By Moira Warburton
TORONTO, July 22 (Reuters) - The Canadian federal police said on Sunday they are searching for two missing teenagers in northern Canada, days after an Australian and an American were found dead on a remote highway, in what authorities are treating as a double homicide.
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 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said.
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.
The RCMP 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 serial killer in the area.
However the RCMP disputed this concern, stating that the investigation into Fowler and Deese's deaths is still in early stages.
"At this point, we have nothing to indicate that their deaths are linked to any other active and ongoing investigations in the area, or if there is a heightened risk to public safety," Janelle Shoihet, media relations office for the RCMP, said in a statement.
A New South Wales police officer told the Sydney Morning Herald that the couple were shot, but this has not been confirmed by the RCMP, who said the deaths had been deemed "suspicious" early in the investigation, and that major crimes units had been called in to assist.
The families of the victims have described the deaths as violent.
"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 that Deese's death was also "too cruel. All our love and best wishes go to Chynna's family and friends."
Members of the NSWPF are accompanying the Fowler family to Canada. The RCMP said they will not participate in the investigation. (Reporting by Moira Warburton; editing by Jonathan Oatis)