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The Murder of Ellen Chute Part 3

July 13, 2020


I posted recently of the murder of Ellen Chute, who was the daughter of Patrick Boyle of Violet Town. Ellen was murdered by her husband Richard Chute in November 1871. There are links to Part 1 and Part 2 at the bottom of this post.

It could be argued, with the benefit of hindsight, that this tragedy should have been foreseen. Looking back at the complaints of theatened violence, that came before the courts in the months preceeding her murder, using today’s values and knowledge of domestic violence, we would surely say that that there were plenty of warning signs.

But we must remember that this murder occurred almost one hundred and fifty years ago, and times definitely were different in those days. The complaints against Richard Chute that were brought before the courts, just a few months before the murder of Ellen Chute,  are listed below.

from: The Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth), 02 May 1871, page 4

Saturday, April 29th.
(Before Mr Sharpe, and Dr Henry, J.P.’s)
Threatening Language.
Richard Chute was charged with threatening to shoot one Thomas Coughlin, at Violet Town, on the 15th instant. Mr Pow and Mr McDonnell appeared for the defence. Mary Boyle, sworn, said: I live at Violet Town; the prisoner is my brother; I remember him going to Melbourne, and returning soon after Valentine’s Day; I did not hear him say that he “bought a revolver, but I heard him once affirm that if he caught Coughlin in or about his place he would shoot him; this happened about a fortnight ago; he appeared excited at the time; I had his revolver in my possession before this, it is now in a water-hole.

Patrick Boyle, a farmer at Violet Town, deposed: the prisoner is my brother-in-law; I heard him say, if he had his revolver that he would drop Coughlin, and give his own mistress the same death; my wife who is her sister, said to him “are you going to rave again” I don’t know that prisoner brought a revolver from Melbourne; I heard however that he did. Cross-examined by Mr McDonnell: The prisoner was living in a house belonging to me; I turned him out, but not before it was time; I never saw Coughlin about his place.

Mary Anne McGearey, residing at Violet Town, deposed : I know Coughlin and Chute; a short time ago, as I was going along the road, I met the prisoner, and I said to him “Richard, this is a bad case;” in reply he said that he had found Coughlin in his bedroom, that a quarrel had ensued, and that Coughlin got out at the chimney through the slabs.

Thomas Coughlin, the informant, deposed: I am a general tradesman; I am in bodily fear of the prisoner, as he has threatened to take my life, and I understand he has bought a revolver to do so. Cross-examined by Mr McDonnell : I have known the prisoner’s wife since she was seven years old; I did not throw the contents of any utensil over Chute; I have not been at his house at any time lately.

The sergeant said that was the case for the prosecution. Mr McDonnell said he had no evidence for the defence because none was required; it was a trumpery case, and should he dismissed. Case was dismissed.

Threatening Language.
The same prisoner was arraigned on another charge, that of threatening to take away the life of his wife, Ellen Chute. The solicitors for the defence (Messrs Pow and McDonnell), said that according to the 30th Section of the Marriage and Matrimonial Statute, an information must be first laid on oath before a magistrate, that their client’s wife was in danger of her husband; this had not been done; and the bench, in consequence, had no jurisdiction in the matter.
Case dismissed.

from: Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 03 May 1871, page 2

Tuesday, May 2. (Before Mr Sharpe.and Dr Henry, J.P.’s.)
Ellen Chute v Richard Chute.

Mr Norton for complainant; Messrs Pow and McDonnell for defendant. Mr Norton said that his client was the wife of defendant, and the case was brought under the 30th section of the Marriage and Matrimonial Causes Statute. Defendant had lived with his wife for over two years, and had then deserted her, with out providing for her and her child, any means of support.
Ellen Chute deposed : Am the wife of defendant ; was married to him at Violet Town on the 7th April, 1869, by the Rev Father Galen; Mary Boyle and Anne Moynahan, who are both present in court, were witnesses to the marriage; we lived together until the 15th of April last; he took hold of an axe that day and said he would kill me; I was afraid of him, and went to the police to complain ; when I came back he was taking the furniture and every thing we had in the house away, in a cart ; his brother-in-law was assisting him ; he also took the pig away; he said he would not live with me any longer; it was against my wish that he separated from me ; have a child fifteen months old; he did not take it away ; he has told the storekeepers not to give me anything; he is a laborer, and has no property except some cattle running in the bush ; when he worked he generally got from £1 to 15s per week, and was kept ; could earn my living if I had any one to keep the child.
Cross-examined by Mr McDonnell : Left my husband twice prior to the 15th April ; he used to abuse me, and accuse me of things I was not guilty of ; did not go this time of my own free will ; know Thomas Chute, my husband’s brother ; my husband told me in his presence that if I went away this time he would not take me back; never threatened my husband; I said if he struck me that I would strike him ; took a spade once and said I would hit him with it; I took my clothes out and put them in a hay shed, because I was afraid that he would burn them ; when he was taking the things out of the house I did not ask him where he was going; have never asked him for any support since he left me ; I know he has at least 12 head ofcattle ; I think he has been nine or ten months out of employment ; I never gave him any occasion to desert me ; he is of a jealous disposition, and very imaginative ; he received notice to quit the house about three days before he left ; I said I would not live in a tent with him.
Mary Boyle, deposed: I live at Violet Town; I know both parties in this case; they only lived about 11 yards from my place ; they have been quarrelling for the last 15 months ; I think Chute is in fault I saw them fighting with two fire shovels, and called my husband to separate them; Chute is my brother, and he is decidedly to blame in this matter; I know his wife is an upright, honest, woman; I have often heard him scold her for no reason whatever.
Cross-examined by Mr Pow : I have known Mrs Chute for 5 years ; I often talked to my brother strongly about how he was wronging his wife; she left him once or twice for a short time, but it was in consequence of how he was treating her; I never saw her strike him; I did not hear him ask her to go and live with him.
Mr Norton: ” Did you advise her to leave him?”
Witness : I told her to see her aunt about it; knew her when she was going to school, and she was always good and obedient.
This wasthe case for the prosecution.
For the defence : Thomas Chute, sworn, Said ; I remember the 15th of April last; on that day I saw complainant attempt to strike her husband with a spade ; she said she would split him with an axe she would have taken his life, I believe had I not wrested the spade from her; she had it coming over his head when I threw off the blow ; she left of her own free will on that occasion; my brother’s suspicion was that she was intimate with another man.
Richard Chute, I sworn, said : I am the husband of complainant; she seldom called me bad names; she threatened me with a spade once, but I was not afraid; I knew she could not hurt me; this is the third time she has left me; I said I’d put up a tent, but she refused to live in such a place; I owe £17 for goods which I got for her; and the house generally; I have not earned £2 for the last 14 months.
Cross-examined by Mr Norton: I took the furniture to my sister’s place ; am willing to provide for the child and keep it myself  I prevented her taking her clothes, and she took a spade to me; she has not asked me for any support since she left me.
Mr Norton said his client was willing to work for her own living if the husband took the child, and would not interfere with her in future. This was agreed to; costs allowed 26s.

from: Benalla Ensign and Farmer”s and  Squatter’s Journal, Saturday 6 May, 1871, Page 2.

Saturday April 29, 1871,
Before Messrs. Sharpe and Henry
Richard Chute was charged, on the information of Thomas Coughlin, with threatening to shoot, and also with using threatening words. Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Pow for the defence. Thomas Boyle, sworn, said he knew Chute and Coughlin. Heard Chute say on the 15th that if he caught Coughlin in his house, he would shoot him.
Cross examined by Mr. Pow, Coughlin was not present when Chute made use of the words. did not know any cause for the words. Believed Chute was jealous.
Mrs. Boyle, sworn, said she had heard Chute say if he had a pistol he would shoot Coughlin. Had previously taken a pistol from Chute’s house and thrown it in a waterhole. Chute was excitable. Cross-examined, it was long previous to Chute having used the words, that she took away the pistol. Coughlin was not present when the words were used. Was not aware that he was coming after Chute’s wife. Believed Chute was jealous.
Mrs. McGarry was cautioned before going into the box, not to say too much, but as soon as she was sworn, told her story, regardless of questions put by the police in the following words :
“I was going down the road, and I met Chute with his dray and I said, ‘This is a bad business, Mr. Chute’, and he said,’ it is ma’m, but what’s done can’t be helped’, and he then told me that he woke up in the night and he found Coughlin lying on the other side of his wife, and he pulled the mattress from under them and tumbled them out on the floor. Coughlin then jumped up and threw the contents of the chamber in Chute’s face, and ran away, and that’s all I know your worships”.
Mr. O’Donnell contended that there was no case. There was no intention to shoot shown, because it was deposed that he had said ” if he had a pistol”. He had no pistol, nor was Coughlin present at the time the words were uttered, and the words never had been used by Chute to Coughlin.
Case dismissed.

*Please note: (Punctuation and paragraphs  have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading)

BENALLA POLICE COURT. (1871, May 3). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from  
(1871, May 3). Ovens and Murray Advertiser (Beechworth, Vic. : 1855 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from
BENALLA POLICE COURT. (1871, May 6). The Benalla Ensign and Farmer’s and Squatter’s Journal (Vic. : 1869 – 1872), p. 2 (Weekly.). Retrieved July 12, 2020, from


Murder of Ellen Chute Part 1 – Inquest
Murder of Ellen Chute Part 2

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From → Family Names

  1. mollyscanopy permalink

    Goodness, this is turning into quite a story. Knowing how things ultimately turned out, with the death of Ellen Chute, Richard Chute comes across here as manipulative abuser who was skilled at lying and trickery that enabled him to wriggle out of court cases against him. Too bad nobody saw through his ruse until it was too late.

    • I think you have sized up Richard Chute well Molly. The family were connected which is probably how he got away with it. His sister was Ellen’s fathers second wife.

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