A few Metchosin residents are speaking out after the William Head prison escapees from July 2019 have been charged with the first-degree murder of Martin Payne, 60. (Martin Payne/Facebook)

One year after prison escape, Greater Victoria residents still don’t feel safe

‘I don’t want to constantly have to be on guard,’ residents react to murder charges

Tanya Young still thinks she hears noises outside her Metchosin home in the wee morning hours.

It’s only been a few days since West Shore RCMP officially charged William Head’s prison escapees with the murder of 60-year-old Martin Payne, but it’s been nearly a year since Young has felt completely safe in her community.

Occasionally, she checks the security cameras she and her husband installed to make sure there’s nothing to worry about at night, but safety is an utmost concern for the mother of two. She’s also bought floodlights for the property.

“We had just moved into our forever home with our toddler and baby,” said Young, who moved to Metchosin a month before the prison escape. “[When] the police came to our home to ask questions we were completely freaked. With it being so close to home it was frightening.”

RELATED: William Head prison escapees charged in homicide of Metchosin man

On June 13, police announced the charges of first-degree murder against James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage.

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 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.

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

On July 12, four days after the inmates were found, West Shore RCMP found Martin Payne’s body inside his home after he failed to show up for work. His death was considered suspicious and most residents in the area voiced their concerns due to the fact that they weren’t notified of the escape until nearly 12 hours later over Facebook.

Though the head of Correctional Service Canada said security at the minimum-security facility has improved and has expressed her “deepest sympathies” to Payne’s family, some residents are hesitant to trust again.

“The real tragedy is that a sweet and kind man lost his life,” said Paula Leweke, a Metchosin resident for the past 11 years. “I believe the whole situation was totally mismanaged.”

Cid Lang, a resident since July 2019, said one of the biggest reasons she moved to Metchosin was to get away from a federal prison she felt unsafe living nearby in California.

“I thought the biggest issues we had to worry about were bears and cougars,” Lang quipped. “I love this community so much and I didn’t want to constantly have to be on guard, but now I feel afraid.”

READ MORE: Head of Canadian prison agency expresses ‘deepest sympathies’ in death of Metchosin man

While Shari Rourke believes the escape and following murder was tragic, she doesn’t expect it to happen again.

“I 100 per cent feel safe in my neighbourhood,” said the resident who grew up in the Mary Hill area, a former range and training area for Canadian Forces Esquimalt right across from the prison. Now, she lives near Pedder Bay.

“As long as the prison has the opportunity to ensure that dangerous felons with a high risk to re-offend are not placed in it, we do not need to worry.”

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 William Head in April 2018.

– with files from Shalu Mehta


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aaron.guillen@goldstreamgazette.com

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