Graciano Bilas
Empress of Canada
The RMS Empress of Canada, where the murders were committed.
Background information
Occupation Plantation worker
Born ca. 1888
Penalty Found to be insane
Attack information
Date June 5, 1931
9:30 a.m.
Location(s) RMS Empress of Canada
Killed 2
Injured 29
Weapon(s) Clasp knife

Graciano Bilas was a Filipino plantation worker who killed two people and wounded 29 others, 17 of them seriously, aboard the ocean liner RMS Empress of Canada on its way from Honolulu to Yokahama on June 5, 1931. The 42-year-old was afterwards arrested and taken to Hong Kong, where he was tried and found to be insane.[1][2][3][4][5]


was put under armed guard and taken to Hong Kong for trial, eight Japanese and nine Chinese were in critical condition, two of the latter reportedly hopeless, was talking to ship's plumber Charles Campbell in a passageway in the steerage, had boarded the ship at Honolulu to return to Philippines, Bilas struck Campbell on shoulder, who believed Bilas was in a playful mood, Bilas struck him again a minute later, had stabbed him twice, Bilas then slashed assistant plumber William Caldwell and Ito Kaaischi, a Japanese interpreter, then ran from one end of ship to another, stabbing and slashing people crossing his path, was prevented by crew from reaching upper decks, then disappeared, was searched by armed officers, was eventually cornered in ship's bow, screamed for officers not to shoot him, fire hose was turned on him, and a few minutes later subdued without resistance, was taken to ship's brig, when ship reached Yokohama seriously injured were taken to hospital, killed were a Chinese boy named Chan Ching, and the ship's chief carpenter Chan King-yue, had worked on a sugar plantation in Hawaii, was bound for Manila [6]

ship reached Yokohama on June 6, 11 of the wounded were tkane to hospital, Bilas was a third class passenger, first victim was a Japanese lying in a bunk next to Bilas, was stabbed in stomach, then stabbed people while rushing to forecastle [7][8]

stabbing lasted for half-an-hour, wounded were 20 Chinese, including two women, two Canadian crewmembers, and seven Japanese [9][10][11]

Chan King-yue was stabbed in heart while ascending a ladder, stabbed people with a large clasp knife with two blades, occurred at 9:30 a.m., while the ship was at Latitude 34.51 N. and Longitude 145.51 E., after the stabbing Bilas went to the bottom of the ship hid in a small tunnel, was persuaded to leave, then arrested, was kept under observation at ship's hospital, was found to be disturbed, in Hong Kong was handed over to police, officers were armed, searched for Bilas, stabbing occurred at passageway on the middle deck, during trial Bilas stated that he couldn't remember stabbing any Chinese, that his enemies were the Japanese, who had threatened to throw him overboard, asked another man named Filipo to hand him knife and then started to stab them all, according to ship's surgeon Dr. R. J. Patchett Bilas was suffering from maniac depressive psychosis, had questioned Bilas, but did not get rational answers, while under arrest Bilas stood for hours in one position, refused food and drink the day before reaching Hong Kong [12]

in final statement said that he understood that the Japanese were talking about him, that they threatened to tie him up with rope and throw him overboard when they reached Yokohama, that he Japanese were about to attack him, that a Filipino friend gave him a knife and that he started to stab them. [13]


  • Chan Ching
  • Chan King-yue, chief carpenter

Among those wounded were:

  • Charles Campbell, ship's plumber
  • William Caldwell, assistant plumber
  • Ito Kaaischi


Bilas was taken to Hong Kong, where he was handed over to police and charged with the murder of Chan King-yue. His preliminary trial at the Hong Kong Magistracy commenced in late June.[12][13]

On July 20 Bilas was found to be insane by government physicians and committed to a mental institution after a jury decided that he was intellectually incapable of offering a proper defence, or of comprehending the proceedings.[14] [15] [16]


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.