The District of Metchosin is working with William Head Institution to improve communication to the public in the event of another escape, according to Metchosin Mayor John Ranns. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Officials work with B.C. prison on communication after inmate escape

Residents near William Head prison concerned about time between escape and public alert

One month after the escape of two inmates from a Vancouver Island prison, residents remain concerned about communication and safety in the community.

James Busch and Zachary Armitage escaped the low-security William Head Institution in Metchosin, outside of Victoria, around 6:45 p.m. on July 7.

However, the public was not made aware of it until about 6:20 a.m. the next day, when the Correctional Service of Canada posted an alert on Facebook and the local RCMP put out a news release.

Busch, 42, was behind bars for second-degree murder and assault, and has served time in the past for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody. Armitage, 30, is serving nearly 14 years for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

The inmates were recaptured on July 9 in Esquimalt after commenting on a man’s dog while they were out for a walk. That man turned out to be an off-duty police officer.

READ ALSO: Inmates who escaped William Head to appear in court later this month

Jodi Donaldson owns and operates A Growing Place Early Childhood Centre, not far from the prison. She said the nearly 12-hour period between the inmates’ escape and the public alert was too long.

“It’s a bit unnerving,” Donaldson said.

She said she’s received a tsunami warning in the middle of the night and would have liked to have gotten one about the escape at any hour.

“I’d be more than happy to get that (warning) and make sure my doors and windows are locked.”

She said she’s also unsettled by the lack of public response from William Head and the corrections department.

“It feels … kind of like it’s left hanging,” she said.

READ ALSO: RCMP confirm foul play in death of 60-year-old Metchosin man

The same day the inmates were found, police found a red Ford pickup truck belonging to a 60-year-old man who’d been reported missing parked in Oak Bay.

Three days later, on July 12, the man, Martin Payne, was found dead in his home. RCMP confirmed foul play and said they believe the crime was an isolated incident.

Neighbours Kym Hill and her husband, Charles Knighton held a vigil for him. They talked to other neighbours about looking out for each other and installing security cameras on their property.

RCMP have been tight-lipped on the investigation into Payne’s death and have not released further information.

Hill said knowing why the escapees were in prison was “chilling.”

She said she would have appreciated a warning at any time of the day or night, and that she and her husband don’t use Facebook. They had learned of the escape through local media.

“At the time, it didn’t occur to us [delayed notification] was an issue,” she said. “Of course, in retrospect you can see that there is this problem with that. It doesn’t allow the community to react in an appropriate way.”

READ ALSO: Escaped William Head inmates caught after commenting on off-duty cop’s dog

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said he has met with the warden at William Head.

“We have a good working relationship with both the RCMP and William Head,” Ranns said. “How you alert residents and when is kind of a complex issue, but it’s something we all agree we’re going to work our way through to find a better way.”

According to federal guidelines, the perimeter of a minimum-security institution must be clearly defined, but isn’t directly controlled. Firearms are not used or housed in the facility, although officials may permit the firearms during an emergency.

In a statement to Black Press Media, the corrections department said anyone entering their jurisdiction to be admitted into a institution must undergo an assessment that includes case-specific information, such as documents from police, courts and family.

“The offender’s security level is based on three factors: how the offender will adjust to the institution, the risk of escape, and public safety,” said regional spokesperson Lucinda Fraser in an email.

As an offender moves through the system to lower security levels and more freedom of movement, the activities are tailored to more closely reflect conditions they will likely encounter when released into the community.

Fraser said every escape is taken seriously and public safety remains paramount, adding staff investigate the circumstances of an escape and make improvements if possible.

Upon recapture, an offender will undergo a new risk assessment to determine placement in the appropriate security level.

Fraser could not comment on the current location of Busch and Armitage because of privacy laws.

With files from Kendra Crighton

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Hearings begin as Vancouver Island mom fights for allegedly abducted daughter

Tasha Brown now in Jersey in the British Isles, fundraiser being held in Nanaimo

Swollen Members rapper Madchild to perform at the Queen’s

Rapper’s new album ‘Demons’ reflects on his struggles with drug addiction

Another section of Bruce Avenue closing for construction

New curbs, gutters, lighting installation will detour traffic to Howard Avenue for three weeks

Hundreds of Kin club members meeting in Nanaimo this week

Service club holding national convention Aug. 21-24

Nanoose Bay residents miffed as roadwork on Northwest Bay Road causes long delays

City of Parksville announces road closure extended for a second time

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

UPDATED: V.I. Raiders earn first win of the season

Raiders blow out Kamloops Broncos in home opener in Nanaimo

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab in Surrey

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

B.C. seizes 1.5M grams contraband tobacco, down from 5.75M grams the year prior

The 2019-2020 seizures were a sharp drop compared to the 2018-2019 year,

B.C. Speaker tight-lipped about aide’s legislature security tour

B.C. Liberals question Alan Mullen’s drive across Canada, U.S.

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Most Read