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Manitoba RCMP say three children and two women dead, man in custody

Insp. Tim Arseneault, operations officer, RCMP major crime services speaks to the media about an ongoing investigation in Winnipeg on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. RCMP say they are investigating the suspicious deaths of three children and two women in southern Manitoba. THE CANADIAN PRESS / David Lipnowski

WINNIPEG — Police extended condolences to residents of a small Manitoba town on Sunday as they launched a probe to determine how three children died after being pulled from a burning vehicle and two women were found dead in separate but connected circumstances. 

RCMP Insp. Tim Arseneault provided few details at a hastily called news conference but said police believe all five of the dead and a suspect were known to each other.

A 29-year-old man is in custody, but there was no immediate word on what charges he may face.

Arseneault said residents in the town of Carman, Man., where one of the women was found, were grieving as they tried to come to grips with the deaths of some of its youngest members. The community of about 3,000 people is located 85 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

“I want to express my condolences to the families and friends who have lost a loved one today," Arseneault said. "As a parent, I simply cannot imagine the enormity of your loss. Please know that the RCMP and everyone in Manitoba stands with you.

"The community of Carman and surrounding areas will also be grieving as they have lost some of their youngest residents in such a tragic way.”

Arseneault said the five dead were found at three separate scenes.

Police located the first at 7:30 a.m., when they were called to a reported hit-and-run on Highway 3, about six kilometres south of Carman. The body of a woman was found in a ditch near the side of the road, Arseneault said.

The next call came in to RCMP at around 10 a.m. about a vehicle on fire some 70 kilometres to the north in the Rural Municipality of Cartier.

“As officers were going to the scene, a witness was able to pull three young children from a burning vehicle," Arseneault said. "Tragically all three children were declared deceased at the scene.”

Arseneault said the suspect was arrested at the site of the blaze. 

He said further investigation then led officers to a home in Carman, where they found the body of another woman inside a home.

Arseneault said it's too early to determine what transpired between the dead and the suspect. 

"We have teams and teams of investigators who are out there right now working on this and trying to get an understanding of what happened (and) why it happened."

He did not provide the ages of any of the dead or describe the relationship between them and the suspect.

Carman Mayor Brent Owen said he was devastated to learn of the deaths, adding he did not personally know those who died despite being familiar with about 80 per cent of the town's residents. 

He said he learned of the first death after receiving a text from a community member, but didn't fully grasp the scope of what happened until hearing details from police.

"It's horrific. You get five people from our community and three children. Unimaginable," he said, adding his own condolences to friends and relatives.

Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew also tweeted condolences to those affected by the tragedy.

"Sending comfort and strength to the families and community of Carman during this challenging time of loss," Kinew's tweet said.

An RCMP spokesperson said police plan to release more information later in the week. 

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2024.

Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

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