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Thomas Bodenham (?–1822)

Thomas Bodenham ( - 1822) was sentenced to 7 years transportation at the Salop Assizes, Shropshire, in 1819. He arrived at Hobart, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) aboard the Coromandel in March 1820.

  • Bodenham was sentenced to 50 lashes on 2 July 1821 for stealing 1000 nails and one cut of ? the property of his master; he was also returned to the prisoners barracks.
  • 19 September 1821 for neglect of duty he was sent to work the same hours in the gaol gang for 14 days.
  • 13 November 1821 for absconding from the muster for church he was ordered to labour the same hours as the gaol gang for one month.
  • 19 November 1821 for neglect of duty he was ordered to labour the same hours as the gaol gang for 14 days
  • 17 December 1821 for neglect of duty he received 25 lashes
  • 21 December 1821 for neglect of duty he received 50 lashes and was ordered to keep the same hours as the gaol gang for 14 days
  • 7 February 1822 for having in his possession three shirts marked with the broad arrow the property of the crown, without being able to explain how he came to have them, he received 25 lashes and was ordered to work the same hours as the gaol gang for two months
  • 19 March 1822 for being drunk and disorderly he received 25 lashes
  • 3 May 1822 for assaulting and beating Mr Reason? on the King's Highway and putting him in bodily fear and stealing from his person £4.3.6. and a pocket book with several promissory notes in it he received 100 lashes and was ordered to be sent to Macquarie Harbour for the remainder of his original sentence
  • 21 August 1822 for neglect of duty he received 25 lashes

Bodenham and seven other convicts — Alexander Dalton, John Mather, William Kennely, Robert Greenhill, Edward Brown, Alexander Pearce and Matthew Travers — escaped from Macquarie Harbour on 20 September 1822. According to Pearce's later testimony Greenhill, who had an axe, appointed himself leader. About 15 days into the journey, the men were starving and drew lots to see who would be killed for food. Thomas Bodenham (or perhaps Alexander Dalton, Pearce's later accounts slightly differed) drew the short straw and Greenhill killed him with his axe. Dalton (or Bodenham), Kennely and Brown – took fright and decamped. Kennely and Brown reached Macquarie Harbour, but Dalton seemed to have died of exhaustion. That left Greenhill, Travers, John Mather and Alexander Pearce. With Greenhill and his friend Travers acting as a team, it was Mather's or Pearce's turn to die next. Mather became the next victim. Travers was then bitten on the foot by a snake. Greenhill insisted they carry him for five days, but when it became clear he would not recover, killed him. Although Greenhill still had the axe, Pearce managed to overpower and kill him — and ate his flesh. Pearce finally reached a settlement and fell in with a shepherd and was eventually arrested.

Pearce confessed his cannibalistic crimes to Rev. Knopwood, who was also a magistrate, but was not believed. Knopwood thought the other men were still alive and living as bushrangers and sent Pearce back to Macquarie Harbour. Within a year he had escaped a second time, this time with Thomas Cox. He was picked up within ten days and tried for the murder of Cox (he had also cannibalised Cox but was not charged with this offence). He again confessed to the murder and cannibalisation of the men during his first escape from Macquarie Harbour.

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Citation details

'Bodenham, Thomas (?–1822)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


October, 1822
Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death

axe wounds

Passenger Ship
Key Places
Social Issues
Convict Record

Crime: unknown
Sentence: 7 years
Court: Shropshire
Trial Date: 1819