Martin Payne, 60, was found dead in his Metchosin home on July 12, 2019. (Martin Payne/Facebook)

Vancouver Island prison escapees charged in homicide of 60-year-old man

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage charged in relation to homicide of Martin Payne

Two inmates who escaped a Vancouver Island prison in July of last year have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a man who lived nearby the prison.

Police announced the charges against James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage on Saturday (June 13).

Busch, who was 42 at the time, and Armitage, who was 30, broke out of the prison in the early evening of July 7, 2019, according to Correctional Services Canada. The pair’s disappearance sparked a manhunt by West Shore RCMP.

The escapees were found two days later after commenting on an off-duty Mountie’s dog in Esquimalt. At the time of escape, Busch was serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault and had previously served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody. Armitage was serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

READ ALSO: Sentencing delayed for escaped Metchosin prisoner

On July 12, four days after the inmates were found, West Shore RCMP attended a home in the 1000-block of Brookview Drive in Metchosin to check on the well-being of Martin Payne, 60, after he failed to show up for work. Three days earlier, on July 9, Oak Bay police had found Payne’s red Ford pickup truck on Woodburn Avenue.

Officers found Payne’s body inside his home and deemed the death as suspicious. An investigation by major crime unit detectives quickly began.

A statement from Payne’s family, also released Saturday, said he was “deeply loved,” and described him as “exceptionally gentle” and “caring” with unfailing love, support and encouragement.

“We have continued to mourn his senseless loss every day for the past 11 months,” the statement reads. “We are completely devastated and have been relying heavily on one another throughout this horrifying ordeal.”

The family thanked everyone who has supported them as well as the law enforcement agencies that have worked on the case. They have also asked that their privacy be respected as they continue to deal with the loss of Payne.

READ ALSO: Metchosin working with William Head to improve communication after prison break

Insp. Todd Preston, officer in charge of West Shore RCMP gave his condolences to the family.

“We know that this has been a very difficult time for the community and citizens of the West Shore and in particular, Metchosin,” Preston said. “We want to thank the citizens for their patience in the investigative process.”

About one month after Payne’s death, residents in Metchosin spoke about their discomfort in knowing two inmates escaped William Head prison and that the public was not notified about their escape until nearly 12 hours later over Facebook.

Kym Hill and her husband Charles Knighton are Payne’s neighbours and held a vigil for him shortly after police found Payne. At the time, Hill said knowing why the escapees were in prison in the first place was “chilling” and that she would have appreciated a warning at any time of the day or night to be prepared.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said the District has been in communication with William Head Institution since July and that a number of changes have been made over the past 11 months. He said notification measures have been upgraded so the Metchosin fire chief, who has an alert system set up for residents, is notified of a suspected escape from the prison. Before, the chief wouldn’t be notified until an escape was confirmed.

“I have full confidence in the warden and I know the local people here are devastated by this,” Ranns said. “I feel confident that everything that can be done will be done at William Head by the local administration.”

At the end of September 2019, it was revealed in court that a Correctional Services Canada analysis deemed Armitage fit for a medium-security institution but that an override was recommended and he was moved to the low-security William Head in April 2018.

READ ALSO: Months after inmates escape Metchosin prison, community still wants answers

Ranns said he wants to see rules in place so that receiving wardens, like the one at William Head, can say no to an override.

“Let’s face it, it’s a federal institution and we don’t have any real sanction to get our way but that’s going to be our position,” Ranns said. “We won’t be satisfied until that happens. We want to let our local guys make the decision and we don’t want this happening again.”

Despite the many concerns and questions from residents over the past 11 months, Ranns said he thinks police have done a good job in ensuring they have the right evidence so “the full force of the law is thrown at” the two escapees.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Homicide

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Haitian foster children arrive in Nelson after months-long lobbying effort

Marie-Paule Brisson and Sebastien De Marre have parented girls age 12 and 8 since they were babies

Trail RCMP, coroner, investigating fisherman’s sudden death

The Maple Ridge man, in his 50s, died while fishing on a bridge near Trail

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

Large police presence in Castlegar on July 9 involved man peeing on street

Three police officers responded to the incident near the Black Rooster Pub at around 1:30 p.m.

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Most Read