One of Britain’s most wanted men is jailed for ‘savage’ murder

Shane O

One of Britain’s most wanted fugitives finally faced justice for murder today as he he was jailed for at least 26 years after a three-and-a-half year international manhunt.

Shane O’Brien, 31, slashed the neck of Josh Hanson, 21, in an act of ‘pitiless savagery’ at a bar in Hillingdon, West London, 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 over the ‘grotesque’ murder and brought back to Britain in April. 

Josh Hanson

Shane O’Brien (left) killed Josh Hanson (right) in an act of ‘pitiless savagery’ in London in 2015

A video of O’Brien attacking Mr Hanson with a Stanley knife as he drank with his girlfriend was some of the most graphic ever released by the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Hanson’s family had insisted the footage of the ‘act of pitiless savagery’ at the RE Bar in October 2015 was released to warn of the futility of knife crime.

The victim’s mother Tracey and sister Brooke read out emotional victim impact statements as he appeared to be sentenced at the Old Bailey today.

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 October 11, 2015 my life changed forever.’

‘A grotesque, violent and totally unnecessary attack’: Judge condemns murder in sentencing remarks 

Judge Nigel Lickley, QC said: ‘On October 11 2015 you murdered Josh Hanson at about 1am in the RE bar in Eastcote in front of people you knew those that knew Josh Hanson and others.

‘You approached Josh Hanson who was standing with his girlfriend and you slashed him using a razor sharp Stanley knife from his left ear across his neck causing a wound 37cm long that gaped to about 85cm wide.

‘You had asked him what was his problem. The wound caused bleeding to his neck, you cut his windpipe and as a result he died as blood entered his airways.

‘He died in effect from drowning in his own blood. You walked away and left Josh Hanson to die in front of his shocked and traumatised friends.

‘Josh Hanson did not know you, he had done nothing to provoke any reaction form you let alone violence of this sort.

‘Your account that he had threatened you with looks and gestures was, even if true, incapable of amounting to any justification for the way you acted.

‘Your assertion that the injuries were caused by accident was rejected by the jury. [Josh Hanson] had not seen you holding the knife in your hand, he can have had no idea what you were about to do.

‘This was a grotesque, violent and totally unnecessary attack on an innocent man. The reason why you behaved such a way may never be explained. You however know why you did.

‘It is clear from when you looked up at the CCTV camera you had formed the intention to stab Josh Hanson.

‘Josh Hanson did not react to your question, you then raised your hand and cut him across his body in one downward, rapid and forceful action.

‘Having injured Josh you walked calmly away folding the knife as you left. You showed no feeling for Josh Hanson or anyone else you left behind. You knew you had killed him.

‘Thereafter you were looked after and supported, you were driven to Camber Sands by a friend. You bought new clothes and left the UK in a private aircraft. You stayed away from the UK using false identity documents til earlier this year. 

‘You lived life as a fugitive, funded and supported no doubt.

‘You went to extreme lengths to alter your appearance disguising a tattoo of your children’s names by a new tattoo of a skull and a bird when you were in the Czech Republic.

‘Josh Hanson was a popular man, he loved life and was loved and he had his entire life ahead of him. He was generous and supportive, he excelled in his work the court has heard from people who loved Josh Hanson.

‘They spoke of how they struggled with realisation that Josh was killed by you for no reason at all. His mother, sister and grandmother have spoken with great dignity in these difficult circumstances.

‘Words cannot express the hurt and damage you have caused. You murdered Josh Hanson in front of people who were enjoying their night out. One witness, an off-duty nurse who had been dancing with friends went to help.

‘This death was particularly unpleasant and distinguishes it from other deaths caused by knives. It amounts to a random attack on an otherwise pleasant evening.

‘Josh Hanson stood up and was acting unusually in confusion because of he was injured. One witness was too traumatised to give evidence in person.

‘You evaded the criminal justice system and denied the family the trial they were to ave you prolonged their suffering. You remained at large and an international police manhunt was launched to try and find you.’

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.

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.’

Mr Hanson had only glanced at O’Brien and had not even spoken to him, but the killer claimed he was ‘intimidated’ when he saw the victim standing at the bar, talking to his his friends.

He approached Mr Hanson and slashed him from his ear to his chest before calmly leaving the club as the victim died by drowning in his own blood. 

The next day he bought some designer clothes and a suitcase from Factory Store before flying to the Netherlands from Biggin Hill Airport in Kent.

Police later found the blood-stained Canada Goose jacket he wore when he killed Mr Hanson in a caravan at the Camber Sands Holiday Park.

They put up a £50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest as O’Brien changed his appearance by growing a beard and getting a huge tattoo of a skull and an owl on his back to cover his daughter’s name.

He used false identity documents to travel to countries including Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic but was finally arrested in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, in March this year and extradited to the UK after three and half years on the run. 

An Old Bailey jury took just 55 minutes to unanimously convict O’Brien of murdering Mr Hanson after a two-week trial.

O’Brien sat stony-faced in the dock and showed no emotion as he was jailed for life with a minimum term of 26 years.

Judge Nigel Lickley, QC, sentencing, told the killer: ‘On October 11, 2015 you murdered Josh Hanson at about 1am in the RE bar in Eastcote in front of people you knew those that knew Josh Hanson and others.

‘You approached Josh Hanson who was standing with his girlfriend and you slashed him using a razor sharp Stanley knife from his left ear across his neck causing a wound 37cm long that gaped to about 85cm wide. 

‘You had asked him what was his problem. The wound caused bleeding to his neck, you cut his windpipe and as a result he died as blood entered his airways.

‘He died in effect from drowning in his own blood. You walked away and left Josh Hanson to die in front of his shocked and traumatised friends.

‘Josh Hanson did not know you, he had done nothing to provoke any reaction form you let alone violence of this sort.

‘Your account that he had threatened you with looks and gestures was, even if true, incapable of amounting to any justification for the way you acted. 

‘Your assertion that the injuries were caused by accident was rejected by the jury. [Josh Hanson] had not seen you holding the knife in your hand, he can have had no idea what you were about to do.

‘This was a grotesque, violent and totally unnecessary attack on an innocent man. The reason why you behaved such a way may never be explained. You however know why you did. 

O'Brien became Britain's most wanted man after he got a plane abroad and went on the run

Mr Hanson’s mother, Tracey, standing with his sister Brooke, at the Old Bailey on October 1

‘It is clear from when you looked up at the CCTV camera you had formed the intention to stab Josh Hanson.

‘Josh Hanson did not react to your question, you then raised your hand and cut him across his body in one downward, rapid and forceful action. 

‘Having injured Josh you walked calmly away folding the knife as you left. You showed no feeling for Josh Hanson or anyone else you left behind. You knew you had killed him.

‘Thereafter you were looked after and supported, you were driven to Camber Sands by a friend. You bought new clothes and left the UK in a private aircraft.

After the stabbing in London, 1 on the map, O'Brien fled to Kent, 2, and flew to the Netherlands, 3, before visiting Germany, 4, Belgium, 5, and being arrested in the Czech Republic, 6. He then headed for Romania, 7, before being sent back to the UK

After the stabbing in London, 1 on the map, O’Brien fled to Kent, 2, and flew to the Netherlands, 3, before visiting Germany, 4, Belgium, 5, and being arrested in the Czech Republic, 6. He then headed for Romania, 7, before being sent back to the UK 

‘You stayed away from the UK using false identity documents til earlier this year. You lived life as a fugitive, funded and supported no doubt.

‘You went to extreme lengths to alter your appearance disguising a tattoo of your children’s names by a new tattoo of a skull and a bird when you were in the Czech Republic. 

‘Josh Hanson was a popular man, he loved life and was loved and he had his entire life ahead of him.

‘He was generous and supportive, he excelled in his work the court has heard from people who loved Josh Hanson.

The RE bar in Hillingdon, West London, is pictured in October 2015 after Mr Hanson's death

The RE bar in Hillingdon, West London, is pictured in October 2015 after Mr Hanson’s death 

‘They spoke of how they struggled with realisation that Josh was killed by you for no reason at all.

‘His mother, sister and grandmother have spoken with great dignity in these difficult circumstances.

‘Words cannot express the hurt and damage you have caused. You murdered Josh Hanson in front of people who were enjoying their night out.

‘One witness, an off-duty nurse who had been dancing with friends went to help. This death was particularly unpleasant and distinguishes it from other deaths caused by knives.

‘It amounts to a random attack on an otherwise pleasant evening. Josh Hanson stood up and was acting unusually in confusion because of he was injured.

‘One witness was too traumatised to give evidence in person. You evaded the criminal justice system and denied the family the trial they were to ave you prolonged their suffering.

‘You remained at large and an international police manhunt was launched to try and find you.’

The public gallery was packed with 36 friends and family members of the victim, with one man screaming: ‘F***ing kill yourself you f***ing little c**t, I’ll smash your f***ing face in’ as O’Brien was led away.

The victim's family today released photos of Josh in his youth and before his tragic death

The victim's family today released photos of Josh in his youth and before his tragic death

The victim’s family released photos of Mr Hanson in his youth and before his tragic death

Mark Heywood, QC, prosecuting, said: ‘Their paths crossed only briefly and for a period of seconds or a few minutes at most.

Mr Hanson (pictured) had glanced at O'Brien and had not even spoken to him, the court heard

Mr Hanson (pictured) had glanced at O’Brien and had not even spoken to him, the court heard

‘As they spoke briefly, with others around them, the defendant reached for his blade and with a single, slashing downward motion, he used it. He quite simply cut the throat of the man he was facing.

‘The prosecution will describe it as an act of pitiless savagery.’

O’Brien claimed his group went to the RE bar, after watching England play Uruguay in the Rugby World Cup and Mr Hanson immediately became hostile towards him.

‘From his posture I would describe him as raring to go, I felt he was ready to attack me. It kept getting worse and worse. It just seemed like something was going to happen.

‘He was smirking at me in a way what I would describe as, ‘If only you knew what is about to happen to you.’ That’s what I would describe it as – looks, discreet aggressive conversations directed at us.

Mr Hanson's sister Brooke is pictured outside the Old Bailey

His mother Tracey is pictured outside the same court

Mr Hanson’s sister Brooke (left) and mother Tracey (right) outside the Old Bailey

‘Josh did not take his eyes off me. The whole time he’s focused on me very aggressively.’

O’Brien told how he took out a Stanley knife he bought that day to open cardboard boxes and claimed he only meant to scare Mr Hanson with it.

‘I approached him, in that split second it felt like it froze, that moment froze for a second when I made that action, I didn’t mean to connect in any way, I meant to scare him off.’ 

Graham Trembath, QC, defending O’Brien, said: ‘It must be hard to imagine what on earth was going on in Shane O’Brien’s head that night because there was no suggestion that he and Josh had ever met before.

O'Brien grabbed the knife from the right pocket of his designer Canada Goose jacket before slashing Mr Hanson's throat, neck and chest in a single motion

O’Brien grabbed the knife from the right pocket of his designer Canada Goose jacket before slashing Mr Hanson’s throat, neck and chest in a single motion

‘To say the red mist came down is an understatement – it is simply incredible. But we do submit that it must be difficult to say there was an intent to kill.’

O’Brien, of no fixed address, denied but was convicted of murder. He was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 26 years.

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, from Scotland Yard, described the hunt for O’Brien as ‘hugely challenging’.

He said: ‘He was funded, provided with false documents, encrypted mobile phones, well beyond the capability of the ordinary criminal.’