British Columbia

2 escaped inmates on Vancouver Island caught after commenting on off-duty cop's dog

RCMP have found and arrested two prisoners who escaped the William Head Institution in southern Vancouver Island.

James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage fled William Head Institution on Sunday evening

Off-duty police officer John Ferguson recognized the two men after they commented on the size of his Great Dane, Lewis. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Two prisoners who escaped the William Head Institution on southern Vancouver Island have been found and arrested, according to a written statement from West Shore RCMP.

James Lee Busch, 42, and Zachary Armitage, 30, fled the minimum-security facility in the community of Metchosin on Sunday evening, police said.

Following the escape, West Shore RCMP conducted an "extensive search" with the help of a K-9 unit and air surveillance.

The men were arrested around 8 p.m. on Tuesday after being spotted by off-duty RCMP officer John Ferguson in Esquimalt, who alerted duty officers.

'Immediately recognized them'

Ferguson was walking by Westbay Marina with his 5-year-old Great Dane, Lewis, when the two men commented on how big his dog was.

"I immediately recognized them as they walked by me, stopped until they went around the corner and called 9-1-1," said Ferguson.

"Then Lewis and I went on an extra long walk to follow them."

James Lee Busch, 42, and Zachary Armitage, 30, fled the minimum-security facility in the community of Metchosin on Sunday evening. (West Shore RCMP)

Ferguson tailed the men for a while, until Victoria police arrested the men and turned them over to West Shore RCMP.

He said he wasn't sure he'd have noticed the two men if they hadn't addressed him directly.

"They definitely drew attention to themselves when they talked about my dog ... definitely their comments and they were so close, it was easy for me to see their faces," he said.

Lewis has since been recognized as an honorary member of the West Shore Police department.

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

Armitage is serving a sentence of almost 14 years for robbery, aggravated assault and other offences.

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