2nd escaped inmate sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years for killing Vancouver Island man

Jessica Payne, left, and sister Calla Payne outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Dec. 15, 2022. Their father Martin Payne, 60, was killed in 2019 by two men who escaped from a Vancouver Island prison.  (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Jessica Payne, left, and sister Calla Payne outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Dec. 15, 2022. Their father Martin Payne, 60, was killed in 2019 by two men who escaped from a Vancouver Island prison. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The second of two inmates who escaped from prison and killed a man in his home on Vancouver Island has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years.

Zachary Armitage was sentenced Wednesday for the first-degree murder of Martin Payne, 60, after a hearing that recounted the effect of Payne's death on his friends and family as well as details of the "terrifying" crime.

"It was senseless, it was shocking, it was grotesque. It was, I must say, absolutely cowardly without qualification," Justice David Crossin told the court in handing down the sentence.

"I bet Mr. Armitage would well agree with the description I just made of these events."

Payne was murdered on July 8, 2019, a day after Armitage and co-defendant James Lee Busch walked away from the minimum-security William Head prison, located eight kilometres from the victim's home in Metchosin, B.C., west of Victoria.

Adrian Lam/The Canadian Press
Adrian Lam/The Canadian Press

Family haunted by loss of 'patriarch'

Just before he was sentenced, Armitage turned to Payne's family in the courtroom to apologize. He said he was "disgusted'' with himself and the pain he had caused.

The court also heard victim impact statements from Payne's best friend of 47 years, his older sister, the mother of his two children and both daughters.

His daughter Jessica Payne said she often wonders how her dad — "such a gentle and compassionate man"  — could've been killed so violently.

"This truly haunts me.''

WATCH | Martin Payne's family talks about the impact of the killer directly addressing them:

Catherine Stewart, the mother of Payne's children, called him the patriarch of the family and said she doesn't understand why he had to die in such an "inhumane and evil way.''

"Never before have I suffered a loss that was so monstrously difficult to accept," she said.

"As a mother, I also suffer my daughters' loss. Martin was an incredibly devoted father. Our daughters have lost so much and been forced to endure so much."

Armitage apologizes in court

Payne's older sister, Colleen Payne, turned to address Armitage during her victim impact statement.

"My sincere hope is that you will seek help and try to heal your own inner pain.''

In his statement to Payne's family, Armitage said he wished he could "take the pain all back.''

"I'd give my life for his. I'm sorry. I wish you guys peace,'' he said.

As Armitage left court, he reached out to a family member sitting in the front row, who took his hand.

"I'm sorry, take care,'' Armitage said.

Both Armitage and Busch pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder as the trial began on Nov. 14, but Armitage entered a guilty plea two weeks later without the jury present while the trial for Busch continued.

A B.C. Supreme Court jury later found Busch guilty of first-degree murder. He was also sentenced to life without chance of parole for 25 years.