James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage escaped from William Head Institution in Metchosin on Sunday, July 7. (Correctional Service of Canada/Facebook)

Search continues for escaped William Head prisoners

More than 24-hours later two inmates, including a convicted murderer, are still at large

More than 24 hours later, the search continues for two prisoners, one a convicted murderer, who escaped from William Head on Sunday.

The two men are considered dangerous and should not be approached by the public. Anyone who encounters the men or has information on their whereabouts is asked to call 911 immediately.

On Sunday, staff members at the William Head Institution in Metchosin discovered Zachary Armitage and James Lee Busch were not accounted for, according to the Correctional Service of Canada

READ MORE: Escaped inmates serving time for second-degree murder, aggravated assault

Busch is serving an indeterminate sentence for second-degree murder and assault. He has also served sentences for aggravated sexual assault, escaping custody and other offences.

Busch, 42, stands roughly 5-9, weighing approximately 180 pounds and has a skull tattoo on his left forearm. He has a medium complexion, brown eyes and is bald.

Armitage is currently serving a sentence of 13 years, 10 months and four days for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

Armitage, 30, is described as approximately five-foot-10-inches tall and weighs approximately 170 pounds. He has a fair complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He has “No Love” and a crown tattooed on his right arm.

According to the West Shore RCMP, Busch and Armitage escaped from the federal institution at approximately 6:45 p.m. on Sunday.

The local detachment was notified when it was discovered the inmates were unaccounted for and began an extensive search using police dog “Erik” and general duty officers were contacted. Local police continue to deploy resources to search for the escaped prisoners, including the use of a RCMP helicopter.

Tony Baldo, assistant warden, intervention at William Head Institution said an investigation is underway to determine the circumstances of this incident.

READ MORE: Facts about William Head Institution

The William Head Institution is a federal minimum-security facility for men, located in Metchosin, approximately 25 miles from Victoria. It opened in 1959 and can house approximately 190 offenders.

Inmates in the federal system are assessed at the Regional Assessment Centre and then placed at the appropriate security level. Those who have committed violent crimes are often initially placed in a maximum-security institution and then, once they work their way through a correctional plan, are able to move to medium or minimum security institutions over time. Once they prove they are a low risk of escaping and a low risk to the public, they can then be transferred to minimum security correctional institutions, such as William Head.

William Head is the only federal penitentiary on Vancouver Island and about 50 per cent of its inmates are serving life sentences.

Roughly 100 employees work at William Head, which has been referred to as ‘Club Fed’ because of its history of housing white-collar criminals without much security.

Inmates live in red-brick duplexes roughly 1,200-square-feet in size with four other inmates, have their own bunks, and share washroom and kitchen facilities. As a household, inmates must decide what meals they’re going to cook for the week and are given a catalogue of food to choose from. Every Thursday they pick up their groceries and cook and clean throughout the week.

The prison also keeps inmates busy throughout the day. William Head has become known for its roughly 4,000-square-foot hobby shop, where inmates can get experience in leather, metal and woodwork, among other things. Some inmates sell their work online with the money going into a trust account for inmates to purchase materials, tools for hobby work and clothes, or they can donate items to charity as well.

READ MORE: William Head prison offers inmates a second chance at life

Back in 2017, there was some concern from the community over the Correctional Service of Canada’s plans to change the fencing around the facility. At that time, the site had a four-metre high, double perimeter fence that was installed when the prison was designated as a medium-security institution.

In 2017, it was noted that since William Head was reverted to a minimum-security institution in 2003, the plan had always been to change the fence. It was also noted at that time that the guard towers hadn’t been maned since 2003 and that inmates could walk around the fence if they really wanted to, but didn’t as the last escape from the prison itself was in 2013.

Over the years, a number of inmates have escaped from the facility but are usually apprehended within a few hours.

In 2013, a 61-year-old inmate was back in custody after a two-hour search. Michiel Gordon Hollinger was found by a K9 unit, hiding on the prison grounds. At that time, police said it was possible Hollinger was the notorious bank robber better known as Mitchell “Micky” McArthur. McArthur changed his name after penning the 1990 book titled “I’d rather be wanted than had: The memoirs of an unrepentant bank robber.”

READ MORE: Metchosin inmate never left William Head institution

Two other inmates also escaped one Friday evening in 2013. Dean Allen Benton, 56, and Brian Peter Patrick, 44, were both found and arrested. Patrick was apprehending the next morning in Langford and Benton was arrested that Sunday morning in Colwood after escaping from William Head.

Another William Head inmate did escape custody in 2015 but was on an escorted absence and not at the institution in Metchosin.

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James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage escaped from William Head Institution in Metchosin on Sunday, July 7. (Black Press Media file photo)

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