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Daughters of man slain following Vancouver Island prison escape sue Correctional Service of Canada

The family of a 60-year-old mail courier who was found dead in his Metchosin, B.C., home after a prison break from a nearby minimum-security facility in 2019 is suing the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), saying it didn’t follow its own policies in how it handled and responded to the two inmates.

The plaintiffs, Calla and Jessica Payne, daughters of Martin Payne, are seeking damages and costs from the CSC over the loss of their father.

“The [plaintiffs] have suffered grievous psychological harm, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and anguish over the loss of their father,” reads the suit, which was filed earlier in July in B.C. Supreme Court.

None of its claims have been proven in court. The CSC has yet to respond to it but has told the media it is aware of it.

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Payne fatally assaulted after inmates’ escape

In July 2019, James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage escaped from William Head Institution in the District of Metchosin, about a 30-minute drive west of Victoria, by walking around a fence at low tide.

The two had previously been transferred to William Head in Metchosin, a minimum-security prison, from a medium-security penitentiary in Mission on the mainland.

daughters of man slain following vancouver island prison escape sue correctional service of canada
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Metchosin, B.C., man. The crime is alleged to have happened while they were on the run after fleeing the William Head Institution. (West Shore RCMP)

Busch, in his mid-40s, was serving an indeterminate sentence for second-degree murder and assault. Armitage, in his early 30s, was convicted of offences including a violent aggravated assault and violent robbery.

The pair were found and arrested nearly two days after their escape, according to police.

Days later, however, Martin Payne, who lived about eight kilometres from William Head, was discovered deceased in his home, while his vehicle was discovered in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay. It is alleged that Busch and Armitage fatally assaulted Payne.

Busch and Armitage were later charged with one count each of first-degree murder in relation to his death. Their trial is set to begin this fall.

In the meantime, the suit from Payne’s daughters argues that his death could have been avoided if the CSC had not transferred Busch and Armitage to William Head to begin with. It says the pair should never have been reclassified as low risk, allowing them to be at William Head.

It also alleges that the CSC failed to adequately supervise the inmates at William Head and should have done more to warn the community over their escape.

The suit says that the morning after their escape, the CSC posted a message on Twitter that said the inmates had escaped and that the agency was working with police to locate them.

‘Negligent, reckless and contrary’

“It was a direct and foreseeable consequence of CSC’s breach of the standard of care that the [inmates] escaped from William Head institution and fatally assaulted Mr. Payne and caused harm to the [plaintiffs],” reads the suit.

“The [inmates’] escape from William Head on July 7, 2019 was the result of operational decisions made by CSC and its employees that were negligent, reckless and contrary to CSC policy.” 

In November 2019, Busch and Armitage each pleaded guilty to escape from custody and were sentenced to 12 months in addition to the sentences they were already serving.

They were charged with first-degree murder in relation to the death of Martin Payne in June 2020.

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