WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of injuries
Martin Payne died from “multiple sharp and blunt force injuries due to an assault” in his home in 2019, the jury presiding over a Metchosin murder case heard on Wednesday (Dec. 7).
The jurors were shown graphic photos from Payne’s autopsy as an expert described what caused large bruises and gashes where the body was stabbed or chopped at.
James Lee Busch and Zachary Armitage are charged with the first-degree murder of Payne after they escaped William Head prison, but Armitage is no longer part of the trial as the judge said he will be dealt with in a separate way.
Steven White, the B.C. coroner service’s lead forensic pathologist, examined the 60-year-old’s body and performed the autopsy. He testified on Wednesday as the Crown’s culminating witness after three and a half weeks.
Payne was stabbed through the front right of his neck with the sharp object that sliced through his corroded artery and jugular vein on both sides, along with his trachea before the object exited on the left side of his neck.
“This would’ve been a lethal injury, definitely, because it cut off blood supply to the head and the deceased was inhaling blood as well,” testified White, who was qualified by the court as an expert in the causes of injuries and deaths.
He said “yes” when asked if a large bowie knife – which was found in a bathroom of the rural home and had Payne’s blood on it – could be consistent with what caused the wound.
The neck injury was one of the five “sharp force wounds” – ones where a sharp edge cleanly cuts through the skin and tissue – sustained by the Metchosin father. Those also included an 11 cm-long gash on the back of Payne’s neck. He was also stabbed 10 cm into his body near his left shoulder. The latter would’ve had to come from a blade slimmer than the bowie knife, White said.
The court saw bloody images showing where multiple chop wounds to the victim’s head caused the bones to completely separate – exposing what White called the lining of the brain – or where the skull was hanging open. Chop wounds are ones by an object with a sharp edge that’s also heavy enough to cause blunt force injuries.
“All four of those chop wounds to the head would’ve caused injury to the brain, in the form of bleeding around the brain and swelling of the brain,” White said.
The witness was shown a photo of a hatchet that was found beside the large bowie knife and he said it would’ve been consistent with the object that caused the chop wounds to the head – given its sharp edge and mass.
“It has the characteristics of a weapon that would be required to inflict the chop wounds that we saw.”
White said “yes” when asked if the chop wounds to the head could’ve been fatal. Payne would’ve been alive when he suffered the chop wounds and when he was stabbed through the neck, White testified.
Payne also suffered eight blunt force wounds, including contusions to the head, lacerations to the arms and more bruising on several parts of his body.
During cross-examination, Busch’s lawyer Ryan Drury had the witness confirm that he is not able to offer an opinion on when the injuries were inflicted, in what order they occurred or the position of the body at the time of the blows.
Drury asked why White gave the opinion that the stab wounds to the neck and left shoulder were likely not caused by the same knife, even though he said it was possible. White said the object causing the wound to the neck was wide enough to hit the spine and it didn’t change course during its trajectory, so a slimmer knife could’ve caused the wound but not in a singular motion.
Wednesday marked the final pieces of evidence being presented in the trial, which will resume on Monday in Vancouver.
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