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Trial date set for escaped inmates accused of murdering Metchosin man

Trial for pair moved to Vancouver Law Courts, set to begin Nov. 14
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage will be tried for the murder of a Metchosin man, starting in November in Vancouver Law Courts. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

The trial for two William Head prison escapees accused of murdering Metchosin man Martin Payne in 2019 will begin in Vancouver Law Courts later this fall.

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage 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.

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 William Head’s minimum-security facility.

On the evening of July 7, 2019, Busch and Armitage escaped the ocean-front prison, triggering a multi-day manhunt. On July 9, Victoria police officers arrested the wanted men after Busch and Armitage commented on an off-duty RCMP officer’s dog in Esquimalt.

READ ALSO: ‘Goodness prevails’: Neighbours reflect following suspicious death of 60-year-old Metchosin man

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, West Shore RCMP attended a home in the 1000-block of Brookview Drive in Metchosin to check on the well-being of Payne after he failed to show up for work. Officers found his body inside his home and deemed the death suspicious.

In June 2020, Busch and Armitage were charged with first-degree murder. Originally set to be heard in Victoria, the men’s trial has since been moved to Vancouver.

It will begin Nov. 14 and is set to last five weeks. Jury selection is scheduled for Oct. 6.

Both men have already been sentenced to 12 months in jail for their prison escape.

READ ALSO: William Head prison escapees charged in homicide of Metchosin man

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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