BY YANN TEAR
A killer who went on the run for three-and-a-half years is finally behind bars after a painstaking manhunt which involved a worldwide search.
The Met described Shane O’Brien as “one of the world’s most wanted men”.
He denied killing 21-year-old Josh Hanson in an unprovoked attack at a bar in Eastcote, but an Old Bailey jury took just 55 minutes on Tuesday to return a guilty verdict on the murder charge.
O’Brien, 31, and originally from Ladbroke Grove, will be sentenced on Thursday, October 17.
Mr Hanson, from Kingsbury, died after his throat was slashed during a night out with friends – O’Brien then chartered a private plane to leave the country and was subject to a widespread manhunt before finally being detained in Romania.
Josh’s mum, Tracey Hanson, said: “On October 11, 2015 our lives changed forever when I received a phone call in the early hours of the morning to tell me that Josh had been stabbed in the neck.
“While (Josh’s sister) Brooke and I were making our way to the RE Bar in Eastcote, we were told that Josh was dead.
We were 10 minutes away so we never got the opportunity to say goodbye.
I was denied my place as Josh’s mum as he lay on the cold floor alone, I could not hold him in my arms to comfort or reassure him, if only to give him hope that everything would be ok.
“The aftermath of Josh’s murder has left us broken beyond repair as Josh was taken from us in the most horrific way possible, suddenly, abruptly, viciously and violently, and nothing will ever erase the CCTV footage of Josh’s final moments from our minds as he was struck with a knife so horrifically and callously, along with his suffering as he tried to fight for his life.
“During the most challenging time of our lives our faith in humanity did not leave us as we were held up by the thousands of messages of support that we received from the public and through social media, and for this I will forever be truly thankful.
“Today after nearly four years and shy of two weeks before Josh’s fourth year anniversary, justice was served.
“The last time I spoke to my son was on the phone at 10.30pm that evening and at the end of the phone call we said ‘I love you’ to one another, the way we had always ended our conversations.”
At the bar the killer stood up and navigated a table and other people to reach his target.
O’Brien, at 6ft and powerfully built, towered over 5ft 6ins Mr Hanson. Clearly confused by O’Brien’s aggression, he didn’t react. O’Brien said something like: “What’s your problem?”
As he spoke he put his hand in his right pocket and pulled out a Stanley knife. Keeping it down by his thigh, he opened the blade.
Five seconds later he raised his hand and with considerable force slashed it down across Josh’s ear, throat and chest, causing a 37cm gaping wound and catastrophic injuries.
O’Brien paused for a moment, almost to confirm his actions had had the desired effect, before lowering his arm to conceal the weapon. He then turned, folded up the Stanley knife, and walked calmly and purposefully towards the exit.
Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, who led the homicide investigation at Specialist Crime, said: “O’Brien is an extremely dangerous individual who murdered a young man in the prime of his life in a packed bar for no reason whatsoever.
Well supported by ‘associates’, O’Brien fled the country in a private plane.
Those associates then helped him with funds, false documentation and accommodation during a three-and-a-half year manhunt.
“I have been privileged to witness unwavering commitment and truly brilliant and innovative work by the entire policing community across the world to track O’Brien’s movements, leading finally to his detention in Romania.
“At the centre of this tragic story are Josh’s mum Tracey and sister Brooke, who have remained focused and dignified throughout.
It is a miracle they can get up each day and we can only imagine what they have endured, losing their beacon Josh, followed by years of uncertainty, fearing O’Brien may never be caught.”