The officers who found 60-year-old Martin Payne’s body at his Metchosin home after reports he was missing recounted the grim discovery in court on Thursday.
It’s Crown’s theory that William Head Institution prisoners Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch escaped the minimum-security facility, travelled to Metchosin and selected Payne’s home apparently at random, held him against his will and killed him to further their escape in the July 2019 murder.
Busch is pleading not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder. Earlier this week, Armitage was announced to be “no longer a party,” though the judge did not specify why.
In court, the officer who first gained access to Payne’s home the day his body was found recounted the grim discovery.
“Immediately as I opened the door I got the waft of a decomposing body,” said West Shore RCMP Const. Daryl McDonald. “It’s a smell you don’t forget.”
Prosecutors painted a picture of the events that led to finding Payne’s body.
- July 9: Payne didn’t show up for work. Co-workers thought it was a scheduling glitch.
- July 11: Co-workers reported him missing. Const. McDonald conducted a wellness check, knocking on Payne’s home, to no answer. That night, Oak Bay Police confirmed the truck found parked suspiciously there belonged to Payne.
- July 12: Payne’s missing persons case was escalated, and police located a locksmith to gain entry into his home.
“I pushed the door open more, and I could see there was a large amount of blood on the floor and spatter on the wall,” said McDonald.
McDonald and Cpl. Hayden Barrow, who was with him, said their attention was drawn the master bedroom where they saw a pool of blood near a duvet and a number of black garbage bags.
They moved into the bathroom, where they found Payne face down, with his head towards the toilet.
“There was a lot of blood,” said Barrow. “Mr. Payne had duct tape on one of his arms and legs and hands.”
On the bathroom counter, the officers noticed a hatchet and a Bowie knife. Previously, the 12-person jury had been told by forensic investigators that the hatchet and hilt of the knife had blood on them which matched Payne’s DNA profile.
In Crown’s opening statements, lawyers said Payne had wounds consistent with those made by a hatchet and large knife.
Later in the afternoon, witness Melanie Bishop, who works at William Head Prison, was called to testify.
Bishop matched the recording of a phone call made from Payne’s landline to a water taxi company asking if they had services from Vancouver Island to the mainland, to the voice of Zachary Armitage.
“I recognized the voice, having interviewed him he has a certain inflection and slurs his s’s a bit. He doesn’t fully open his mouth when he talks so he has a certain cadence,” said Bishop.
Bishop also told the jury she compared the water taxi recording to William Head’s vocal recognition software every inmate has to confirm their name to, making her even more confidant Armitage was the one making the call.
She also testified that Busch looked “harder and angrier when he was at William Head.”
The trial continues Friday.