Good boy: Lewis, the Great Dane, plays role in finding escaped inmates in Esquimalt

WatchTwo dangerous inmates who escaped from William Head prison in Metchosin are back behind bars tonight. And one dog played a big role in locating the pair.

A Great Dane is being called a hero after he played a big role in recapturing two inmates who escaped from the William Head prison in Metchosin on Sunday.

Forty-two-year-old James Lee Busch and 30-year-old Zachary Armitage were arrested in Esquimalt Tuesday night at around 8 p.m. after they were seen by an off-duty RCMP officer.

The two inmates escaped from the minimum security prison around 6:45 p.m. Sunday. Corrections staff only noticed they were missing when they didn’t turn up for the 11 p.m. roll call. Corrections then reported the two were wanted for being unlawfully at large.

Despite a manhunt that included a helicopter K9 unit and hoards of police officers on the ground, they were able to avoid capture for over two days.

But on Tuesday night, Sgt. John Ferguson, who was off duty, was walking his dog Lewis by the Westbay Marine Village in Esquimalt when he recognized the two prisoners after a brief encounter.

Sgt. John Ferguson and his dog,, Great Dane Lewis.

Sgt. John Ferguson and his dog,, Great Dane Lewis.

“Two young fellas were walking towards us the one said ‘oh what a big dog’ and the other one said ‘what a great looking dog’ and I turned and said ‘thank you, he’s a big baby,'” Ferguson said.

RCMP update on capture of escaped prisoners from William Head

West Shore RCMP provide an update on the capture of escaped prisoners from William Head.

Posted by CHEK News: Official Page on Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ferguson said even though the two were dressed in plain clothing, he recognized them from a police bulletin and called 911. He and Lewis, a five-year-old civilian dog, then went for an extra-long walk and kept an eye on them until Victoria police arrived.

The two are facing additional charges of being unlawfully at large. Lewis has a brand new police badge and is an honorary member of the West Shore RCMP.

Lewis's honorary police badge.

Lewis’s honorary police badge.

Busch pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 15 years. He had killed a woman over a $20 drug debt then put her body in a dumpster. The woman, 41-year-old Sandra Marie Ramsay, had lived next door to Busch at a downtown assisted living facility.

Busch had been out of jail just two months when he killed Ramsay and had previous convictions for violent offences including assault with a weapon.

Armitage is serving a 13-year sentence for robbery and aggravated assault, in which the victim later died.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said while he supports the program at William Head to prepare inmates for reintegration into society, he has a problem with violent offenders who still have significant time on their original sentences being there.

“What we are asking is send the people that are at the end of their sentences and ready to transition in otherwise beef up the security,” Ranns said.

Both Busch and Armitage were set to become eligible for parole soon and Corrections Canada said its standard practice to prepare all inmates for eventual release. William Head Institution Assistant Warden Anthony Baldo said earlier this week that the prison is doing an internal review to find out what wrong.

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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