Martin Payne, 60, was found dead in his Metchosin home in July 2019. Two escapees from William Head Institution have since been charged with first-degree murder in relation to his death. (Martin Payne/Facebook)

Head of Canadian prison agency expresses ‘deepest sympathies’ in death of Metchosin man

Anne Kelly also says security at William Head Institution has improved

The head of the Canadian correction service has expressed her “deepest sympathies” for the death of Martin Payne from Metchosin after police had charged two escapees from William Head Institution with first degree murder in relation to his death.

Anne Kelly, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, also said that security at the minimum-security facility in Metchosin has improved.

“First and foremost, I extend my deepest sympathies to Mr. Payne’s family and friends as we learn of the new developments surrounding this case,” said Kelly in a release. “I also want to recognize the impact this has had on the community and to let you know that we take this situation very seriously, including the fact that the inmates charged had escaped from our custody prior to this tragic crime.”

Kelly added later that the WHI has implemented “a number of measures” to improve security at the site.

“This is a terrible tragedy and it is important that we garner lessons from the escapes and work to prevent them in the future,” she said. “We will continue to work diligently to ensure that our policies and practices are evidence-based and are responsive to an evolving environment.

West Shore RCMP officers found Payne’s body inside his home on July 12, 2019. James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage — the two men charged with first-degree murder in relations to Payne’s death — had escaped William Head Institution on July 7. Police detained the escaped duo again after they commented on an off-duty Mountie’s dog in Esquimalt.

Busch was serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault and had previously served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody, while Armitage was serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences at the time of their escape.

RELATED: William Head prison escapees charged in homicide of Metchosin man

Kelly said an investigation launched last July into theier escape has “led to a close examination” of practices and policies in how Corrections Canada prevents and responds to escapes. They include the promise to improve Correction Canada’s communications practices and policies to make communities promptly aware of escapes.

About one month after Payne’s death, residents in Metchosin spoke about their discomfort in knowing two inmates escaped the prison. The public did not receive notice about their escape until nearly 12 hours later over Facebook.

The public also heard at the end of September 2019 that an internal analysis of Corrections Canada deemed Armitage fit for a medium-security institution but that an override was recommended and he was moved to the low-security William Head in April 2018.

– with files from Shalu Mehta


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