Shane O'Brien: Britain's most-wanted fugitive sentenced to life in prison

23 October 2019, 11:14 | Updated: 23 October 2019, 15:22

One of Britain's most-wanted fugitives has been sentenced to life in prison after leading authorities on a three-and-a-half year international manhunt.

Shane O'Brien, 31, will serve a minimum term of 26 years for the murder of Josh Hanson.

O'Brien fled the country after slashing the neck of Hanson, 21, in an "act of pitiless savagery" at a west London bar.

Judge Nigel Lickley QC described it as a "grotesque, violent and totally unnecessary attack on an innocent man".

There were shouts of "you f****** coward" from the public gallery as O'Brien was sentenced.

The father-of-two hid his identity and used false travel documents to evade authorities until his arrest in Romania earlier this year.

He was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey this month.

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of the attack, which occurred in the early hours of 11 October 2015.

The court heard O'Brien approached Mr Hanson as the bar was closing and asked "What's your problem?" before pulling a knife from his jacket and slashing his victim.

Mr Hanson, a council worker, was seen stumbling and clutching his throat after O'Brien inflicted a 37cm wound from his left ear to right chest.

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O'Brien then calmly left the bar and got a friend, known as "Vanessa", to organise a private plane to take him to the Netherlands.

The judge said Mr Hanson was left to drown in his own blood in front of "shocked and traumatised" friends.

Mr Hanson's mother, Tracey, and sister Brooke tearfully read out victim impact statements in court as O'Brien was sentenced.

Tracey Hanson said her son was taken away "in the most horrific way possible - suddenly, abruptly, viciously and violently".

She described him as a "considerate, kind and generous" man and said her "life changed forever" when he was killed.

Ms Hanson had been 10 minutes away when her son died in the early hours of the morning.

Brooke Hanson said: "Josh was not just my brother, he was my best friend."

She told the court she had suffered from anxiety and post-traumatic stress, 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 she did not want to carry on after 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."

Following the killing, O'Brien's friends helped him to lay low after he was added to both Europol and Interpol's most wanted lists.

The fugitive grew long hair and a beard and covered over a tattoo of his child's name in an effort to hide his identity.

He travelled through Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic while evading authorities.

O'Brien managed to slip through the net even after being arrested for assault in Prague in 2017, when he used the alias Enzo Melloncelli and skipped bail.

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh said O'Brien was "funded, provided with false documents, encrypted mobile phones, well beyond the capability of the ordinary criminal".

O'Brien claimed he only wanted to "pretend to attack" Mr Hanson to "scare him", saying he "did not mean to touch him with that blade".

The court heard O'Brien had shown no remorse for his actions and had two previous convictions for carrying a blade.