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)

Officials work with B.C. prison on communication after inmate escape

Residents near William Head prison concerned about time between escape and public alert

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

James Busch and Zachary Armitage escaped the low-security William Head Institution in Metchosin, outside of Victoria, around 6:45 p.m. on July 7.

However, the public was not made aware of it until about 6:20 a.m. the next day, when the Correctional Service of Canada posted an alert on Facebook and the local RCMP put out a news release.

Busch, 42, was behind bars for second-degree murder and assault, and has served time in the past for aggravated sexual assault and escaping custody. Armitage, 30, is serving nearly 14 years for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

The inmates were recaptured on July 9 in Esquimalt after commenting on a man’s dog while they were out for a walk. That man turned out to be an off-duty police officer.

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, 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 said she’s received a tsunami warning in the middle of the night and would have liked to have gotten one 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.”

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.

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

The same day the inmates were found, police found a red Ford pickup truck belonging to a 60-year-old man who’d been reported missing parked in Oak Bay.

Three days later, on July 12, the man, Martin Payne, was found dead in his home. RCMP confirmed foul play and said they believe the crime was an isolated incident.

Neighbours Kym Hill and her husband, Charles Knighton held a vigil for him. They talked to other neighbours about looking out for each other and installing security cameras on their property.

RCMP have been tight-lipped on the investigation into Payne’s death and have not released further information.

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 had 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.”

READ ALSO: Escaped William Head inmates caught after commenting on off-duty cop’s dog

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said he has met with the warden at William Head.

“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 must be clearly defined, but isn’t directly controlled. Firearms are not used or housed in the facility, although officials may permit the firearms during an emergency.

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

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

Just Posted

Petition calls for regulation of cigarette boats on Shuswap Lake

Public call for tighter controls on the fast, powerful vessels initiated before Sept. 1 collision

Salmon Arm martial arts school evicted along with assisted living facility

Students call Northern Spirit Martial Arts’ Hudson Street location a sanctuary

Salmon Arm RCMP see upswing in thefts of, and from, vehicles

Police report thieves prowling at night, entering unlocked vehicles

Successful Salmon Arm farmer’s market extended into December

Market may switch to indoor venue during the colder months of winter

RCMP investigating thefts from Shuswap mail boxes

Salmon Arm residents with compromised boxes asked to pick up mail at post office

‘It’s almost surreal’: South Okanagan fire chief, sidekick Sammy recap rescue mission in Bahamas

Chief Larry Watkinson and Sam the disaster dog spent 8 days assisting a search and rescue team

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

Vancouver police could be using drones to fight crime by end of year

The police department has already purchased three drones, as well as three others for training

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Most Read