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Jury sees items from scene of Metchosin homicide, others found with escaped inmates

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage charged with the first-degree murder of Martin Payne
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are back in police custody after their escape from William Head institution on July 7. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

After hearing about items like bloody clothing and an array of sharp-edged tools for the past two weeks, a jury presiding over the 2019 killing of a Metchosin man saw evidence from the case in person on Thursday.

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of Martin Payne after they escaped the William Head prison in 2019.

White, waffle-knit shirts have been mentioned at various points in the trial so far, with at least one stained with blood being recovered from garbage bags in Payne’s home. The court was shown that shirt and another found near the William Head prison. An RCMP forensics officer previously testified that both inmates had white, waffle-knit shirts inside their cells.

West Shore RCMP Const. Meghan Groulx, the officer tasked with seizing items, showed various pieces of evidence to the defence and jury at the crown’s request. Among them were a hatchet and a bowie knife found on a bathroom counter in Payne’s home, along with axe heads cut from their handles that were located in a hallway closet.

Pulled from one of the bags was a pair of bloody white socks that were duct-taped together. Both socks were considerably stained but one was so heavily covered that just a few white sections were visible as they were presented to the court. Two black T-shirts, including a Nike-branded one that had blood on it, were also pulled from one of the bags and displayed Thursday.

The jury also got to look at a crumpled map of Greater Victoria, two William Head identification cards – belonging to Busch and Armitage – and chewing gum found inside a red and grey MEC backpack the inmates had around the time of their arrest. Gum was also found on Payne’s property and in his master bedroom.

During the defence’s cross-examination, Armitage’s lawyer Jim Heller asked if it crossed Groulx’s mind that “Armitage and Busch did this” as she collected the evidence at the home and he suggested that surely she and the other officers would’ve been talking about “is this those guys?”

Groulx said she doesn’t recall any conversation like that occurring and while she had heard about the escape itself, she did not go into the scene thinking the inmates were involved.

“I myself didn’t go in thinking ‘Oh this is what they did, I had no idea at that point.”

“Now you have a vicious homicide that’s fairly close to William Head, two escapees from William Head and you’re telling me that you didn’t think that maybe the two were connected,” Heller continued.

“I didn’t have enough information to know that,” Groulx said.

She said multiple times that she was not thinking about the inmates as she was focused on her specific and tedious duties as the exhibit officer.

Heller questions why Groulx didn’t seize kitchen knives in a drawer and said it would be “negligent” not to do so given how the other sharp items, like the hatchet and bowie knife, were collected as evidence.

The constable explained that those items were in unusual spots with unusual circumstances.

READ: Defence lawyers critical of items examined at Metchosin homicide scene Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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