The Killer Cannibal of Van Diemen's Land

Warning: this episode contains brief mention of sexual assault, and not at all brief mentions of cannibalism.

All of Australia has some pretty messed up history from the convict days, but that shit reaaally got concentrated in Tassie. The convicts of Van Diemen’s Land, as it was known back in the day, were some of the weirdest, most brutal, and most messed up lads around. Alexander Pearce was perhaps the best example of this. A career criminal, alcoholic, occasional bushranger, and semi-constant prison escapee, his great claim to fame was escaping from the inescapable Sarah Island Penal Colony.

Pearce and seven of his mates fled into the wild, wild wilderness of Tasmania’s west. As they trekked through the harsh wilderness towards freedom, when the food ran out, there was only way to starve off starvation…

Apparently the tastiest part of a human being is the upper arm, if you were curious.


Alexander Pearce has gained a rep of being a big bad cannibal man, but the truth was, he was kind of like more like the Steven Bradbury of cannibals. As a mildly talented bushman, he didn’t really have the skills to survive in the wild on his own. The only reason he outlived the other escapees was blind luck, really.

You wouldn’t know that from all the books and movies made about him, though. People are very eager to paint him as a sadistic monster. Which yes. For sure he was. He was fully a murderous cannibal. But he was also definitely an idiot, and not a cold, calculated mastermind like he’s been painted.

Jeez, you eat seven or so guys and suddenly everyone acts like you’re Hannibal Lecter.

Our main source this week was Hell’s Gates: The Terrible Journey of Alexander Pearce, Van Diemen’s Land Cannibal by Paul Collins. It’s baller and there is a lot more historical information than we could fit in this episode, so go forth.

There’s also been about ten movies about the bloke, all hovering around the five star mark on IMDB, if that’s your bag.

An article containing Pearce’s death sketch can be found here

More information can be found here, where his crime is charmingly recorded as ‘theft of boots’

If you like your information served with approximately eighty thousand ads, head here for the Irish perspective

If you like what we do please consider supporting us on PATREON

Subscribe to the podcast on ITUNESSTITCHER, SPOTIFY or your podcatcher of choice.