In 1819, two young Irish men travel to the other side of the world. Alexander Pearce, a farm labourer, is sentenced to seven years in the new penal colony of Van Diemens Land. His crime is the theft of six pairs of shoes. Phillip Connolly, a Catholic priest, is sent to administer religious guidance to the damned of Hobart Town, the most isolated settlement on earth.
Within six months, Alexander Pearce has been flogged over 200 times for a variety of misdemenours and finds himself en route to Sarah Island. He is thought beyond salvation and will soon be brutalised, tortured and degraded beyond comprehension. Consumed by thoughts of escape, Pearce quickly falls in with like-minded convicts and the English ex mariner Greenhill. Between them, they hatch an escape plan. Soon eight men crash into the rain-forest with little other than an axe, and a plan to go where no white man has gone before - across the extreme wilderness of Tasmania.
The British authorities doesnt waste time or valuable men pursuing them. They will surely all die within days.
Hunger sets in and quickly the awful decision to eat one of the group is reached. Dalton, the convict flogger is the logical choice. Greenhill slits his throat and the butcher Travers decapitates him. All but two of the group take Dalton's flesh.
Within weeks only Greenhill and Pearce are left alive. It is nearly 50 days since they escaped. Both men are close to death - and potential freedom. Greenhill is overcome with exhaustion and Pearce seizes the opportunity and murders him.
When Pearce is eventually captured by British authorities he readily confesses his crimes. The magistrate refuses to believe him. Irishman or not, no European could resort to such depravity and Pearce is sent back to Sarah Island to complete the remainder of his sentence.
Within weeks Pearce escapes again with the help of a young English convict Thomas Cox. When the authorities catch up with Pearce, he is lying beside the decimated remains of Cox.
The Commandant of Sarah Island, Lieutenant Cuthbertson extracts the first confession from Pearce and it forms the basis of his subsequent trial. A jury of seven non-commissioned British officers find Alexander Pearce guilty of murder and cannibalism and he is sentenced to death.
During his six months incarcerated in the Hobart Gaol, Alexander Pearce meets Father Phillip Connolly. Both men are from the same part of Ireland and know of each other. In the darkness of the gaol Alexander Pearce confesses everything to Father Connolly. Connollys faith in his God is tested by what he hears.
Alexander Pearce is executed on the 19th July 1824. Under orders from the Judge, his body is dissected for science.
This is the remarkable story of how one man endured the unimaginable by doing the unthinkable.