Off-duty police officer who helped nab Metchosin murder suspects while walking his dog testifies at trial

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

James Lee Busch, now the lone person on trial for 60-year-old Martin Payne’s 2019 murder in Metchosin, was back in court Wednesday as a police officer recounted the off-duty encounter that led to his arrest.

Busch is pleading not guilty and remained in court for the murder trial a day after Armitage was announced to be “no longer a party,” though the judge did not specify why.

In Vancouver supreme court Wednesday, prosecutors quickly moved through five witnesses in the Metchosin murder trial.

Maybe none as important, though, as the off-duty police officer and his dog who had an accidental interaction on the night of July 9th with escaped prisoners Mark Armitage and Busch.

“Two young fellas were walking towards us, the one said ‘oh what a big dog,’ and the other one said ‘yeah, what a great looking dog’ and I turned and said ‘thank you, he’s a big baby,'” Staff Sgt. John Ferguson told CHEK News on July 10, 2019.

In court Wednesday, Ferguson recounted the same chance encounter.

Ferguson immediately realized the two men were the escaped William Head prisoners he’d seen alerts for while working, he said.

Ferguson told the 12-person jury he called 911 after getting out of earshot.

He then turned around to follow the men at a distance, his five-year-old Great Dane named Lewis in tow, keeping an eye on the escaped prisoners as they waited for police to arrive.

Additional officers testified about responding to that call, arriving on scene to find Armitage and Busch, arresting them, seizing the red and black backpack Busch was carrying, and their cursory search of it.

Also called to speak was one of Payne’s former colleagues who, when Payne didn’t show up for his regular mail delivery work, initially thought it was a scheduling glitch. After two days of trying to get a hold of Payne, they finally called police.

“I just had a really weird feeling so I called the non-emergency line,” Sean Johnson told the jury.

Prosecutors also continued their testimony with forensic expert Cpl. Stephanie Lin, who corroborated and verified the fingerprints of Armitage, and other footprints found within Payne’s house.

In their cross-examination, Busch’s defence council Ryan Drury once again took the moment to point out possible inconsistencies or inconclusive information within the investigation.

Drury pointed again to the drawer of knives in Payne’s kitchen which were not investigated. He also focused on the footprint which investigators matched to a New Balance shoe found at the scene, pointing out it didn’t have any unique markings and therefore could have been made with any shoe of that same size and model.

As he’s done with other witnesses, Drury also tried to lead Lin toward admitting that any circulating police theories affected her analysis.

“Honestly I try not to know that information,” replied Lin, who said knowing less about the investigation actually eliminates bias.

Drury also emphasized once again that no prints of Busch were found in Payne’s home.

The trial continues with more witnesses called Thursday.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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