Stuart Fergusson Victor Sutcliffe (23 June 1940 – 10 April 1962) was a poet, painter and the original bassist of The Beatles for one year and three months (May 1960–August 1961). Sutcliffe earned praise for his paintings, which mostly explored a style related to abstract expressionism. Sutcliffe is one of the group of people sometimes referred to as "the fifth Beatle".
Sutcliffe and John Lennon are credited with coming up with the name for the Beatles, as they both liked Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets. Sutcliffe played with the Beatles in Hamburg, where he met photographer Astrid Kirchherr, to whom he was later engaged. He enrolled in the Hamburg College of Art after leaving The Beatles, and studied under future pop artist Eduardo Paolozzi.
Whilst in Germany, he began experiencing severe headaches and acute sensitivity to light, and Kirchherr stated that some of the headaches left him temporarily blind. In 1962, Sutcliffe collapsed in the middle of an art class in Hamburg. Kirchherr's mother had German doctors perform various checks on him, but they were unable to determine exactly what was causing the headaches. While living at the Kirchherrs' house his condition got worse. After collapsing again on 10 April 1962, Sutcliffe was taken to hospital by Kirchherr (she rode with him in the ambulance) but he died before the ambulance reached the hospital at the age of 21. The cause of death was cerebral paralysis, after bleeding in the right ventricle of his brain.
On 13 April 1962, Kirchherr met The Beatles at Hamburg Airport and told them that Sutcliffe had died a few days before. Millie Sutcliffe flew from Hamburg to Liverpool with her son's body. Charles did not hear of his son's death for three weeks, as he was sailing to South America; the family arranged for a padre to tell him when he docked in Buenos Aires. After Sutcliffe's death, Kirchherr wrote a letter to Millie, apologising for being too ill to attend his funeral in Liverpool and saying how much she and Lennon missed him: "Oh, Mum, he (Lennon) is in a terrible mood now, he just can't believe that darling Stuart never comes back. He just crying his eyes out ... John is marvellous to me, he says that he knows Stuart so much and he loves him so much that he can understand me."
It has never been known precisely what caused the brain hemorrhage that took Sutcliffe's life. Some believe that the cause was an earlier head injury, having been either kicked in the head or thrown head-first against a brick wall during a fight outside Lathom Hall after a performance in January 1961. According to former manager Allan Williams, Lennon and Best went to Sutcliffe's aid, fighting off his attackers before dragging him to safety. Sutcliffe sustained a fractured skull in the fight, and Lennon broke his little finger. Sutcliffe refused medical attention at the time and failed to keep an X-ray appointment at Sefton General Hospital.