Trial gets underway for escaped inmates accused of murdering Metchosin man

Two men charged with killing a man the day after escaping from a minimum-security federal prison on Vancouver Island have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder as their trials are proceeding in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch are accused of killing Martin Payne, 60, in July 2019, a day after they left the William Head facility about 8km from the victim’s home in Mechosin.

Justice David Crossing told the jury at the start of the trial that while the men were tried together, their guilt or innocence should be determined individually.

Crown prosecutor Sofia Bakken said Payne was killed at home after returning from work as a postman in Victoria a day after the two men fled.

She outlined some of the evidence witnesses and the jury were prepared to hear to support the official theory that Armitage and Bush killed Payne to further their escape, including a forensic expert who is expected to find three suspects in the victim’s home. The identified DNA profiles testify: his own and that of the accused.

Bakken told the court there was “significant” blood stains at Payne’s home, and a pathologist was also expected to testify that the “chop wounds” on the victim’s skull were consistent with those from the axe.

Armitage and Bush were arrested when they approached a man who happened to be an off-duty police officer out for a dog walk, prosecutors said.

Crossing explained to jurors how, if they were to reach a guilty verdict, they would have to establish that each person was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bush sat on the other side of the glass barrier in front of the victim’s family, wearing a grey blazer and collared shirt with a short, sleek ponytail, while Armitage cut a crew neck and wore a T-shirt with Layered a long-sleeved shirt.

The pair took notes throughout the hearing.

– Canadian Press

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