James Gillies
A character from Murdoch Mysteries
James Gillies
Biographical information
Full name James Gillies
A.K.A. Gillies
Nationality Canadian
Birth July 14, 1876
Death 1905
Gender Male
Status Hanged
Socio-political information
Occupation Student
Out of universe information
Portrayed by Michael Seater
First appearance "Big Murderer on Campus"
"We are going to have so much fun!"
―Gillies to Detective William Murdoch[src]

James Gillies was a student, criminal mastermind and murderer.


James Gillies was born at July 14, 1876 ("Murdoch in Toyland").

In 1896, James Gillies and Robert Perry murdered their professor of physics, Samuel Bennett to test applied physics. Detective William Murdoch discovered the two students being responsible for murder but for a lack of evidence, Murdoch tricked Perry into believe that Gillies tried to kill him. To escape hanging, Perry confessed to a murder and revealed Gillies as his partner and mastermind. The both students were arrested ("Big Murderer on Campus").

Gillies wealthy family hired the best barristers to keep him from gallows ("Investigating Murdoch Mysteries").

Eventually, Gillies was sentenced to be hanged, but in 1899 he bribed a dying guard (with a similar features) to change their place, promising to pay to his pregnant wife. Wanting a rematch, Gillies kidnapped young girl Veronica Bowden (who was found unharmed a next day) and taunts Murdoch by recording messages on Edison's talking dolls. Gillies murdered his former partner Robert Perry, kidnapped Dr. Julia Odgen and buried her alive. Murdoch saved Julia and promised Gillies that he will watch him hang this time. Finally Gillies was escorted to a prison. But a jail wagon transporting him overturned on the Rouge River Bridge and plunged into the river below. Guard and driver were both killed, but Gillies' body wasn't found ("Murdoch in Toyland").

Instead of securing his freedom, Gillies returned in 1900, to kill Dr. Ogden's husband, Darcy Garland and frame her for the crime. Gillies conducted an experiment: "Every man tell his lover he would die for her, but how many truly would?" He set up Murdoch in trap with only two ways out: Either Murdoch allow Julia to her hang, and Gillies let Murdoch go; or Murdoch pick up the phone to save her life, which will fill the room with carbon monoxide. Eventually as Murdoch choosed to save Julia, the police arrived and rescued him in time. As Inspector Thomas Brackenreid and Constable George Crabtree were about to arrest Gillies, he atempted to shot them, but Crabtree shot him in shoulder. Julia was exonerated of Darcy's murder and Gillies was imprisoned in Don Jail to be sentenced. ("Crime and Punishment") ("The Murdoch Trap").

In 1901, Gillies was transported on a train to Kingston to be ultimately hanged for his crimes. Julia Odgen made a request to the Kingston coroner to have his brain removed, believing that Gillies may have some physical abnormality that caused him to become what he was. Eventually, he was able to escape during the chaos. Gillies jumped of the bridge, Murdoch, desperately trying to catch him, jumped off the bridge as well. Murdoch was later found unconscious by Inspector Thomas Brackenreid and Dr. Julia Ogden, but Gillies' body wasn't found. ("A Midnight Train to Kingston").

Julia received several threatening letters from "Gillies" ("Unfinished Business") ("The Murdoch Sting").

Inspector Thomas Brackenreid (along with Murdoch and Julia) investigated a possibility that Gillies may have survived his jump off the bridge. Later, Cobourg police searched the swamp at the end of the creek, and found a body in the reeds. Julia, Murdoch and Dr. Emily Grace examined a body with left side of the face is crushed. Emily found a bullet and reminded them that when Constable Crabtree shot Gillies, they never did take out the bullet. Murdoch compared the bullets and they match. Julia and Emily rebuilded the face on the intact part of the skull, revealing that body is indeed James Gillies. Then Murdoch deduced that Leslie Garland was one who was sending those threatening letters ("Kung Fu Crabtree").

James Gillies actually survived his jumping off the bridge. He found a man with similar features and killed him. Gillies removed the bullet from his own shoulder and placed it in the corpse, knowing that that would be the piece of evidence that would absolutely convince police that it was his body. When Gillies jumped off the bridge he smashed his face on one rock, crushed his spine on another. Being unlucky, it merely drove bone shards into his vertebral nerves, forcing him to live in agony. Years later, Gillies implanted transmission device in a man named Jacob Foley and made him to think that he was possessed by devil, forcing him to kill two men and manipulated through Foley with Detective William Murdoch and Dr. Julia Ogden. Gillies (who wanted to his life to be taken by the object of his admiration and ardour) kidnapped Murdoch's adopted son, Roland and forced Murdoch to shot him, yet Murdoch shot him with a rubber bullet instead ("The Devil Inside").

Finally Gillies was hanged, this time for sure. Then Dr. Ogden removed his brain for study as she wished ("The Devil Inside").

Character's evolution

"Big Murderer on Campus" (2009)

At the university, in lecture hall, Detective William Murdoch arrives to investigate the murder of professor Samuel Bennett, while Professor Albert Godfrey is lecturing on the wave theory of light. Godfrey says: "Newton believed light to be made of particles. And while it's obvious to us now that light is the propagation of waves of energy, can anyone think why Newton believed as he did?", Gillies responds: "Well, a wave needs something to push against, does it not? That's what makes it a wave. But what is there to push against in a vacuum?" Perry adds: "Therefore the vacuum must contain a massless, invisible substance. An ether, if you will." Godfrey says: "Mr. Gillies and Mr. Perry. You've been reading ahead, haven't you?", Gillies responds: "No. It's only logical." Perry adds: "Common sense dictates it." As everyone in hall laughts, Godfrey says: "However they came to it, Mr. Perry and Mr. Gillies are correct. Maxwell's equations presuppose a universal ether that permeates space. And we'll be talking about that next week. Good day, gentlemen." The students leaves the hall.

After Murdoch finished the conversation with Professor Godfrey, Gillies and Perry introduces themselves to the detective. Perry adds: "We were students of Professor Bennett's." Gillies continues: "We couldn't help but overhear your conversation." Perry says: "Professor Godfrey is a prickly one. However, like all of us, he is terribly upset by Professor Bennett's death." Murdoch responds: "No doubt." Gillies continues: "Nevertheless, you were just doing your job, and Godfrey should have understood that. Justice requires cooperation." Perry says Gillies: "Please tell me you're not gonna start quoting Locke again." Murdoch tells them: "Gentlemen, I appreciate your vote of confidence, and I will do my best to apprehend Professor Bennett's killer." Gillies continues: "Well, we appreciate that. But there's something else that you should know. Um, they weren't exactly friends.", Murdoch responds: "No, I know. They clashed on occasion." Perry says: "It was worse than that. Professor Godfrey was still bitter." Murdoch asks: "Bitter? What about?" Perry responds: "He was passed over for department head." Gillies says: "In favor of Bennett. He was recruited from England, you know. Godfrey was still upset." Perry says: "Apparently, the board of governors wasn't ready to appoint a Canadian to head up such a complex science." Murdoch responds: "Interesting. Thank you, gentlemen. You've been most helpful." Gillies says: "Good luck with your investigation." He and Perry both walks away, leaving the detective alone.


At the end, Julia Odgen asks Murdoch if she is to assume that Mr. Gillies and Mr. Perry will hang, Murdoch replies that he is not so sure: Their families will hire the best lawyers in the land. But at the very least, they can look forward to life in prison. Julia then asks what was their motive, Murdoch responds that Gillies had a theory and wanted to test it (Applied physics) and Mr. Perry, for whatever reason, went along with him.

"Murdoch in Toyland" (2012)

The names of all criminals and their statuses are written on blackboard by Constable George Crabtree. Gillies is marked as "J" (Jailed).


Brackenreid, looking at Gillies' photo says he remember this arrogant little bastard and his pal Perry, who made a nice deal. Murdoch reveals that the deal was that Perry was sentenced for only two years in prison in exchange for testimony against James Gillies. Brackenreid then asks Murdoch: "Gillies was sentenced to be hanged, was he not?", Murdoch responds that yes. Then Constable George Crabtree arrives and informs them that he was just on the telephone with Kingston Penitentiary: Apparently James Gillies was executed three weeks ago. Surprised Murdoch asks "Executed?", Crabtree responds "Hanged by the neck until dead. And according to his family, he was buried here in Toronto last week". Brackenreid says: "Well, he didn't rise from the grave.", Murdoch says: "Let's make sure of that".


Constable George Crabtree gives Murdoch a box, saying it arrived for him, mailed yesterday and no return address. Murdoch opens the box, revealing another doll. Crabree says "A final gift from James Gillies", Murdoch responds "So it would seem". Then Inspector Thomas Brackenreid arrives, telling Murdoch that he just had word from the Durham County Police: Apparently the jail wagon transporting James Gillies overturned on the Rouge River Bridge. The whole wagon plunged into the river below. Guard and driver were both killed. Murdoch asks: "And James Gillies?". Brackenreid responds "They haven't been able to find his body". Murdoch plays a doll, it says "Detective Murdoch, I hope you enjoyed our reunion, but I do wonder when we'll meet again. Until the next time". Crabtree asks: "So he's alive?" Murdoch responds: "I think it's safe to assume that he's... I don't know."

"Crime and Punishment" (2013)

At the end, in courtroom as Dr. Julia Ogden is sentenced to be hanged by the neck until she is dead, for the murder of Darcy Garland, she is taken away by the constables. Murdoch hears slow clapping, he turns only to see James Gillies (with a straw hat on) is applauding, Murdoch pushes his way through the crowd, but is unable to find him.

"The Murdoch Trap" (2013)

"A Midnight Train to Kingston" (2013)


Murdoch cathes up with Gillies and beats him up until the latter tells him to stop. He tells Murdoch that this is a last time for them both and asks him if that doesn't mean that Murdoch is a little bit sad, the latter responds that no. Gillies tells him that he will miss him before he kisses the detective and punches him.

As Gillies is about to jump off the bridge, Murdoch warns him that the water is too shallow and he will be killed by the fall. Gillies respond that it is very possibly but he already got nothing to the lose. Then Gillies jumps of the bridge, Murdoch, desperately trying to catch him jumps of the bridge as well, despite Constable George Crabtree tries to stop the detective.

Later, Murdoch is found unconscious by Inspector Thomas Brackenreid and Dr. Julia Ogden, Murdoch questions the constables if they found Gillies, they denies but Crabtree tells Murdoch that "river gets fast and deep down there. If he was still handcuffed, there's no way... (he could escape his death)". Julia tries to convict desperate Murdoch that they have to believe that it is over.

"Unfinished Business" (2014)

"The Murdoch Sting" (2014)

"Kung Fu Crabtree" (2014)

"The Devil Inside" (2017)


Murdoch arrives to the hotel and finds "Julia" dead. He turns the body, revealing it is a figurine. Then Gillies announce his presence, greeting and holding the detective at gunpoint. Murdoch asks where is she. Gillies respond: "Julia? She's at the morgue. You're so gullible. When I suggested you may lose someone, you assumed I meant your wife". Murdoch asks: "Who then?", Gillies kicks the doors to the side, revealing Roland, and asks: "You remember this little fella?". Then Gillies adds: "I've been watching you, Detective. These last few years I've basked in the glow of your happiness. You got married. You're building her a house. It seems as though you are constructing a tiny, perfect little life. Be such a shame to see that all come undone.", Murdoch asks what Gillies want with him. The latter responds: "Well, I need your... help with something I'm having a little trouble with.", Murdoch asks: "Help with what?". Gillies reveals he want the detective to kill him, Murdoch asks why. Gillies tells Murdoch to look at him and turns revealing his face deformed. Murdoch asks what happened to him, Gillies reminds him that he jumped off a bridge. He adds: "I smashed my face on one rock. Crushed my spine on another." Then Gillies asks Murdoch if he know what happens to a spine when it's crushed, Murdoch responds that it severs the spinal cord. Gillies says: "If you're lucky. If you're unlucky, it merely drives bone shards into your vertebral nerves". Murdoch realizes the meaning and tells Gillies "You're in pain." Gillies correct him saying that it is agony at the center of every thought, every dream: He tried opiates, but they just dull the mind.



Behind the scenes


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