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Couple recalls doorstep encounter with inmates accused of murdering Metchosin man

Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch are charged with killing 60-year-old Martin Payne
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of a Metchosin man after their escape from William Head Institution on July 7, 2019. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

While sitting watching TV in the living room of their Metchosin home, Janet and Clayton Reynolds were suddenly met with a loud knock at their door on July 7, 2019.

As dark had already fallen on the mid-summer night, the married couple got up to check who it was as they weren’t expecting anyone.

As Clayton looked through the window pane of their front door and Janet through another window in the kitchen, the pair looked out and saw two men on the front porch.

The events of the unexpected encounter from three years back were outlined during Wednesday’s (Nov. 16) testimony in the trial of Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch. The pair is charged with the first degree-murder of Metchosin’s Martin Payne after they escaped from the William Head minimum-security prison.

“In 16 years it had never happened before,” Janet said of the nighttime encounter at their rural home. “It was extremely unusual.”

From their respective positions, both had an unobstructed view of two men they didn’t know standing under their porch light.

In a loud voice, Clayton asked the two men what they wanted and why they were at his door. They were initially standing next to each other before one moved behind the other. The younger-looking of the two, who was thin and had a lighter complexion, asked if they could come inside and use the phone, to which Clayton refused.

With his hearing aides in and talking through the door, the retired doctor testified the muffled conversation continued with the younger one asking for directions, though it wasn’t clear to where.

Clayton said “correct” when asked by the defence lawyer if the man speaking seemed “polite” in tone and demeanour.

As he got choked up on the witness stand, Clayton said he made up directions, feeding the “bluff” to the men to get them to leave.

“We had no resolution otherwise to get them off my property, I didn’t want to open the door, I certainly didn’t want to confront them physically, I just, it came to me at the moment that I could try and get them away just by making up a sentence and some directions.”

He watched the unknown individuals turn and walk a couple of metres until they disappeared around the bend in his driveway. The homeowners then went around their house, checking their locks and whether the other entrances were secure before having a normal rest of the night.

The next morning, Janet opened an online news article as she waited for her tennis match to begin. The story showed photos of the two men who were at her door the night before. She was absolutely sure it was the two men, she testified. Clayton said it was 100 per cent them.

The court on Wednesday also heard from expert witness Ambrose Oba-Underwood, a digital evidence specialist with the RCMP. He detailed how Payne’s home computer on July 8 had been used from early in the morning to mid-afternoon to repeatedly search news about the prison escape, the Correctional Service of Canada’s news page, private water taxis operating around Victoria and the Island and various pornography sites. The user also typed in “Zachary A” before clicking on the option that read “Zachary Armitage” – which Oba-Underwood said would’ve appeared due to the content of previous searches.

Wednesday’s session also heard brief testimony from a West Shore RCMP corporal who fingerprinted Busch and from a woman who was asked for directions from two men, allegedly the escapees. She said it seemed like they seemed nervous and lost in the woods.

The defence questioned the women about what the men were wearing and specifically if she recalled one of them being in black jeans – an inquiry also directed at Clayton. The woman said that her original police statement said one was in jeans, though she couldn’t recall the colour.

The trial continues Thursday in Vancouver.

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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