A couple is facing murder charges in connection with the deaths of two men whose remains were found in a burned-out cabin near Sheet Harbour, N.S., almost five years ago.

Police and emergency crews responded to a 911 call near the 450 block of Highway 374 on Dec. 12, 2012 after witnesses spotted a fire at a camp in the area.

Fire officials found the bodies of 22-year-old Matthew Allan Hebb and 59-year-old Earle Clayton Stewart, both of Spryfield, N.S., inside the cabin.

Their deaths were confirmed to be homicides.

The RCMP say a man and a woman were arrested in connection with the case on Dec. 18, 2012 but they were released without charges. They were arrested again in March 2017, but were released without charges a second time.

The same individuals were arrested a third time Wednesday at a home in Halifax. Elmer Percy Higgins, 65, and his wife, Karen Marie Higgins, 49, have each been charged with second-degree murder and related firearms offences.

“Today’s charges represent over four years of tireless investigative work,” said RCMP Insp. Trudy Bangloy. “Our investigators persevered and in the end, it is our hope that we find answers for the Hebb and Stewart families.”

The families made several public pleas for information over the years, and last year the homicides were added to Nova Scotia’s Rewards for Unsolved Crimes program, which offers up to $150,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in certain cases.

Police say a tip that came through the program was what enabled them to eventually lay the charges.

“Obviously what we gleaned from that was of great benefit and helped support the charges,” said Bangloy.

Thursday’s developments came as a shock for the victims' families.

“For the last four years, seven months, 28 days all of our lives have been nothing but a living hell,” said Matthew Hebb’s mother, Kirtley Beaver. “We will never have closure because I honestly don't think we are going to have all the answers.”

Elmer and Karen Higgins appeared in Dartmouth provincial court Thursday. Earle Stewart’s wife Tracey says her husband and the Higgins had been friends for years.

“Two weeks before, everything was great. We were laughing, carrying on. I spoke to them. I cannot understand or fathom,” said Stewart.

They say they plan to be at every court appearance to represent their loved ones and the families left behind.

Elmer and Karen Higgins will remain in custody until their next court appearance in October.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.