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Murder trial hears of prison escapees’ attempts to get off Vancouver Island

Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch are charged with killing 60-year-old Martin Payne of Metchosin
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of a Metchosin man after their escape from William Head Institution on July 7, 2019. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

As Cpl. Kimberley Sarson testified from a Vancouver courtroom on Thursday, the RCMP forensic identification services specialist outlined how she photographed and examined the bloody murder scene of a 60-year-old Metchosin man.

Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch are charged with killing Martin Payne in July 2019, a day after the pair walked away from William Head Institution, located about eight kilometres from the victim’s home in Metchosin.

The court and jury on Nov. 17 were shown crime scene photos of Payne’s home, including ones showing his body, which was found in the en-suite bathroom of the master bedroom. A large pool of blood was found near his head, Sarson said. Blood spatter was also on the hallway walls leading to the master bedroom and on the floor close to the Brookview Drive home’s entrance.

An axe handle was found on the carpet inside the bedroom along with a hack saw and a tape dispenser. Duct tape was wrapped around Payne’s right leg and forearm.

Sarson testified blood was found on the wood floor before a blue blanket that was halfway in a hallway and the master bedroom.

The court on Thursday also heard a recording of a call made to the Gulf Island Water Taxi service on July 8. On Wednesday, evidence showed someone using Payne’s computer made several searches for private water taxis operating on the Island and around Victoria.

During the 42-second 8:51 a.m. call, a person asks if the taxi goes to Vancouver and after being told it doesn’t, the caller then asks if there’s anything other than “the ferries” that would go to the mainland.

July 8, the day after the prison escape, was also when Armitage made a call to an inmate he had met while incarcerated at a Mission prison.

James George was working at a Greater Victoria shipyard in 2019 when he saw a news article on his Facebook feed about the prison escape. He then Facebook messaged a woman – who he met once during a social event at the Mission institution – whose husband also knew the accused from the mainland prison.

George then got a call assuming it was from the woman, but he recognized Armitage’s voice on the other end of the line.

“He said he was looking for a ride and that he was on the run,” George testified. “I told him I didn’t want any involvement, I didn’t want to be a part of anything like this and hung up.”

He also testified that the escapee asked for money.

Armitage said he would call back later that day, but George – who had previously completed his own prison sentence – would not pick up before he changed his number entirely as he said he was scared.

The RCMP’s Sarson was also tasked with photographing and examining Payne’s red Ford F-150 pickup truck for fingerprints and DNA after it was located in Oak Bay – at a time when the 60-year-old was considered missing.

Among items found in a clear plastic bag in the truck were T-shirts, men’s underwear, socks and black jeans.

Defence lawyers on Wednesday asked multiple witnesses if one of the men was wearing black jeans when they encountered the two men on July 7.

The trial continues Friday.

READ: Couple recalls doorstep encounter with inmates accused of murdering Metchosin man

READ: Trial gets underway for escaped inmates accused of murdering Metchosin man Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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