Imagine yourself in that scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson is chasing you in the snow and wielding an axe. Now picture that same scenario within the Australian bush and that the man with the axe is in fact a cannibal. It may sound like the stuff of nightmares, but Alexander Pearce was Australia’s cannibal convict.
Alexander Pearce escaped from prison in Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania in 1822, along with half a dozen others. About a week into their journey, three of them left the group. Due to starvation, it was not long afterwards that the remaining members of the group, including Pearce, began killing and eating their fellow inmates. Eventually only Pearce and one other, Greenhill, remained. This resulted in a cat and mouse game, as it was Greenhill who had the axe. Having lulled Greenhill into a false sense of security, Pearce managed to get hold of the axe and murdered Greenhill.
Pearce had been on the run for 113 days before finally being captured. Despite telling authorities of these events (he was not believed), he was once again imprisoned, only to escape almost a year later. With him this time was another convict by the name of Thomas Cox. A few days later, Pearce was discovered alone, claiming that Cox had drowned. In his pockets, however, were the remains of Thomas Cox, along with other sources of food. Alexander Pearce was found guilty of murder and was hung on 19 July, 1824.
Not only was he a cannibal, but Alexander Pearce is also considered by some to be Australia’s first serial killer. He has been immortalised in both film and song, including the award-winning drama The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce. Somehow, I don’t think the line ‘Here’s Alex’ works quite so well as ‘Here’s Johnny’ don’t you think?
Does the idea of cannibalism frighten you? Do you think Alexander Pearce was a serial killer? Do you think there should be more axe-wielding maniacs in horror? What’s your favourite scene from The Shining?
Free image by Boaz Yiftach courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
2 thoughts on “Alexander Pearce – Australia’s Cannibal Convict.”
Hi, I’ve just read this as I’m fascinated by this whole story. I feel compelled though to state that AP was a “serial killer” is quite erroneous.
I do not deny that he killed in the first escape attempt, but that was to survive, not to receive some power or sexual trip like serial killers do. If he were a person of high standing lost in the Tasmanian wilderness and had to resort to cannibalism to survive, would he have been labeled a serial killer? I’d think not.
AP did kill Thomas Cox probably in a fit of rage when he found out he couldn’t swim, yes he did kill him when he had ample food, that I would consider murder, but one murder a serial killer does not make.
For some reason I feel the need to protect AP, maybe its my convict heritage or the fact of being labeled something for which I believe he is not.
I am going to Tasmania next year and cannot wait to get to Macquarie Harbour.
Hi Vinni. It is a fascinating part of Australia’s history and you raise some good points. When I was looking into this some of my sources believed him to be a serial killer. Sure he did murder those other men, but as you say, he did so in order to survive, not for any other purpose. I too, was also confused on the validity of naming him a serial killer which is why I used the word considered, leaving it open to debate. Your comments are much appreciated. I envy you your trip to Tassie – have fun! 🙂
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