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

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

Ken Dockendorf is rallying opposition to the changes to high school sports governance. (The News files)
Maple Ridge coaches oppose changes to high school sports governance

Vote coming on May 1 could change varsity sports across B.C.

Students in Garibaldi secondary’s music program rehearse for Swing into Spring. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge high school adding a spring to their step

Swing into Spring concert to raise money for the Garibaldi secondary’s music program

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of Maple Ridge man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Langley, Pitt Meadows, and Maple Ridge still driving more, taking transit less

A sign to students outside Pitt Meadows secondary. The school is not currently listed by Fraser Health as having COVID-19 exposures. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Four more Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows schools exposed to COVID-19

Cases at three public schools and Maple Ridge Christian

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Of 46 arrests made between March 16 and 19 at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, 27 suspected shoplifters are now facing charges. (Twitter/Burnaby RCMP)
RCMP arrest 46 people in 4 days during Metrotown shoplifting crackdown

$4,800 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to businesses inside of the mall

Kao Macaulay has been charged in relation to a home break-in on March 30 in Abbotsford in which five kittens were stolen. (Facebook photo)
‘Prolific offender’ charged with theft of 5 newborn kittens in Abbotsford

Kao Macaulay, 23, is accused of breaking into home on March 30

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions (Screen shot)
Minister of mental health tells Surrey audience COVID-19 ‘has made everything worse’

More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Most Read