WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence that may be upsetting.
The last witness in a high-profile murder trial involving two suspects who escaped from a Vancouver Island prison took the stand Wednesday to provide final forensic clues as to what happened to 60-year-old Martin Payne in July 2019.
Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch are charged with first-degree murder in Payne’s death. Payne was killed one day after the pair escaped the minimum-security William Head Penitentiary, located about eight kilometres from Payne’s Metchosin home.
Both suspects entered not-guilty pleas on Nov. 14.
As of last week, Armitage’s file is being dealt with separately, leaving the trial by jury to only concern Busch.
The doctor who completed Payne’s autopsy told the jury Wednesday, Payne was stabbed to death, with the perpetrators using multiple weapons.
“The cause of death was multiple sharp and blunt force injuries due to an assault,” Dr. Steven White, lead pathologist on Payne’s autopsy told the courtroom.
The judge identified three types of wounds Payne sustained:
- Eight blunt force wounds – four were defensive
- Four chop wounds to Payne’s head
- Five stab wounds
The location of the wounds on both sides of Payne’s body paints the picture of Payne fending off an attack from the front and behind.
Given the different types of wounds, the pathologist says he would “estimate at least three” weapons were used on Payne. Most of the blows targeted Payne’s head and neck. Many, causing severe damage.
Some of the worst were the multiple chop wounds to the top of Payne’s head, which caused multiple skull fractures and a brain bleed. The wounds, the pathologist testified, were consistent with the hatchet found on Payne’s bathroom counter near his body—and would have been fatal, if not for another blow.
The autopsy results say it was knife wound through all the way through Payne’s one side of his neck to the other that proved to be fatal.
“This would have been a lethal injury definitely, because it cut off blood supply to the head…he would have been able to breathe in for a short period of time,” said White. “Not for very long.”
White says Payne would have died within minutes of this blow.
That wound, White also testified, was consistent with the Bowie knife found on Payne’s bathroom counter next to the hatchet. The bruising around the wound, the pathologist testified, consistent with its hilt.
White was unable to give an exact timeline of each wound, but was able to say “the decedent was alive when all of these injuries were inflicted.”
Late in the afternoon, Busch’s defence began their cross examination of White, confirming that while the wounds are consistent with the knife and hatchet found at the crime scene, it’s not definitive. The wounds could have also been caused by a similar or smaller weapon.
The judge sent the 12-person jury away until Monday morning, when both crown prosecutors and defence’s closing statements are expected.