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One of Britain's most wanted fugitives convicted of murder following international manhunt

Shane O’Brien slashed 21-year-old Josh Hanson’s neck at a west London bar in 2015.

Shane O'Brien
Shane O'Brien
Image: Metropolitan Police via PA Images

ONE OF BRITAIN’S most wanted fugitives has been convicted of murder after a three-and-a-half-year international manhunt.

Shane O’Brien slashed 21-year-old Josh Hanson’s neck in an act of “pitiless savagery” at a west London bar before fleeing the country in a private plane in 2015.

Council worker Hanson clutched his neck as his horrified girlfriend watched blood pour out of a 37cm gaping wound from his left ear to right chest.

Father-of-two O’Brien then calmly walked out of RE Bar in Hillingdon in the early hours of 11 October before enlisting the help of a friend called Vanessa to secure a private four-seat plane to take him from Biggin Hill airport to the Netherlands, the Old Bailey heard.

Irish links

The 31-year-old grew long hair and a beard and got the tattoo of his child’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 avoid authorities after he was added to both Europol and Interpol’s most wanted lists, his trial heard.

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.

Met Police Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, who led the homicide investigation at Specialist Crime, said that early on in the investigation it was clear that O’Brien was a “well-resourced and connected individual”. 

“He had the means and connections to disappear, people who would support him with funds and by supplying fake documentation,” McHugh said. 

He added that the Met Police had “nearly a hundred potential sightings” of O’Brien. 

“At one point we believed he was in Dubai and did a lot of work with authorities there to try to track him,” McHugh said. 

He also had links to Spain, France and Ireland.

“The work that went into trying to track him around the world was exceptional and I have nothing but thanks and praise for colleagues in the Met, the NCA and all those involved, including media here and abroad who carried so many of our appeals.” 

Convicted

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

At bar closing time, he approached Hanson, asking him “what’s your problem?” before pulling the knife from a pocket of his Canada Goose jacket and fatally slashing his victim.

O’Brien claimed he wanted only to “pretend to attack” 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 jurors convicted him of murder after 55 minutes of deliberations.

He will be sentenced by judge Nigel Lickley QC on 17 October.

After an international manhunt O’Brien was finally arrested in Romania on 23 March and brought back to Britain on 5 April.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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