26-year minimum for 'most wanted' killer who slashed victim’s neck in bar then changed appearance to escape capture

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery

One of Britain’s most wanted fugitives who evaded justice for three and a half years has been jailed for life for a “grotesque” and “totally unnecessary” murder.

Shane O’Brien, 31, slashed the neck of Josh Hanson, 21, in an act of “pitiless savagery” at a west London bar before fleeing the UK in a private plane, sparking an international manhunt.

The father-of-two used false travel documents to evade police until he was arrested in Romania and brought back to Britain in April.

He was found guilty of Mr Hanson’s murder after an Old Bailey jury deliberated for 55 minutes.

Josh Hanson with his mother Tracey, before his death. Credit: Metropolitan Police

Mr Hanson’s mother Tracey and sister Brooke read out emotional victim impact statements as he appeared to be sentenced on Wednesday.

Tracey Hanson tearfully described her son as a “considerate, kind and generous” man who was a “rising star” in his work

She told the court: “On the 11th October 2015 my life changed forever.”

She received a call to say he had been stabbed in the early hours and was 10 minutes away when he died.

She told the court: “He was taken from us in the most horrific way possible – suddenly, abruptly, viciously and violently.”

Ms Hanson said she had been unable to grieve for him without justice.

Josh Hanson was murdered in a bar in west London in October 2015. Credit: Metropolitan Police

Brooke Hanson said: “Josh was not just my brother, he was my best friend.”

She said his smile was “infectious” and his presence “magical”.

She told the court she suffered from anxiety and post-traumatic stress, always wondering if she could have protected him from the “evil” that took him away.

Grandmother Mary Hanson said in a statement read on her behalf that at the age of 80, she did not want to carry on when her grandson died.

Josh Hanson was murdered by O'Brien after being slashed with a knife in a bar. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

She wrote: “There is not a day when I don’t think about my grandson. I cry for him every day, what he went through and how he suffered.”

Judge Nigel Lickley QC jailed O’Brien for life with a minimum term of 26 years.

The judge said: “This was a grotesque, violent and totally unnecessary attack on an innocent man.

“The reason why you behaved in such a way may never be fully explained. You, however, know the reason.”

CCTV of the incident, which happened in October 2015. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Having slashed the victim with a blade, O’Brien “calmly" walked away, leaving Mr Hanson to drown in his own blood in front of “shocked and traumatised” friends, the judge said.

There were angry shouts of “coward” from the public gallery as O’Brien was led from the dock.

During his Old Bailey trial, jurors were shown CCTV footage of the attack on roads planner Mr Hanson in the early hours of October 11 2015.

Mr Hanson could be seen clutching his throat and stumbling as his horrified girlfriend watched on.

Shane O'Brien had a tattoo covered to make himself less identifiable. Credit: Metropolitan Police

After leaving the bar, O’Brien got a friend called “Vanessa” to secure a chartered four-seat plane to take him from Biggin Hill Airport to the Netherlands, the court heard.

O’Brien grew long hair and a beard and got a tattoo of his daughter’s name covered over as he used false identity documents to travel to countries including Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

The court was told how he "cried like a baby" while getting the tattoo in Prague.

The artist who inked him, named Thiago, imprinted a large piece on O'Brien's back in 2016 depicting an owl clutching a skull between its talons, concealing the name of one of his children.

He said O'Brien was anxious to have the menacing image completed as quickly as possible and appeared evasive and on edge when asked about his background during small talk.

A statement the tattoo artist gave to police read out at the Old Bailey said: "I asked what he wanted and he said he wanted existing tattoos covered and changed to something completely different.

"He asked for an owl and a skull, it would cover almost his whole back.

"He said he was not staying in Prague for too long."

The pair agreed to do three sittings over three days, lasting around three hours each.

Shane O’Brien drastically changed his appearance to avoid capture by authorities. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Friends helped the boxing and martial arts fan lay low after he was added to Europol and Interpol’s most wanted lists, his trial heard.

Despite being arrested in Prague in 2017 for assault, he slipped through the net after using the alias Enzo Melloncelli and fleeing when released on bail.

O’Brien denied murder, claiming he felt threatened by Mr Hanson’s “very aggressive body language”.

He told jurors he only wanted to scare Mr Hanson and did not mean the blade to make contact.

The court heard O’Brien had two previous convictions for having a blade and had shown no remorse.