William Head Institution is shown through a security fence. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Lam)

William Head Institution is shown through a security fence. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Lam)

William Head escapee warnings improving, but still need work: fire chief

Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop said working with federal agencies makes improving protocols challenging

Metchosin residents are worried about William Head’s prison break warning protocols, as the court cases for Martin Payne’s murderers have wrapped up.

The second escaped inmate who murdered the Metchosin man in 2019 was sentenced in court in Victoria on Wednesday (Jan. 11).

In the Jan. 9 Metchosin council meeting, resident Brent Donaldson asked if a notification system like the amber alerts or extreme weather warning system could be implemented.

“That was only two streets over from us, so those folks could have come up our driveway or any of these folks’ driveway,” Donaldson said.

Metchosin Mayor Marie-Terese Little said that in the event of a possible prison break, she and Metchosin’s chief administrative officer – as well as the fire chief – are notified and can then warn residents once a break is confirmed.

READ MORE: Second escaped inmate who murdered Metchosin man sentenced to life in jail

Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop said the district had worked to improve its protocols but found it a challenge working with the relevant federal agencies – Corrections Service Canada and the RCMP – to make getting better protocols.

“Really, it’s not our job to do that, it’s their job, which is one of the challenges we’re run into,” Dunlop said.

While the protocols have improved, said Dunlop, they’re not at the standards she’d want.

Back around the time of the murder in 2019, Metchosin residents spoke about their discomfort over the delayed notice, only hearing the convicts had escaped nearly 12 hours later over Facebook.

Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch murdered Payne, a 60-year-old father, in his rural home in July 2019 after the pair escaped.

Speaking at the time, former-Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said the district had been working with William Head on upgrading notification measures so the Metchosin fire chief, who has an alert system set up for residents, is notified of a suspected escape from the prison. Before, the chief wouldn’t be notified until an escape was confirmed.

Both Little and Dunlop said they’d continue to work with the prison, CSC and the RCMP to tighten up protocols.

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

MetchosinprisonWest Shore

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