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26-year minimum for ‘most wanted’ killer who slashed victim’s neck in bar

Shane O’Brien slashed the neck of Josh Hanson in an act of ‘pitiless savagery’ before fleeing the UK in a private plane.

Shane O’Brien (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Shane O’Brien (Metropolitan Police/PA)

By Emily Pennink, PA Old Bailey Correspondent

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.

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.

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Josh Hanson (Metropolitan Police/PA)

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.

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Josh Hanson’s mother Tracey and sister Brooke outside the Old Bailey (Ryan Hooper/PA)

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.

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.”

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CCTV of the incident (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 blood pour out of a 37cm (14.5in) wound from his left ear to right chest.

After calmly 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.

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Shane O’Brien (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.

Speaking outside court, Mr Hanson’s mother said: “This is a mother’s worst nightmare and one I will never wake up from.

“My son was taken from me in the cruellest way possible. I will never hold him again. Nothing could ever be said in a courtroom to address that, but today’s sentence goes some way to giving us the space we need to start to breathe.

“I can never move on. I can only move forwards. Josh’s memory will live on not only in our hearts but through the Josh Hanson Trust the charity we set up in his name.

“If we can save one life, keep one son by his mother’s side, ensure one person gets home safely when they otherwise wouldn’t have, then we will have made the world a more bearable place. Josh rest in peace. Thank you.”

His sister Brooke added: “I just want to say thank you to everyone that has done everything for Josh the last four years.

“If it stops another innocent young man from being killed on the streets then something good has come out of today.”

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, of Scotland Yard, described O’Brien as a “wicked individual” and “a knife carrier who clearly does not think twice about using it”.

Reacting to the sentence, he told the PA news agency: “We have had four years from the day Josh was murdered, three and a half years hunting Shane O’Brien.

“I am pleased for Josh’s family. I’m pleased that Shane O’Brien is going be in prison for 26 years, a significant amount of time he is going to be away and quite rightly so when you look at the barbaric attack he carried out on Josh in that bar.

“He stood no chance. Within five seconds of Shane O’Brien’s actions, Josh paid with his life.

“Here we had video of Josh being murdered and dying and it’s horrendous to look at.

“Although it takes five seconds, it feels like it is in slow motion. It’s incomprehensible to see someone die in front of you. Difficult for us as police officers but one can only try and imagine what that’s like for a family.”

He said the family had asked for the “brutal” CCTV footage of the attack to be released to bring home the reality of knife crime.

He said: “What Tracey and Brooke and all the other families who end up being at the Old Bailey through other people’s actions are trying to get across is, it is real. You are ruining families, ruining communities, you are ruining your own life.

“If you look at that pain, will it stop people from carrying weapons? We already know from Tracey’s work with charity some young people say they have been encouraged and supported from not being engaged in that knife crime activity.”

PA

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