Victim’s mother describes ‘nightmare’ after most wanted killer jailed for life
A woman has described her living “nightmare” after her son’s killer was finally brought to justice following three-and-a-half years on the run.
Shane O’Brien became one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives after he slashed the neck of 21-year-old Josh Hanson in a bar in west London.
Police launched an international manhunt but O’Brien, 31, continued to evade police until he was arrested in Romania and brought back to Britain in April.
During his Old Bailey trial, jurors were shown graphic CCTV footage of the attack on roads planner Mr Hanson in the early hours of October 11 2015.
The jury deliberated for 55 minutes to find O’Brien guilty of murder and on Wednesday he was jailed for life with a minimum term of 26 years.
Judge Nigel Lickley QC 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.”
Having slashed Mr Hanson with a blade, O’Brien “calmly” walked away, leaving his victim to drown in his own blood in front of “shocked and traumatised” friends, the judge said.
Speaking outside court, Mr Hanson’s campaigning mother, Tracey Hanson, 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.
Earlier in a victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Hanson had tearfully described her son as “considerate, kind and generous”.
She told the court: “On the 11th October 2015 my life changed forever.”
“He was taken from us in the most horrific way possible – suddenly, abruptly, viciously and violently.”
His sister Brooke said: “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.”
The officer said the family had asked for “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 the 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.”
During the trial, jurors watched footage of Mr Hanson being stabbed in front of his horrified girlfriend.
He was seen to clutch his throat and stumble as blood poured out of a 14.5in (37cm) wound extending from his left ear to right chest.
Afterwards, 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.
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 that O’Brien had two previous convictions for having a blade and had shown no remorse.
There were angry shouts of “Coward” from the public gallery as O’Brien was led from the dock.