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

Rob Morrison sworn in as Kootenay-Columbia MP

Parliament set to reconvene on Thursday with election of House Speaker, Throne Speech

LETTER: Reflections on democracy and community from former Green party candidate

Abra Brynne ran in the 2019 federal election to be Kootenay-Columbia’s MP

Basin economic snapshot shows Kootenay a mixed bag

State of the Basin report shows economic recovery from recession a slow go

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Raptors fans show Kawhi the love in his return to Toronto

Leonard receives championship ring, leads new club to win

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by pellet gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Almost 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016: new national study

17,000 people have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning

Most Read