James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of 60-year-old Martin Payne, whose body was found in July 2019, days after the two men escaped from William Head Institution on July 7. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of 60-year-old Martin Payne, whose body was found in July 2019, days after the two men escaped from William Head Institution on July 7. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

Joint trial starting next month for escaped inmates accused in Metchosin murder

Trial scheduled to start on Nov. 14 in Vancouver

The William Head prison escapees accused of murdering Metchosin man Martin Payne in 2019 will have their joint trial begin in about a month.

The B.C. Prosecution Service confirmed to Black Press Media that the co-accused, James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage, will be tried together starting on Nov. 14 in Vancouver. The two are charged with the first-degree murder of 60-year-old Payne, whose body was found in July 2019, days after the two men were recaptured.

On the evening of July 7, 2019, Busch and Armitage escaped from William Head Institution in Metchosin, triggering a multi-day manhunt. Two days later, Victoria police officers arrested the wanted men after Busch and Armitage commented on an off-duty RCMP officer’s dog in Esquimalt. That same day, Oak Bay police officers found Payne’s red Ford pickup truck on Woodburn Avenue, a long way from his Metchosin home.

On July 12, 2019, police attended Payne’s home in the 1000-block of Brookview Drive for a well-being check and found his body inside his home before deeming the death suspicious.

At the time of their escape, Busch, 42, was serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault and had previously served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody.

Armitage, then 30, was serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences. In February 2018, he had been assessed as a medium security or moderate risk, but two months later was transferred to the minimum security William Head Institution.

A civil suit was launched by Payne’s daughters in the summer and takes aim at the corrections systems for negligence in allowing the escape. It also blames correctional officials for reclassifying Busch and Armitage to lower risk levels, allowing their transfer to William Head.

READ: Metchosin man’s death due to prison allowing inmates to escape, daughters allege


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