The Murderer

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Eugene Chantrelle Rogues Gallery Mug Shot
Eugene Chantrelle’s mug shot within the Rogues Gallery album. From collection held at Edinburgh City Archives.

Edinburgh City Archives preserve some fantastic criminal photograph albums, and in amongst them, we have the infamous Eugene Chantrelle.

Eugene was a French teacher, living in Edinburgh with his wife, Elizabeth Dyer, at 81a George Street. On the morning of 2nd January 1878, Elizabeth was discovered unconscious and later died in hospital. Eugene claimed that her death was due to accidental gas poisoning. However, the Police were suspicious after Eugene had taken out a £1000 life insurance policy against the accidental death of Elizabeth a few months previous.

Eugene was arrested after traces of opium were found on Elizabeth, and he was brought before the High Court in Edinburgh to face murder charges in May of that year. Eugene pleaded not guilty at his trial but the jury convicted him of his wife’s murder, and he was sentenced to death. Eugene was hung at Calton Jail on 31st May 1878.

Edinburgh remembers Eugene and his trial in police and court records, but local newspapers covered the story as well. The crime, trial, and execution caused quite a sensation at the time, as he was thought of as a notable figure in Edinburgh’s high society.

Within the City Archives, you can find lots more information on criminals from these photographic albums, as well as a series of Criminal Conviction Registers, and ‘Wanted Persons’ details within our Lothian and Borders Police Collection.

Wanted Police booklet_ SL260
Wanted image and description for Janet Graham, 13th April 1897. From collection held in Edinburgh City Archives.

Trial and court records are held at the National Records of Scotland, while historical local newspapers can be accessed at Edinburgh’s Central Library and online at the Scotsman Digital Archive.

We preserve these records to tell us about the past; but we want you to tell us what we should collect about life today for tomorrow: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/archivesurvey