Eugene Marie Chantrelle (1834 in Nantes – 31 May 1878 in Edinburgh) was a French teacher who lived in Edinburgh and who was convicted for the murder of his wife, Elizabeth Dyer. He is claimed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's character Dr Jekyll featured in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Stevenson met Chantrelle at the home of Victor Richon, Stevenson's old French master.
Chantrelle was hanged for his crimes at Calton Prison in Edinburgh.
Murder of Elizabeth Chantrelle
Chantrelle was teaching French at the private Newington Academy in Edinburgh when he began a relationship with a 15 year old pupil, Elizabeth Dyer. They married when she was 16 years old and their first child was born 2 months after they were married. They lived together at 81a George Street and the marriage was not a happy one from the start. His trial heard that in addition to physical violence, he regularly threatened to poison her.
He took out a £1000 life insurance policy against the accidental death of Mrs Chantrelle in August 1877. She was found unconscious on the morning of 2 January 1878 and later died in hospital. He was arrested after her funeral at Grange Cemetery on 5 January 1878 when traces of opium were found in vomit on her nightgown.
He pleaded not guilty to her murder. His trial lasted four days and he was convicted by a jury within an hour and ten minutes.
He was hanged in the grounds of Calton Prison on 31 May and his body buried in an unmarked grave on that site.
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