He's the worst kind of murderer, Poirot! The Devil incarnate! You can't stand here and defend him to us.
~ Colonel Arbuthnot to Poirot
I can't be seen here. I won't be seen here!
~ Colonel Arbuthnot attempted to kill Poirot and Bouc

Colonel John Arbuthnot is a major protagonist in Agatha Christie's 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express, and its adaptations.


Colonel Arbuthnot is the best friend of the late Colonel Armstrong, who joined the assassination of Lefranco Cassetti on the Orient Express in order to avenge his friend, who committed suicided after losing his wife and children because of Daisy Armstrong's death. He is also revealed to be a lover of Mary Debenham, whom he eventually wed in some adaptations.

Whilst being a heroic character, Colonel Arbuthnot is comparatively the most antagonistic member of the killers in both the novel and some of the adaptations, much more so than Count Andrenyi who was merely aggressive. He even showed some anti-heroic traits in the 2010 film adaptation, where he attempted to kill off Poirot and Bouc to avoid arrest, but was stopped by others, who reminded him that they were not murderers. In the 2017 film, he also attacked Poirot in fury during the latter's investigation.

It made Colonel Arbuthnot initially the most aggresive passenger towards Poirot, but in all versions, he reconciled with the detective either after he discovered Arbuthnot's friendship with Colonel Armstrong, or after he spared all of the killers (in the 2010 film).


  • In the 1974 film, he was portrayed by the late Sean Connery, who is known form being the first actor to portray James Bond, and also portrayed Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, John Patrick Mason in The Rock, Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October, and Draco in Dragonheart.
  • In the 2001 film, he was portrayed by David Hunt.
  • In the 2010 film from Agatha Christie's Poirot, he was portrayed by David Morrissey.
  • In the 2017 film, he was portrayed by Leslie Odom Jr..

In the 2017 film (Dr. Arbuthnot)

In the 2017 film adaptation, many of Colonel Arbuthnot's characteristics had changed drasitically, especially his physical appearance, nationality, race and occupation. Here, he was an African-American physican known as Dr. Arbuthnot (a reference to Dr. Constantine, who was ommitted and combined with Colonel Arbuthnot in the 2017 film), instead of a Caucasian Englishman like that in the novel and other adaptations. This is the first version of Arbuthnot to be an African-American.

In this version, Dr. Arbuthnot was formerly a sniper who served under Colonel Armstrong in the war and had his medical school paid for by Armstrong. His personality and attitude was partially shaped by his self-consciousness about the steryotypical view of African-Americans in 1930s, and Bouc believed such steryotype would cause Dr. Arbuthnot to become a top suspect and took fall for the real murderer, had Poirot not find out the culprit.


  • In all of the adaptations thus far, only the 2010 adaptation has used Colonel Arbuthnot's first name in the novel, which was John. Other versions either changed it or completely ignored his first name.
  • Arbuthnot and Colonel Armstrong are the same age.
  • Arbuthnot only smokes a pipe.


Agatha Christie's signature.png Heroes

Main Detectives
Hercule Poirot | Jane Marple
Secondary Detectives
Parker Pyne | Mr. Quin | Tommy and Tuppence Bresford
Amateur Detectives
Colonel Johnnie Race | Superintendent Battle | Bobby Jones | Frances Derwent | Arthur Calgary | Reniseb | Charles Hayward | Mark Easterbrook

Righteous Culprits
Mary Debenham | Princess Natalia Dragomiroff | Hector MacQueen | Edward Henry Masterman | Colonel John Arbuthnot | Linda Arden | Count Andrenyi | Countess Andrenyi | Greta Ohlsson | Pierre Michel | Antonio Foscarelli | Hildegarde Schmidt | Cyrus Hardman | Edith de Haviland | Hercule Poirot
Short Stories
Madame Déroulard | Ronnie Oglander

Supporters, Victims & Others
Captain Arthur Hastings | Inspector Japp | Felicity Lemon | Ariadne Oliver | George the Butler | Superintendent Spence | Colonel Johnnie Race | Superintendent Battle | Countess Vera Rosakoff | Raymond West | Joyce Lemprière
Victims & Attempted Victims
Alexander Bonaparte Cust | Miranda Butler | Mrs. Otterbourne | Pilar Estravados | Olga Seminoff
Bella Duveen | Colonel Carbury | Dr. Constantine | Dr. Gerard | Dulcie Duveen | Ginerva Boynton | Hori | Judith Butler | Lydia Lee | Miss Bulstrode | Monsieur Bouc | Monsieur Giraud | Nadine Boynton | Rosalie Otterbourne | Sarah King | Sophia Leonides | Stephen Farr | Tim Allerton | Valerie Saintclair | Virginie Mesnard

Adaptational, Homage & Non-canonical
Benoit Blanc | Marta Carbera | Linda Drysdale

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