The Canadian fugitives drove through a checkpoint, were pursued and stopped, had their car searched and were let go by locals unaware they were being hunted.
The manhunt for accused killers Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky in remote northern Canada has taken another frustrating turn, with authorities confirming the duo was stopped after running a checkpoint but then let go.
It comes as a once-promising search near a garbage tip proved fruitless.
It has been 15 days since Australian tourist Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese were shot dead and left on the side of a British Columbia highway.
That highway is 3000km west of the town of Gillam, Manitoba, where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has spent the past eight days hunting McLeod, 19, and Schmegelsky, 18, in the wilderness.
McLeod and Schmegelsky were stopped by Split Lake First Nations safety officers last week after they drove through an alcohol search checkpoint, but the officers had not been alerted to be on the lookout for the teenagers.
"These two individuals kind of drove through the check stop where we had the two constables follow them into the community and stop them," Nathan Neckoway, the band councillor of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation, told Canada's CTV News on Tuesday.
Alcohol is banned in the area.
When a search of the car did not find alcohol, McLeod and Schmegelsky were allowed to continue driving.
They apparently drove 90km west to Gillam, crashed their Toyota RAV4 on a gravel road, set fire to it and vanished.
Mr Neckoway said the teenagers said during the stop they were from British Columbia.
The search of the car did not find weapons, but maps and camping equipment were sighted, he said.
Mr Neckoway said "it was quite shocking" when the officers later realised the teenagers were fugitives.
In the other significant blow to the manhunt, the RCMP announced on Tuesday it had withdrawn its heavy presence from another area near Gillam, the tiny community of York Landing, where they received a tip on Sunday of two men matching McLeod's and Schmegelsky's description foraging in a garbage tip.
"A search of the York Landing area, which included the use of helicopters, drones, military resources, and door-to-door canvasses, has been completed," the RCMP said in a statement.
"RCMP is unable to substantiate the tip that the suspects had been in the area.
"The heavy police presence in York Landing has been withdrawn and policing resources in the community is back to normal."
The RCMP also said officers had completed more than 500 door-to-door canvasses in Fox Lake Cree Nation and Gillam, and admitted: "it is possible the suspects inadvertently received assistance and are no longer in the area".
The Royal Canadian Air Force continues to assist with the search.
"Investigators have now received over 260 tips in the past seven days," the RCMP said.
"None have established that the suspects are outside of the Gillam area."
McLeod and Schmegelsky are wanted for a murderous crime spree on the BC highway that began on 15 July when Mr Fowler, 23, from Sydney, and Ms Deese, 24, from North Carolina, were found shot dead.
Four days later, botanist Leonard Dyck, 64, was found dead on another highway.
McLeod and Schmegelsky, from Vancouver Island, quit their jobs at Walmart and told family they planned to drive to Yukon to find work.