Killer and robber who escaped from Vancouver Island prison recaptured

Times Colonist

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inmates escape
Two inmates who had escaped from William Head Institution in Metchosin have been captured.
Photo courtesy Correctional Service of Canada

Two inmates, a killer and robber, who escaped from William Head Institution on Vancouver Island were recaptured Tuesday night, police said. The two men broke out of the Metchosin facility on Sunday night.

West Shore RCMP said the inmates, James Busch, 42, and Zachary Armitage, 30, were taken into custody about 8 p.m. after an off-duty RCMP officer spotted them in Esquimalt and called on-duty officers. Victoria police made the arrests.

Earlier in the day, the violent crimes and escape history of the inmates raised questions among Metchosin residents about why the pair were in a minimum-security facility. Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said he fully supports William Head’s program for inmates who are considered low-risk and has supported its work-release program where prisoners on conditional parole work in the municipality.

But Ranns said over his 32 years on council, the prison has gone from medium to minimum security, “which is OK, but if they have guys like the guys who just got out then maybe we need more medium-like security.” Ranns said he’s aware serious offenders are in the prison, but the offences of the two who escaped did not sound to him like they were close to re-entering the community.

“I’m fully behind William Head but if they are going to have those types of offenders maybe they should change the security.”

Busch and Armitage escaped from William Head at about 6:45 p.m. Sunday, West Shore RCMP said. Corrections staff discovered the men missing during an 11 p.m. head count. There are about 160 men at the facility.

Police warned that the men were dangerous. West Shore RCMP called in extra resources and increased patrols in the area around the prison.

The men were previously in maximum and medium security prisons but were sent to William Head because they were determined to be a “low-risk” to reoffend or escape by the Correctional Service of Canada.

William Head assistant warden Anthony Baldo said it’s important to differentiate between low risk and no risk.

“There’s no such thing as no risk but is it a manageable risk,” said Baldo.

“When an offender comes here we’re confident at that time that we can work further with that offender.”

The processes are tried and true but human behaviour changes, said Baldo. “These two individuals specifically have demonstrated behaviour that will necessitate a re-review of their security placement and they will not be coming back to William Head Institution because they have shown an inability to reside at a low-risk security institution.”

On July 28, 2010, Busch pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for strangling Saskatoon neighbour Sandra Marie Ramsay, 41, over a $20 debt on May 14, 2010.

With another resident, Busch stuffed Ramsay’s body into a suitcase and dragged it to an alley trash bin. Busch was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years. Busch earlier served seven years in prison for raping his seven-year-old female cousin.

In April 2009 in Sudbury, Ont., then 19-year-old Armitage beat Shaun Dupuis on the head with a blunt object. He robbed him and left him a quadriplegic and unable to speak. In 2011, Armitage pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and robbery and other charges. He was sentenced in a Sudbury court to 18 years in prison for his attack on Dupuis and for another violent robbery the same month in which he beat one of his victims unconscious. In February 2013, Dupuis died of an infection related to his injuries.

Both inmates have previously escaped from prisons.

William Head is a “releasing” prison. The Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for preparing every offender for potential conditional release back into the community, said Baldo.

William Head is purposely set up “to replicate a community” with houses and living units so that inmates can slowly “acclimate” to community-like living, said Baldo. “We want them to know how to live on their own in a law-abiding fashion.”

For the rehabilitation to work, there has to be a relationship between the community and the inmates, said Baldo.

He said staff at the prison and volunteers live and work in the community. They all have a vested interest, beyond believing in rehabilitation, to help inmates work to be better citizens and help them successfully reintegrate into society.

The public hears about escapees and reoffenders but less often hears about a greater proportion of federal parolees working successfully as law-abiding citizens in Victoria and the whole Pacific region, he said.