Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 410–415 | Cite as

Cannibalism amongst penitentiary escapees from Sarah Island in nineteenth century Van Diemen’s Land

  • Roger W. ByardEmail author
  • Hamish Maxwell-Stewart
Lessons from the Museum


Alexander Pearce was an Irish convict incarcerated on Sarah Island on the west coast of Van Diemen’s Land (modern day Tasmania, Australia) in 1822, following his transportation to the colony from the United Kingdom for seven years in 1819. On two occasions he escaped from the island, in September 1822 and again in November 1823, and was only able to survive the harsh conditions by killing and consuming his fellow escapees. Given that Pearce utilized the only sustenance that was at hand (i.e. his five companions), and that there was a temporal separation between the two episodes, this may represent a separate category of anthropophagy, that of serial opportunistic cannibalism.


Cannibalism Anthropophagy Van Diemen’s Land Alexander Pearce Convict Colonial Serial 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MedicineThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of HumanitiesUniversity of TasmaniaSandy BayAustralia

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