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Britain’s most wanted fugitive guilty of murdering ‘always innocent’ young man

The family of 21-year-old Josh Hanson said he ‘got some justice’ after the verdict.

Shane O’Brien has been convicted of murder (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Shane O’Brien has been convicted of murder (Metropolitan Police/PA)

By Thomas Hornall and Emily Pennink, PA

The mother and sister of a young man murdered by one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives have said he is “always with us” even though they can “never, ever bring him home”.

Tracey and Brooke Hanson hugged friends and wiped away tears after Shane O’Brien was convicted at the Old Bailey of killing 21-year-old Josh Hanson following a three-and-a-half year international manhunt.

O’Brien, 31, slashed the neck of roads planner Mr Hanson in an act of “pitiless savagery” at a west London bar before fleeing the UK in a private plane in 2015.

Mr Hanson’s sister Brooke told reporters outside court on Tuesday: “My innocent brother got some justice today.

“I can never, ever bring him home. But I love you Josh and I know you’re here and I know you can hear us and we hope we’ve done you proud.”

His mother Tracey added: “We love you Josh, you know that though because you’re always with us, especially today.

“For us, for nearly four years, every day has been a challenge. It’s been a living nightmare.

“Today there are no more shadows cast upon my son, he is innocent, he was always innocent.”

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Murder victim Josh Hanson (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Mrs Hanson drew attention to the prevalence of knife crime, saying she wanted to “make sure that life-changing experiences that happen to families such as ours don’t go forgotten, they’re not left by the wayside, they’re not yesterday’s news.”

O’Brien, 6ft and powerfully built, slashed 5ft 6ins Mr Hanson without warning at the RE Bar in Hillingdon in the early hours of October 11.

CCTV played in court showed Mr Hanson clutching his throat and stumbling as his horrified girlfriend watched blood pour out of a 37cm (14.5ins) gaping wound from his left ear to right chest.

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The RE bar in west London where Shane O’Brien attacked Josh Hanson (Metropolitan Police/PA)

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 Old Bailey heard.

The father-of-two grew long hair and a beard and got the 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.

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

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A tattoo on Shane O’Brien’s back (Metropolitan Police/PA)

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

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, from Scotland Yard, described the hunt for O’Brien as “hugely challenging”, saying: “He was funded, provided with false documents, encrypted mobile phones, well beyond the capability of the ordinary criminal.”

O’Brien told jurors he had felt threatened by Mr Hanson’s “very aggressive body language” on the night, saying he felt the council worker was “ready to attack me” and may have been armed.

He claimed he had wanted only to “pretend to attack” Mr Hanson with the blade to “scare him”, adding: “From the bottom of my heart, I did not mean to touch him with that blade.”

But he showed no emotion as jurors convicted him of murder after 55 minutes of deliberations.

Mrs Hanson added: “I have always believed that justice would be served.

“There are no words. There really aren’t enough words in the dictionary to reflect how we feel.”

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

Mr McHugh added: “A very dangerous individual has been found guilty of the murder of a young man who went out that night for nothing more than a few pints with his friends.

“Shane O’Brien had a very powerful build, he’s over 6ft. Josh was 5ft 6ins. He had real reach, real power about him.

“The way that he painted his version of events was very manipulative and controlling.

“Josh never stood a chance that night.”

O’Brien will be sentenced by judge Nigel Lickley QC on October 17.

He was finally arrested in Romania on March 23 and brought back to Britain on April 5.

PA

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