Thomas Jeffries

Victims 6
Dorset, England
Died (1826-05-04)4 May 1826
Known for Unknown
Criminal penalty Death


Thomas Jeffries (Jefferies) was an English bushranger, serial killer and cannibal in the early 19th century in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania, Australia). Jeffries was transported for seven years from Dorset on Albion, arriving in Van Diemen's Land on 21 October 1823. In June 1824 he was sentenced to 12 months in Macquarie Harbour, the penal settlement on the colony's west coast, for threatening to stab Constable Lawson. By August 1825 he had been appointed a watch house keeper and flagellator (flogger) at Launceston Gaol.


Jeffries was a violent sexual offender, and on 25 August 1825 was fined half of his salary for falsely imprisoning and assaulting Mrs Jessop. In October he was fined 20 shillings for taking a female prisoner out of the watch house. On 31 December 1825, Jeffries and three convicts, Perry, Russell, and Hopkins, escaped from the Launceston Watch House. They robbed the hut of a Mr Barnard, then broke into the house of a settler called Tibbs, about five miles from Launceston. Tibbs's wife and five-month-old child and a neighbour called Basham were at the house. When they tried to tie the men up, they resisted. Basham was shot and killed, and Tibbs wounded. The bushrangers left, taking Mrs Tibbs and the baby. When Mrs Tibbs could not keep up, Jeffries grabbed the baby and bashed its head against a tree, killing it. The baby's remains, which had been partly eaten by animals, were discovered about a week afterwards in the bush. Mrs Tibbs returned home on Sunday afternoon. The newspapers were coy about her state, but it is likely she had been raped. According to Mrs Tibbs, Jeffries was calling himself "Captain", and was dressed in a long black coat, a red waistcoat, and a kangaroo skin cap.

During their escape from Launceston, the four convicts ran out of food, whereupon they turned on Russell, killed him and ate part of his body. According to the Hobart Town Gazette of 27 January 1826, when asked what he then did with the remainder of Russell's corpse, Jeffries said it was cut into steaks and fried up with the mutton from a sheep they stole.

On 11 January 1826, Jeffries shot Magnus Bakie or Baker, a constable from George Town, through the head. For a brief period Jeffries ran with Matthew Brady's gang, but Brady, who was unfailingly chivalrous to women, could not tolerate Jeffries' sexual crimes, and expelled him, calling him "a de-humanised monster".

Capture and death

Jeffries in 1826

Jeffries was captured on 23 January 1826 on the bank of the South Esk river near Evandale, Tasmania, without a fight, by John Batman and his posse. When he was brought to Launceston the town's population congregated in the hope of lynching him. Safely in jail, he willingly told the authorities all he knew of the locations, movements and habits of other bushrangers. This kept him in Launceston until fellow bushrangers were caught.

When Brady heard about this he had to be argued out of leading his gang in a frontal assault on the Launceston lockup, freeing all the prisoners, dragging Jeffries out and flogging him to death. Not that it mattered – Brady was caught weeks later by Batman, aided by information Jeffries had passed on.

On 27 March 1826 HM Colonial Brig Prince Leopold arrived at Hobart from Launceston. She was carrying five bushrangers: Matthew Brady, Goodwin, Bryant, Thomas Jeffries, and Perry.

Jeffries was hanged on 4 May 1826 at the old Hobart Jail alongside Brady on the infamous six-man scaffold. Brady complained about being executed in such poor company.

He ranks alongside Alexander Pearce and Mad Dog Morgan as one of the most infamous criminals in Australia's colonial history.