Brit ‘genius’ stabbed to death in Portuguese hippy commune in ‘drug-induced rage’

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun5,2024

These are the first pictures of the private school-educated “creative genius” allegedly stabbed to death by a British plumber at a remote Portuguese commune during a music festival.

The name of the murdered 37-year-old Brit had been kept a closely-guarded secret by police ahead of the charging of Joshua Menkens, who helped organise the four-day ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ last September.

But it can today be revealed the victim was sound engineering and design university graduate Neil Sutcliffe, a former pupil at Bolton School known to friends as Bingo, with poignant tributes paid to him following his untimely death.

The promising artist, who had moved to London to live on a boat after leaving his home town, was identified in Portugal after his alleged killer was charged last month with crimes including homicide and desecrating a corpse.

Police there have said psychiatric tests have suggested Menkens was suffering ‘psychosis’ at the time and that witnesses claimed he had taken “hard drugs” during the party at Libelinha Venture, an off-grid living community owned by UK public school-educated Xavier Hancock and his Spanish partner Arantxa Atauri.

The 28-year-old, from the market town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, is understood to have been moved to a psychiatric hospital while on remand at the request of a Portuguese magistrate.

Tragic alleged victim Neil, one of six children, described himself on an Instagram site where he posted his sketches and paintings as a London-based artist who “wears silly costumes in genre defying escapades”.

A recent tribute article in The Bugle, a magazine for former pupils at £4,540 per term Bolton School which he used to attend, said he had been “unexpectedly taken from us while on holiday abroad” before adding: “He was always willing to light up a room with artwork or music, his spirit and talent will be sorely missed.”

John Sutcliffe, one of Neil’s two older brothers, revealed in an emotional online tribute a teacher had described him as “one of the most musically-gifted children” he had ever taught.

He added: “In the last few years he made the decision to move to London and live on a converted lifeboat. “While this might not sound like the best plan for the majority of us, it suited Neil to the ground and gave him the freedom he had yearned for.

“He loved his new life and his new-found freedom. He had discovered himself and who he wanted to be. What is strange about this new life is that we, as his family, knew very little about it. He had decided that he wanted to go it alone, finding his place in the world and not following in anyone else’s footsteps.

“Knowing Neil for his entire life, I could not have been more proud of this bravery and dedication to self-discovery. He knew what he wanted and went for it. The only thing we feared is that he was alone in the world and that he didn’t have any support… we could not have been more wrong.”

He concluded the tribute by saying: “We will always love you, Neil. You will be so very, very missed by everyone. You are my baby brother, my gaming buddy, my miniature-painting pal, and my creative genius friend.

“Even though we didn’t see much of each other over the past few years, I will miss you more than you will ever know. The world is a darker and sadder place for you not being a part of it anymore.”

Mum Linda added in her own tribute: “Love you always and forever Neil. A part of me died with you . I’ll always be grateful you were ours and even though your life was tragically cut short you lived it to the full . Sleep easy my wonderful son.”

Friend Georgie Ringrose said: “You were a real bright light on the canals. You were always such a happy vibrant human. I’ll miss your wonderful collection of hats and tails, your biscuit teas, your artwork, your obsession with yellow and your incredible, incredible outfits. I will never ever forget you Neil, you are so special. Thank you for the laughs.”

Initial reports after police found his body hidden under tree branches pointed to his death occurring during a row while a group of friends were playing the notorious Blue Whale suicide game, but investigators found no evidence to back up the claims.

The fatal stabbing occurred on September 23 last year in woodland near the commune run by Mr Hancock and his partner close to the central Portuguese town of Pedrogao Grande.

A promo for the Mad Hatters Tea Party, which started on September 21 and was due to run until September 24, described it as a “gathering filled with great music and fantastic souls” and urged those planning to attend: “Show love, kindness, and respect to ourselves, each other, and the land. Listen to your body’s limits and take care of your physical and mental well-being.”

In addition to a line-up which included several DJs, the event also featured circus performers, wellness workshops and a ‘Hatters Secret Quest’.

Portugal’s Policia Judiciaria police force said in a statement last month released to the Times: “An indictment was filed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the district of Leiria against Joshua James Menkens, for the crimes of homicide, possession of a prohibited weapon and desecration of a corpse.”

“Joshua underwent psychiatric evaluation, with the result that at the time he suffered from a psychic anomaly ‘psychotic episode/psychosis’.”

Police added at the time some witnesses said in their testimony Joshua had taken “hard drugs” after meeting Neil for the first time at the event he promoted and helped stage.

In a statement released shortly after Menkens was arrested and remanded in custody last September, the PJ police force said: “The PJ’s Central Directorate, with the collaboration of Pedrogao Grande’s GNR police force, can confirm it arrested a man for the alleged crimes of homicide and desecration of a corpse in the town of Soalheira.

“The defendant, a foreigner and organizer of a party on a rural property, took the victim to an isolated forest location where armed with a knife, he attacked him with unusual violence stabbing him in several parts of the body and causing his death.

“After committing the homicide, the suspect hid the body using tree branches and pieces of clothing. Later, he revealed the acts he had committed to the other participants of the party. After confirming their veracity, they went to the GNR in Pedrogao Grande along with the suspect to report what had happened.

“The victim, a 37-year-old foreign man, had travelled to Portugal to participate in the event and apparently did not know the defendant personally. It has not yet been possible to determine the motive for the crimes, but any relationship with games or online challenges has initially been ruled out.”

The alarm was raised around 6.30am on September 24 last year and Mr Menkens reportedly admitted stabbing his alleged victim before taking police to the remote woodland spot where his body was discovered.

The suspect’s Australian father Troy Menkens, who has previously called his son a “genuine, caring guy”, said after news emerged last month he had been charged: “It’s a very fraught time, a very slow legal system. My focus is on my son who I love to bits, and it wouldn’t be right or fair to make any further comment at this stage with the upcoming trial.”

Mr Hancock, who attended the £15,000-a-year St Edwards School in Oxford, describes himself as a digital creator on social media. He has spoken about “falling in love” with the forest valley where he and his partner created their community in a forest valley.

He has organised fundraising campaigns online to plant over 6,000 trees, shrubs and bushes on his land and subsequently keep them alive during a drought in the area. Volunteers wanting to take part in the family-run project focusing on land regeneration and reforestation are offered ‘Glamping’ accommodation on site as well as food.

He gave a statement to police after Neil Sutcliffe’s body was found and is expected to be called as a witness at the forthcoming trial. No date for the hearing, which will take place in front of three judges without a jury, has yet been set.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Brit ‘genius’ stabbed to death in Portuguese hippy commune in ‘drug-induced rage’”
  1. What a tragic story. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the loss of such a talented young man. The details of the incident are truly disturbing. My thoughts are with Neil Sutcliffe’s family and friends during this difficult time.

  2. Was there any prior indication of violent behavior from the alleged killer before this tragic incident occurred?

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