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Alexander Pearce, pencil drawing by Thomas Bock.

Alexander Pearce (1790–1824)[1] was an Irish penal convict in Tasmania who was hanged in Hobart in 1824, for murder and cannibalism.[1]

He was originally a farm labourer from County Fermanagh who was sentenced at Armagh in 1819 to penal transportation to Van Diemen's Land for "the theft of six pairs of shoes".[2] After committing various offences in Van Diemens Land, on 18 May 1822 he was advertised in the Hobart Town Gazette as an absconder with a 10-pound reward on his head. On his recapture he received a second sentence of transportation, and was sent to the new secondary penal establishment at Sarah Island, Macquarie Harbour.



Alexander Pearce gained a reputation as a bushranger who had escaped from the Macquarie Harbour Penal Settlement and is best known for cannibalising his fellow escapees while travelling through the West Coast of Tasmania.[1]

Transported to Sarah Island in 1822, he escaped with seven other convicts, Alexander Dalton, Thomas Bodenham, William Kennerly, Matthew Travers, Edward Brown, Robert Greenhill and John Mather. Kennerly and Brown later voluntarily gave themselves up and were taken back to the settlement, where they died from their privations at the prison's hospital, but the other six pressed on.[1]

Pearce was captured later near Hobart and in custody made a confession that he and the other men had cannibalised each other over a number of weeks, with Pearce being the last to survive. The Hobart magistrate believed this to be a fabrication and that the other men were still alive and living in the bush as bushrangers. Pearce was then sent back to Sarah Island.

Within a year Pearce again escaped, this time with Thomas Cox. This time he was found within ten days, but with some of the remains of Cox in his pockets, even though he still had other food available to him. This time he was taken back to Hobart and eventually hanged in the Town jail at 9am on July 19, 1824.[1]

Songs and films

Pearce was the subject of a song by Australian rock/folk band Weddings Parties Anything titled "A Tale They Won't Believe" as well as The Drones song titled "Words From The Executioner To Alexander Pearce". The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce was a 2008 film shot on location in Tasmania and Sydney in April and May 2008. It was shown on RTE Ireland on 29 December 2008 and ABC1 Australia on 25 January 2009. On November 6, 2008, a horror/thriller film about Alexander Pearce was released, called Dying Breed. It features the entirely fictional descendants of Pearce.[3] Shot in Tasmania and Melbourne (including at the Pieman River on the West Coast of Tasmania), Dying Breed stars writer/actor, Leigh Whannell and Nathan Phillips.[3] The story of Pearce has also been made into a movie called Van Diemen's Land, which was released in cinemas in Australia in September 2009[4]

See also

Further reading

  • Collins, Paul. Hell's Gates: the terrible journey of Alexander Pearce, Van Dieman's Land Cannibal. South Yarra, 2002. ISBN 1-74064-083-7
  • Sprod, Dan. Alexander Pearce of Macquarie Harbour. Hobart: Cat & Fiddle Press, 1977. ISBN 0-85853-031-7
  • Kidd, Paul B. Australia's Serial Killers ISBN 0 7329 1036 6


  1. ^ a b c d e A journey through hell's gate October 29 2002, Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  2. ^ The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce Anne-Marie Marquess, Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  3. ^ a b Dying Breed IMDb Retrieved 2008-11-02
  4. ^

External links



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