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)

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)

Metchosin working with William Head to improve communication after prison break

Residents concerned about time between inmates’ escape and public warning

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

James Busch and Zachary Armitage escaped the low-security William Head Institution around 6:45 p.m. on July 7. The Correctional Service of Canada said staff discovered their absence later that night.

However, the public was not made aware of the escape until about 6:20 a.m. the next day, when corrections officials posted an alert on Facebook. A few hours after that, West Shore RCMP put out a news release.

The two escapees were recaptured on July 9 in Esquimalt after commenting on an off-duty RCMP officer’s dog while they were out for a walk.

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.

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 on William Head Road, 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 remembered receiving a tsunami warning in the middle of the night in the past, and said she would have happily received a warning 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, and in the morning let families know,” she said. “If they’re not comfortable with their kids coming — and I would totally understand if they wouldn’t be — then they could make that choice.”

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.

On July 12, three days after the inmates were captured, a Metchosin resident was found dead in his home 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, Oak Bay police had found Payne’s red Ford pickup truck parked on Woodburn Avenue.

Kym Hill and her husband, Charles Knighton, are Payne’s neighbours, and held a vigil for him. Other neighbours attended and discussed looking out for each other and installing security cameras on their property.

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

RCMP have been tight-lipped on the investigation into Payne’s death and have not released any more information since their initial news release on July 15.

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 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.”

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns and Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop both said the District of Metchosin is working with William Head to ensure communication is improved if a similar event occurs in the future.

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

Dunlop, who said she was notified of the escape around 2 a.m., was unable to alert the public unless told to do so by the RCMP and corrections staff.

“For all I know, RCMP and Correctional Services of Canada are doing some kind of private search for the guy,” Dunlop said.

Residents can call the Metchosin Fire Department and ask to be placed on a list to receive emergency alerts.

The mayor said he met with the warden at William Head to work out a better way to notify residents of incidents in the future.

“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 will be clearly defined, but isn’t directly controlled. Firearms are not used or even housed in the facility, although leaders may permit the use of firearms during an emergency situation.

In a statement to Black Press Media, the corrections department said anyone entering their jurisdiction to be admitted into any 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 programs and activities are tailored to more closely reflect the conditions they are likely to encounter once released into the community.

Fraser said every escape is taken very seriously and public safety remains paramount, adding staff investigate the circumstances of an escape and make any 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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Inmates at Metchosin’s William Head Institution are being given COVID-19 vaccines as part of the first phase. Around 600 inmates will be vaccinated in the coming days. (Black Press Media file photo)
William Head inmates in Metchosin receive their first doses of COVID vaccine

Priority set for older inmates and those with underlying medical conditions

West Shore RCMP is looking for a suspect and their minivan, which crashed into a parked vehicle and home along the 200-block of Island Highway in View Royal on Jan. 18. (Black Press Media file photo)
Driver crashes into parked car and home in View Royal, speeds away: RCMP

Incident took place near 200-block of Island Highway Monday night

December and January, so far, have seen their share of rain. (Black Press Media file photo)
Potential for snow in Greater Victoria after unusually wet December, January

Winter is on the way, says Environment and Climate Change Canada

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Dallas Road

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

(Black Press Media file photo)
From arts to environment, nominate your West Shore hero

Nominations for the Goldstream Gazette’s Local Hero awards are open

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

Most Read