LANGFORD, B.C. — Two inmates who escaped from a Vancouver Island prison have been charged with first-degree murder over allegations they killed a man during their brief break out.
RCMP say James Busch and Zachary Armitage are accused of killing 60-year-old Martin Payne, whose body was found in his Victoria-area home on July 12 last year.
Police were alerted on July 8 last year that the two men had escaped from the minimum security William Head Institution near Victoria and an off-duty officer spotted the men two days later, leading to the arrest.
It was only when Payne failed to show up for work that officers found his body days later and a news release issued at the time said they were looking for the victim's red Ford-F 150 truck.
Anne Kelly, the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, extended her sympathies to Payne's family in a statement and says they take this situation seriously, including the fact that the two accused had escaped from their custody before the crime.
Kelly says they launched an investigation looking at how to prevent and respond to escape and measures have been taken to enhance security.
"This is a terrible tragedy and it is important that we garner lessons from the escapes and work to prevent them in the future. We will continue to work diligently to ensure that our policies and practices are evidence-based and are responsive to an evolving environment," Kelly says in the statement.
I know this is an incredibly difficult time for the citizens of the West Shore and in particular, Metchosin, Kelly says of the hometown where Payne's body was discovered.
"I know Mr. Payne was a deeply loved member of the community and my heartfelt condolences go out to all of you for your loss."
The statement says escapes from federal prisons are uncommon and the last break out at William Head was in 2014 and before that in 2004.
Payne's family said in a statement submitted by RCMP that he was deeply loved by his tight circle of friends and family and they continue to mourn his senseless loss 11 months later.
"The man who was taken from us was an exceptionally gentle and caring human being whose love, support, and encouragement were unfailing."
The off-duty officer who spotted the two men was walking his Great Dane dog when police said one of the two escapees commented on the large size of the animal.
Police said at the time that the RCMP officer recognized the men as Armitage and Busch, called 911 and the men were arrested.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 13, 2020.
The Canadian Press