-year-old longtime resident Wes Petterson.

In Weldon, a small town of some 200 residents with gravel streets, a neat grid of single-storey homes, two churches, a post office and corner store, most doors remain shut, though there is plenty of media present.

Residents are “right now, pushing up against the glass, looking out their windows”, said Ruby Works, one of the few Weldon residents willing to speak to visiting media.

“Everyone is shattered.”

The nearby James Smith Cree Nation has also issued a plea for privacy and time to mourn, and some media have been asked to leave.

Saskatchewan police initially said on Sunday they were looking for two suspects – brothers Damien, 31, and Myles Sanderson, 32 – who they believed may have travelled 300km (185 miles) south to Regina following the attacks.

On Monday, police then revealed they had found Damien Sanderson’s body that morning during the course of their investigation in a grassy area near a house on James Smith Cree Nation.

Police say his body had “visible injuries not believed to be self-inflicted at this point”. But police did not say whether Myles Sanderson was believed to be responsible for his brother’s death.

They also said they had charged both men on multiple counts, including Myles Sanderson with three counts of first-degree murder, despite him not being in custody.

Police are confirming few details amid a complex investigation.

Beyond the search for Myles Sanderson, many questions remain in the case, including what drew the violence to Mr Petterson’s doorstep.

“He’s an [church] usher, just a little guy – 77 years old, not dangerous at all,” said Jerry Rush, who is in town staying with his wife’s family.

He often gave Mr Rush’s elderly mother-in-law, Doreen Lees, rides to the church where they were both members, he said.

Flowers have since been laid on the lawn of his home’s corner property on the edge of town.

But on Sunday morning, a few hours before church services would usually begin, Leona, Mr Rush’s sister-in-law, and Doreen were on the front porch, taking in the view of the neighbouring fields while drinking coffee.

Mr Rush said they were approached by a man who said he was injured and asked to be taken to hospital. They now believe he was Damien Sanderson. The man later fled.

“They’re sure it’s Damien because of the size and Doreen could recognise his eyes” from police photographs, Mr Rush said. “They’re scared.”

The two have since asked Mr Rush and his wife to come and stay as the manhunt continues.

As the communities grapple with the grief, there have been appeals from police and indigenous organisations for people to come forward with any information.

“The uncertainty continues to cause immeasurable stress and panic among our families, friends, and neighbours,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents all 74 First Nations of Saskatchewan, in a statement on Monday.

“They have already gone through enough. We must do everything we can to help end this tragedy without any more loss of life.”

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