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Trial for prison escapees accused of murdering Metchosin man moved to Vancouver

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage charged with 2019 murder of Martin Payne
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage will be tried for the murder of a Metchosin man in Vancouver Law Courts. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

The trial for two William Head prison escapees accused of murdering a Metchosin man will be heard in Vancouver, not Victoria, the B.C. Supreme Court decided Thursday.

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 were captured for their prison escape.

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 and 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.

READ ALSO: Metchosin mayor wants changes to prison-transfer system after alleged murder by escapees

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

On the evening of July 7, 2019, Busch and Armitage escaped the ocean-front prison by walking along the shoreline during low tide. West Shore RCMP launched a manhunt for the men, but it wasn’t until two days later when Busch and Armitage commented on an off-duty Mountie’s dog in Esquimalt that they were found.

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. Three days earlier, on July 9, Oak Bay police had found his red Ford pickup truck on Woodburn Avenue.

Officers found Payne’s body inside his home and deemed the death suspicious. In June 2020, Busch and Armitage were charged with first-degree murder.

The Vancouver trial date has not yet been set.

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

Editor’s note: This article has been changed from an earlier version to reflect a publication ban.

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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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