was a notorious bushranger, serial killer and cannibal in the early 19th
century in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania, Australia).
Jefferies was transported as a convict
from Scotland, and had there been granted a reprieve from death as he
was willing to act as an executioner and scourger. Transferred to Van
Diemen's Land, trained in acts of cruelty, he took to the bush, and a
terrible story of crime ensued until he was finally captured and
He was one of just six
convicts known to have successfully escaped from Macquarie Harbour by
land. In his escape he took some accomplices along with him, at least
one of whom he later ate. Jefferies ranks alongside Alexander Pierce and
Mad Dog Morgan as one of the most infamous criminals in Australia's
Jefferies was known to
have murdered and eaten at least four adults during his "bolt." He
kidnapped the widow of one of his victims, and killed her five-month-old
baby by bashing its head against a tree.
For a brief period
Jefferies ran with Matthew Brady's gang, but was expelled by Brady for
molesting women, as well as for being "a de-humanised monster".
Jefferies was captured
in 1825 without a fight. He willingly told the Corps all he knew of the
locations, movements and habits of other Bushrangers.
He was hanged on May
4, 1826 at the old Hobart Jail alongside Matthew Brady on the infamous
six-man scaffold. Brady complained about being executed in such poor
Jefferies is one of only six people in
Australian history to have successfully escaped from Macquarie Harbour.
He ranks alongside Alexander Pierce and Mad Dog Morgan as one of the
most infamous criminals in Australia's colonial history.
Tom; Bill Wannan, and H. Nunn (1970). A Pictorial History of
Bushrangers. Dee Why West, N.S.W.: Hamlyn.
Hudson Fysh, William
(1973). Henry Reed: Van Diemen's land pioneer. Cat & Fiddle
McQueen, Humphrey (2004). A new Britannia. St Lucia, Queensland:
University of Queensland Press.
Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian
R. v. Jeffries and
Source: Colonial Times,
6 January 1826
It is with feelings of the utmost horror, that we
have to make public the following appalling circumstance. On Saturday
last, Jeffrey, the notorious villain, who lately broke out of the
Launceston watch-house, accompanied with the two miscreants who followed
him, after having robbed Mr. Barnard's hut, proceeded to the residence
of a respectable Settler named Tibbs, about 5 miles from Launceston.
They arrived there about noon. Mr. Tibbs and his wife, a young and
respectable woman, to whom he had been married about two years, with
their child, and a servant of a neighbouring Settler, named Basham, were
in the house. The ruffians attempted to bind them, but, upon their
offering resistance, these diabolical murderers shot them both. The man
fell dead; Mr. Tibbs was dangerously wounded, but he escaped with his
life, and contrived to give an alarm. The whole town of Launceston,
with one accord, rushed out after the murderous villains; but the
unhappy female and her child were gone. About 3 o'clock on Sunday, she
returned to her forlorn residence. She was in a state of distraction.
The dæmons had murdered her infant. We cannot relate the rest. The
agitation this dreadful event has excited is beyond expression. We hope
and trust the execrable monsters may be quickly brought to condign
Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land
Pedder C.J., 22 April 1826
Source: Hobart Town Gazette, 29 April 1826
On Saturday, Jeffries the murderer, Perry, and
Hopkins, were found guilty of stealing a gun, meat, and other articles,
from the dwelling-house of Joseph Railton, near Launceston. They had
been brought up on the Thursday previous, but owing to the absence of a
witness on the part of Hopkins, the trial was postponed.
Jeffries and Perry were afterwards arraigned for the
murder of Mr. Tibbs's child, an infant only five months old. When Mrs.
Tibbs came into Court, and her eye glanced on the insatiate murderers of
her babe, she was so affected as to be unable to stand. Her situation
powerfully excited the commiseration of every one present. The bare
recital of the dreadful journey which the monster had compelled her to
take with him in the woods, was a painful addition to her sufferings.
When it was necessary for her to look at the prisoners, in order to
prove their persons, the suddenness with which she withdrew her eyes,
and the tears with which the effort was accompanied, was an instance of
detestation more strongly depicted than any assembly of spectators
perhaps every witnessed. The child was proved to have been taken away
from the arms of the mother, and killed by Jeffries and Russel, and its
remains were discovered about a week afterwards in a decayed state, and
mangled by the carnivorous animals in the woods. When Mrs. Tibbs had
asked Jeffries, who called himself Captain, and was dressed in a long
black coat, red waistcoat, and kangaroo skin cap, to point out the place
where she might find the body, he said ``it was no odds it had not
suffered a moment's pain in leaving the world," and both he and Russel,
who was afterwards shot and partly eaten by the monster, expressed
themselves as regarding the life of a child as nothing. Both the
prisoners were found guilty; the trial lasted till 11 at night.
On Tuesday, morning the bushrangers Brady, Bryant,
Tilley, McKenney, Brown, Gregory, and Hodgetts, were put upon their
trial for making an assault on William Andrews, a private of the 40th,
at Bagdad, on the 26th December last, and stealing his gun. The jury
returned a verdict of guilty against Brady, Bryant, Gregory, Tilley, and
Brown, and acquitted McKenney and Hodgetts, their being no evidence to
prove that they were present at the time.
Brady, Bryant, Tilley, and Goodwin were then tried
for having committed the crimes of felony and arson at Mr. Lawrence's,
on the Lake River, on the 26th February, when Brady and Bryant pleaded
guilty to the charge, the former declaring that he should plead guilty
to every other information that might be filed against him.
On Thursday, Brady and Bryant pleaded guilty to the
murder of Thomas Kenton, with malice aforethought, and at the
instigation of the devil, on the 5th ultimo.
The same two also pleaded guilty of stealing four
horses from Mr. Lawrence, in which charge Tilley and Goodwin were
included, and upon trial, found guilty.
Jeffries and Perry were then tried for the murder of
Magnus Bakie or Baker the consta[b]le from George Town, who was
deliberately shot through the head by Jeffries, as they were travelling
through the woods on the 11th of January last. The circumstances were
exactly as stated in our Journal of that date.
It is with great pain we state, that most of the men
convicted of robbery and murder, in gaol, whose days of probation must
now of necessity be very short, continue with hardened and untouched
consciences; apparently insensible of their approaching fate. Jefferies
is said to have been brought at last to a sense of his unhappy state,
but Brady, Bryant, McKenney, and Perry, excite both disgust and
compassion at their insensibility. The whirl of their late lawless and
dissipated life seems scarcely to have subsided.
We understand the various criminals now convicted in
Gaol, will be brought up to receive the sentence of the law from His
Honor the Chief Justice this day.
Source: Colonial Times, 5 May 1826
The late Bushrangers. &c.
On Saturday last, the twelve following criminals
received sentence of death:-- Matthew Brady, Patrick Bryant, James
Goodwin, James McKenny, John Gregrory [sic], William Tilly, William
Brown, and Samuel Hodgetts, (the above eight composed the residue of the
gang of bush-rangers, of which Dunne only remains at large.) Thomas
Jeffries, John Perry, and James Hopkins, whose horrid crimes are fresh
in the recollection of the Public, and John Thompson, for the murder of
Margaret Smith in the watch-house. His Honor Chief Justice Pedder
addressed the unhappy men in the most feeling manner. He stated to them,
that the Law had awarded the punishment of death to the crimes of the
least magnitude amongst them. Those of the greatest were attended with
circumstances of such atrocity, that he should only shock the feelings
of the auditory by repeating them. His Honor addressed this to Jeffries
and Perry. He then made some impressive observations upon the offences
of Brady and the rest, and finally passed the awful sentence of death
upon the whole, in a manner which powerfully excited the feelings of all
present; and in the course of which, he himself was most seriously
affected. Brady behaved with the utmost fortitude and firmness;
Jeffries appeared much agitated, as did several of the rest. On the
return of these unfortunate men to the gaol, Tilly offered to shake
hands with Brady, who refused with much contempt. McKenny also refused
to speak to him - this was on account of their supposing that he had
given information. Brady, McKenny, and Bryant being Roman Catholics,
were then conveyed to the cell adjoining the debtor's side, which they
had hitherto occupied. The two former seemed serious, though cheerful.
The remainder (except Perry, who was alone) were confined in one cell.
Jeffries who was amongst the rest of the Protestants, became penitent,
and fully sensible of his approaching fate. During the whole of the
week, the Rev. Messrs. Bedford, Conolly, and Carvosso, have been
unremittingly attentive in their endeavouring to bring these unhappy
criminals to a due sense of their awful situation. The death warrant
arrived on Tuesday, by which fatal instrument they were ordered for
execution as follows: -- Jeffries, Perry, Thompson, Brady, and Bryant,
yesterday; and this morning the whole off the remainder. The Reverend
Ministers of Religion were with the unhappy men at an early hour of the
morning, and rendered them every consolation which in their wretched
situation could be afforded. At a few minutes after eight o'clock the
Sheriff, D. Fereday, Esq., attended by the usual cortege, arrived. The
criminals were then brought out into the lodge, to undergo the usual
awful preparations. Mr. Bedford (of whose attentions to these unhappy
men, and indeed upon all similar occasions it is impossible to speak in
terms of sufficient praise), first led out Jeffries; he appeared firm
and composed; while the executioner was pinioning his arms, Mr. Bedford
exhorted him in the most feeling manner to let his repentance be
sincere, and from his heart, in which case he might trust safely to the
Divine mercy for forgiveness. -- Jeffries prayed fervently, and seemed
really penitent. Then followed Perry and Thompson, to whom Mr. Bedford
shewed similar attention. When the executioner had adjusted the ropes,
these unhappy men retired to a bench, where they knelt down in prayer,
while the same awful ceremony was undergone by Brady and Bryant, who
were attended by the Rev. Mr. Conolly, with whom they had performed the
devotional duties of their Church, and by whose zealous exertions they
appeared to have become truly and sincerely penitent. When this
ceremony had been gone through, and all was ready, the melancholy
procession was set in motion. Mr. Bedford, with the deepest solemnity,
commencing with reading aloud that portion of Scripture, ``whosoever
sheddeth man's blood, by man also shall his blood be shed." This
passage was so peculiarly applicable to the crimes of the wretched
sufferers, and the tone in which Mr. Bedford uttered it was so solemn
and emphatic, that the whole five seemed to feel deeply their dreadful
situation. Jeffries first ascended the fatal scaffold - he was firm and
composed. Mr. Bedford occupied his attention with devotional
consolation, while the executioner affixed the rope. During which
interval Messrs. Conolly and Carvosso administered all possible
consolation to the unhappy men who were at the foot of the ladder. When
they had all ascended, and the necessary preparations for their entering
upon the awful change before them had been concluded, Mr. Bedford
addressed the people who had collected in great numbers outside the gaol,
nearly as follows:-- ``The unhappy man, Jeffries, now before you, on the
verge of eternity, desires me to state, that he attributes all the
crimes which he has committed, and which have brought him to his present
awful state, to the abhorrent vice of drunkenness. He acknowledges the
whole of the crimes with which he has been charged, and he implores of
you all to take warning by him, and to avoid the commission of the sin
of drunkenness, which infallibly leads on to all other crimes." During
this, Brady and the rest preserved the composed deportment which they
had exhibited from the first, wholly without levity, but firm and
resigned. - Nothing now remaining, Mr. Bedford commenced reading certain
portions of the funeral service; and when he came to a particular
passage, the drop fell, and this world closed upon the wretched men for
This morning the following criminals underwent the
awful sentence which had been passed upon them:-- James Goodwin, James
McKenney, John Gregory, William Tilley, William Brown, and Samuel
Hodgetts. - The whole of the Rev. Clergymen were unremitting in their
assuidities, [sic] by which the unhappy men had been brought to a state
of the most sincere penitence, trusting to the Divine mercy for that
forgiveness hereafter, which the magnitude of their offences prevented
them receiving here.
See also Colonial Times, 28 April 1826; and see 24 March 1826.
The rampages of the bushrangers (usually escaped
convicts) were often in the news in 1826: see, for instance, Colonial
Times, 6 January 1826, 24 and 31 March 1826, 14 April 1826, 9 and 16
June 1826, 4 August 1826, 27 October 1826; and Hobart Town Gazette,
1 April 1826, 5, 12 and 19 August 1826, 18 November 1826. Seventy one
prisoners were before the court for sentencing on 2 September at the end
of the session: see Colonial Times, 8 September 1826. One of
them, John Clarke, for killing Paul Bishop, was sentenced to be burnt on
the hand and discharged. This was the traditional punishment for those
convicted of felonies subject to the benefit of clergy, that is, those
not capital in practice.
See also Hobart Town Gazette, 6 May 1826.
SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: N MOTIVE:
MO: Escaped convict, rapist,
DISPOSITION: Killed by posse.