British plumber arrested over Portuguese commune murder 'lured fellow Brit victim to remote woodland then brutally stabbed him to death before hiding his body', police claim – as suspect's father insists his son is 'kind and caring'

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  • Reading time:12 min(s) read

  • Josh James Menkens is in custody after a 37-year-old Brit was stabbed to death

A plumber arrested over the murder of a fellow Brit in a Portuguese commune ‘lured’ the victim to a remote woodland before brutally stabbing him to death, police say.

Josh Menkens is accused of stabbing the unnamed 37-year-old British man multiple times in an ‘exceptional’ display of violence before ‘desecrating’ the body and attempting to hide it. 

The 27-year-old, from Welwyn in Hertfordshire, is in custody in the European country, and has been interviewed two times by a judge in the central Portuguese city of Leiria.

Outside the court yesterday his father, tony, was seen supporting his son, who he insisted was ‘kind and caring’. 

Police claim Menkens was one of the organisers of a mini-festival known as the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party last weekend near a remote commune known as Libelinha Venture, close to where the killing took place.

Josh Menkens (pictured), 27, was detained following the fatal stabbing of an unnamed 35-year-old British man at a mini-festival near a commune in central Portugal at the weekend

Josh Menkens (pictured), 27, was detained following the fatal stabbing of an unnamed 35-year-old British man at a mini-festival near a commune in central Portugal at the weekend

Police officers were pictured preparing to remove the body of the victim after they were found stabbed to death

Police officers were pictured preparing to remove the body of the victim after they were found stabbed to death

Initial reports after the suspect handed himself in to police pointed to the death occurring during a row while a group of friends were playing the notorious Blue Whale suicide game – but this was ruled out by investigators.

In an unusually hard-hitting statement released a couple of hours after it became clear Mr Menkens had been remanded in custody pending an ongoing judicial probe, the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) police force which had been probing the fatal stabbing 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 hitting him in several areas 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 27-year-old detainee was present during his first judicial interrogation which resulted in his preventive detention.’

Outside court on Wednesday his father, Troy, insisted his son was ‘kind and caring’ and revealed the moment his distraught son phoned him from a police station late on Sunday night, following his arrest.

His father Troy Menkens, 52, told MailOnline: ‘I got a call from him out of the blue, just before midnight on Sunday.

‘My son was talking at a million miles an hour, in a head-melt, firing stuff at me. I was trying to be as calm as I could and find out where he was being held and how I could get there.’

Father Troy Menkens is pictured with his son Josh Menkens who has been arrested in Portugal following a fatal stabbing at a mini-festival he organised

Father Troy Menkens is pictured with his son Josh Menkens who has been arrested in Portugal following a fatal stabbing at a mini-festival he organised 

Troy Menkens (pictured) has told of the dramatic moment his distraught son phoned him from a police station late on Sunday night

Troy Menkens (pictured) has told of the dramatic moment his distraught son phoned him from a police station late on Sunday night

Mr Menkens’ comments came as his son emerged from his second interview with a judge as an ‘Arguido’ [suspect] in the murder case, and our exclusive photo showed the young man in the back of a police car being driven back to his cell.

READ MORE: Brit suspect at centre of Portuguese commune ‘murder’ is 27-year-old engineer who organised Mad Hatter’s Tea Party mini-festival near ‘glamping’ tepee site where fellow Briton was ‘stabbed to death’

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‘There are unanswered questions and we need to avoid speculation at the moment and just deal in facts and logic.

‘I know the victim’s nickname, but no more than that. I honestly don’t know if Josh knew him before because I’ve not had a chance to speak to Josh. I only heard it was a British guy from what I read in the paper.

‘I know nothing for sure about the circumstances of the case, but there’s certainly a lot more to it than has come out so far.

‘Every dad who cares about their son will always say they’re wonderful, of course, but Josh is a nice, loving caring individual who everyone should want in this world, he’s just a lovely person, genuine and caring.

‘Josh isn’t dealing with it well, he’s in the place I think anyone would be if they were in the same circumstances. He’s overwhelmed and in a head-melt.’

Australian-born businessman Mr Menkens, from Welwyn-Garden-City, Herts, said he was finding the highly secretive Portuguese system of justice hard and intensely frustrating to navigate.

‘I believe he’s being held in a police cell, but even getting that information was like getting blood out of a stone. When I landed in Lisbon it took me 90 minutes to figure out the trains to get here, and there was no-one to ask, and I ended up paying 150 Euros to get an Uber all the way to Leiria on a two-hour drive.

Josh James Menkens (centre) was pictured yesterday being taken from a courthouse in the city of Leiria, an hour's drive away from the commune after being quizzed by a judge investigating the case

Josh James Menkens (centre) was pictured yesterday being taken from a courthouse in the city of Leiria, an hour’s drive away from the commune after being quizzed by a judge investigating the case

‘Since then I’ve hung around outside the court, trying to get information. I’ve got no visitor’s rights, but the police were decent enough to allow me to speak to my son on a mobile for a few minutes on Sunday night and yesterday afternoon.

READ MORE HERE –  Inside ‘off grid’ Portuguese commune at centre of Brit ‘murder’: Volunteers live off the land in ‘glamping’ tepee camp run by Oxford private school educated businessman in 24 acres of ‘enchanting forest valley’

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‘Although I’m here, I’ve not been that much use to him really.’

His voice breaking with emotion, he added: ‘I just want him to know that he’s not totally isolated and alone as he must have felt at first with no communication, and hopefully that will lift him.

‘He has a court-appointed lawyer, but I still haven’t been able to speak to them. We have our own lawyer organised, standing by, but for the moment, they can’t do anything.

‘The police let me give him a pack of cigarettes, which tells me they know he’s not a bad guy. I’ve said to all my family, my wife, my daughter and Josh’s mum – I will only communicate things I know for sure to be facts, not speculation.

‘I am not confident that he will eventually walk free from all this, because I just don’t know enough and there’s still a lot of guessing going on, but it’s absolutely not a murder in the sense you would imagine.

‘What has happened remains very, very sketchy and blurry. I got the call very very late on Sunday night and Josh was arrested early on Sunday morning – was there an interpreter present for the police interview? Was he advised he could call the British consulate? I don’t think so. Why was it 14 or 15 hours before he was allowed a call to me?

‘The family back home are pulling together. We’re a close-knit family and we all know he’s a good guy, whatever the outcome, we will be 100 per cent behind him and united. That’s me talking from the heart.

Police found the victim's body in remote woodland between the localities of Poco Negro and Soalheira, near to the central town of Pedrogao Grande, on Sunday. File image of area near Pedrogao Grande

Police found the victim’s body in remote woodland between the localities of Poco Negro and Soalheira, near to the central town of Pedrogao Grande, on Sunday. File image of area near Pedrogao Grande

‘I’m hoping that the police will allow me to give him a hug this afternoon, because I doubt that we’ll be sitting having a beer this evening.

‘Because I’ve not been afforded the courtesy of a conversation with his so-called representative, I have no idea what the chances are of Josh getting bail.

‘I’m getting more information from the police and you guys [the media] than I am from the person representing my son, and that extends to all the family. Imagine where my head is at.

‘When I got the call, I thought ‘what the hell’ and pulled myself together and asked where are you? what police station? So I booked on a flight and got a taxi there the next morning.

‘I didn’t know much about the festival, I knew he was coming over for some kind of festival, but didn’t know any details about it. I wasn’t concerned, because he’s never given me any reason for concern. ‘

My son is a hands-on, practical guy. His directorships describe him as a plumber, drainage engineer and entrepreneur – all true. His main thing is plumbing and drainage.’

The owner of an eco-retreat in northern Portugal which Josh visited for a week-long ‘de-stress stay’ 18 months ago has spoken of his shock today at learning he had been arrested over the stabbing. 

The Brit murder suspect wrote in April last year after his chill-out holiday alone at the Gaia Retreat and Eco Hostel it had been a ‘pleasure to spend time there.’

Menkens was one of the organisers of a mini-festival known as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party last weekend near a remote commune known as Libelinha Venture

Menkens was one of the organisers of a mini-festival known as the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party last weekend near a remote commune known as Libelinha Venture 

His head covered by a coat, Menkens was hustled into an unmarked police car

His head covered by a coat, Menkens was hustled into an unmarked police car 

He added: ‘I was able to disconnect from my fast-paced life and reconnect with nature.

‘I spent my week swinging in a hammock drinking cold beers and exploring the mountainside.’

Singing the praises of his host Rasmus, who runs the retreat with his partner Elizabeth, he added: ‘Rasmus is an amazing chef. I decided to let him cook for me every day and I felt truly spoilt. I can’t wait to go back.’

Rasmus said today: ‘I’m totally shocked. I hadn’t heard anything about any arrest. 

‘I wasn’t particularly close to him. He stayed here for a week and we developed a superficial work relationship afterwards in which we were trying to get each other small freelance contracts.

‘It may be that when he contacted us and came here to stay that he was actually doing some research to try to figure out different ways of making a recreational experience in Portugal.

‘He came alone and stayed alone.

‘When I met him he struck me as a wonderful young enthusiastic bloke who was ready to take over the world with whatever would work for him.

Josh Menkens' farther Troy Menkens leaving Tribunal de Comarca de Leira in Portugal today

Josh Menkens’ farther Troy Menkens leaving Tribunal de Comarca de Leira in Portugal today

The victim, who has not been named, was allegedly attacked after a row broke out between a group of friends

The victim, who has not been named, was allegedly attacked after a row broke out between a group of friends

‘He was working in marketing when he stayed here and was setting up press releases for smaller companies.

‘He was like a young businessman with a lot of appetite for whatever.

‘We knew he was from the UK and had a really really busy life and was working 50 to 60 hours a week and he needed to relax and de-stress.

‘Eight out of ten clients we have are people who come from the city and need to unplug for a little while and de-stress from their jobs so there was nothing odd about Josh coming on his own.

‘He was already talking then about the event in Portugal he wanted to set up which ended up being the Mad Hatters Tea Party.

‘I hardly talked to him after he stayed but he sent me some of the promotional stuff for the Mad Hatters Tea Party because I suppose he thought we might show up as we live in Portugal.

‘But that was the extent of my contact with him.

‘When I met him I felt he was a really really good dude in his mid-twenties when he visited us some three years ago.

Troy Menkens said his son was in a 'head melt'. Josh Menkens is pictured with a coat over his head as he enters Tribunal de Comarca de Leira in Portugal

Troy Menkens said his son was in a ‘head melt’. Josh Menkens is pictured with a coat over his head as he enters Tribunal de Comarca de Leira in Portugal 

‘We established a good connection and he loved our daughter and he loved the animals on the farm and he had a really good experience here.

‘He was a small guy with a big smile and there was no violent vibe about him at all.

‘Because of work, because I do IT-based work and work with websites and work with project management aside from my eco retreat here, he decided he was going to hook me up with some other clients of his.

‘I got this one gig out of it which lasted eight months. The last time I spoke to him was about four to five months ago.

‘I’m guessing something must have gone absolutely terribly f****** wrong at that party!’




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