James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are back in police custody after their escape from William Head institution on July 7. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are back in police custody after their escape from William Head institution on July 7. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

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

James Busch, Zachary Armitage were scheduled to appear in a West Shore court Thursday

Two inmates who escaped William Head Institution in Metchosin were scheduled to appear in a West Shore court Thursday but their cases were adjourned until Aug. 29.

James Busch and Zachary Armitage have been charged with escape from lawful custody.

The pair escaped from the Metchosin prison on July 7 at about 6:45 p.m. according to West Shore RCMP. The Correctional Service of Canada said staff members at William Head discovered Busch and Armitage were unaccounted for later that night.

The Correctional Service of Canada notified the public of their escape on its Facebook page the next morning and West Shore RCMP issued a news release a several hours later. Police said the pair was dangerous and asked the public not to approach them if spotted. The search for the inmates continued for approximately 48 hours with extra resources, such as an air services helicopter, the police services dog, and extra officers.

On July 9 at about 8 p.m. Busch and Armitage were recognized by an off-duty RCMP officer who spotted them in Esquimalt and called 911. The two were arrested shortly after by the Victoria Police Department and turned over to West Shore RCMP.

READ ALSO: Escaped William Head inmates recognized after commenting on off-duty RCMP officer’s dog

The off-duty officer, Sgt. John Ferguson, was walking his great Dane named Lewis in the West Bay area in Esquimalt when the escapees commented on how big the dog is.

“I turned and said ‘thank you, he’s a big baby’ and I immediately recognized them as they walked by me,” Ferguson said.

Const. Nancy Saggar of West Shore RCMP was unable to comment on information about where the two men were hiding but said the details are to be addressed in court.

Busch, 42, is serving a sentence for second-degree murder and assault and has served time for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody.

Armitage, 30, is serving a 13-year, 10-month sentence for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

The Correctional Service of Canada is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape.

William Head Institution is about 40 kilometres from Victoria and is a federal minimum-security facility for men. It opened in 1959 and can house about 190 offenders.

William Head is the only federal penitentiary on Vancouver Island and approximately 50 per cent of its inmates are serving life sentences.

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

Shortly after the inmates were captured, a Metchosin resident was found dead in his home on July 12 after reports of him being missing. RCMP confirmed foul play in the death of 60-year-old Martin Payne and said they believe the crime was an isolated incident. Three days earlier, on July 9, the Oak Bay Police Department found Payne’s red Ford pickup truck parked on Woodburn Avenue.

Neighbours of Payne expressed shock over Payne’s death and discussed installing security cameras on their property and looking out for each other during a vigil that was held for Payne.

Charles Knighton, a neighbour of Payne, said he felt terrible after finding out Payne was dead for three days but police have been unable to confirm that detail.

West Shore RCMP said they are not able to comment further on the investigation into Payne’s death.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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