ONE of the world’s most wanted men, on the run for three-and-a-half years, was today found guilty of murdering 21-year-old Josh Hanson in an unprovoked attack at a bar in Eastcote.

A jury took just 55 minutes to convict Shane O’Brien, 31, originally from Ladbroke Grove, following a trial at the Old Bailey. Sentencing will take place on Thursday, October 17.

Josh, 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 the subject of a world-wide manhunt before finally being detained in Romania.

Det Chief Insp Noel McHugh, who led the investigation, said: “This is the day I, and certainly Josh’s family, almost feared would never come.

“O’Brien finally convicted of that unprovoked and vicious attack in a bar in Eastcote close to four years ago. And we still do not have a clear answer – why?

“Regardless, the evidence against O’Brien was strong from the start. However, he still denied his guilt and forced Josh’s family to undergo the trauma of a trial. 

“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 documents 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.

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“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 might never be caught.

“Christmases and family celebrations they must endure with an empty seat at the table thanks to one man’s devastating and callous actions.”

Tracey Hanson, said: “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.

“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. We were held up by the thousands of messages of support we received from the public and through social media. For this I will forever be truly thankful. 

“While we continue to navigate through life without Josh, we shall continue to work hard to change the story about knife crime in Josh’s name as we have done since his untimely and unnecessary death.

“We will continue to do all we can to help make positive changes in our society by sharing Josh’s story and helping to educate others about the dangers of carrying a knife.

“Life for us will never be the same without Josh, it is very different from the one that was once familiar to us. If you see a smile on my face know that there will always be sadness behind it.”

The murder:

On Sunday, October 11, 2015, at around 12.45 at night, Josh, who worked seven days a week as a roads planner, and his girlfriend met up with friends at the RE Bar in Field End Road.

O’Brien, who was not known to Josh, had arrived about 15 minutes earlier and was also with friends.

The only interaction between the two groups was when one of O’Brien’s friends briefly spoke to one of Josh’s without incident.

CCTV showed O’Brien sitting on a sofa at the back of the bar just opposite where Josh and his girlfriend and friends were.

At 01.01, O’Brien stood up and navigated a table and other people to reach Josh. O’Brien, at 6ft and powerfully built, towered over 5ft 6in Josh.

Josh, clearly confused by O’Brien’s aggression, 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 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.

He crossed Field End Road towards the junction with Monford Road and got into a small white van driven by a friend that took him to the White City area.

Back in the bar, Josh’s friends tried to hold him as he collapsed on the floor. Others rushed to help, including an off-duty nurse.

An ambulance crew arrived and paramedics battled to save Josh’s life but he died at 1.40hrs.

The aftermath:

A murder investigation was launched under DCI McHugh. CCTV footage was seized, which clearly showed the attack. Detectives were able to scan the footage to identify which drinking cups left on tables O’Brien had used that night.

Two were identified and, from the fingerprints and DNA recovered, a match was established for O’Brien.

Warrants were executed at addresses he was known to frequent in the Ruislip and W10 areas. He was not there, but a number of knives were recovered including two other Stanley knives, a flick knife, a machete and a hatchet.

O’Brien left London around lunchtime that day  and travelled to a holiday park in Camber Sands, Sussex. He had made the arrangements while fleeing the scene in the white van.

Around 7pm, O’Brien and a friend went into a local pub. They returned the following night and, in conversation with bar staff, O’Brien said he had a caravan at Camber Sands.

They then left and went to an Indian restaurant for a meal. CCTV images captured O’Brien cool and relaxed.

On Tuesday, October 13, O’Brien and a friend drove to Ashford Designer Outlet in Kent. They visited several designer shops and O’Brien was caught on camera selecting and trying on shirts and trousers before paying in cash.

He also bought a suitcase and took time to have lunch.

On the Wednesday, staff at the pub O’Brien had visited saw a police Facebook appeal offering a £10,000 reward to trace him and recognised his image. They called police and officers attended.

However, by then O’Brien had fled in a privately-chartered twin-engine propeller plane. Air traffic control records showed its destination was the south east Netherlands, near the German and Belgian borders.

On Thursday, October 22, officers searched the caravan in which O’Brien had been staying and recovered a khaki Canada Goose jacket O’Brien had worn at the RE Bar. Josh’s blood was found on the sleeve, as well as O’Brien’s DNA.

The manhunt:

A manhunt was launched to find O’Brien with the help of the National Crime Agency, Europol and Interpol.

A European Arrest Warrant was obtained in October 2015 and O’Brien subsequently placed on Most Wanted lists across the world.

Rewards for information leading to his arrest and prosecution were raised over time to £50,000.

DCI McHugh, said: “Early on, it was clear O’Brien was a well-resourced and connected individual. With astonishing ease he was able to arrange a trip out of London, a flight out of the UK.

“He had the means and connections to disappear [thanks to] people who would support him with funds and by supplying fake documents.

“This was a case where we needed the public and media to flush him out. The plan was to get O’Brien’s face recognised across the world and make him a liability to those so keen to support him.

“Tracey and Brooke formed an army of helpers to distribute reward posters across the world. We got O’Brien on to Europol and Interpol’s most wanted lists, a first as, previously, dual circulation was not permitted. 

“We had nearly a hundred potential sightings and we followed up every one, from Lidl in London to Luxemburg.

“At one point we believed he was in Dubai and did a lot of work with authorities there to try to track him. He also had links to Spain, France and Ireland. 

“In February 2017 he messed up – getting arrested and bailed in Prague for a minor scuffle in a club.

“It meant we were able to obtain up-to-date images of him, which revealed he’d had a distinctive tattoo on his back covered up by an owl holding a skull. He had a full beard and had grown his hair. He was also using Italian aliases.

“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.”

The breakthrough:

On Thursday, March 21 this year, DCI McHugh was contacted by O’Brien’s solicitor who said his client was considering handing himself in and proposed a meeting in Budapest.

The location was then changed to Romania and urgent inquiries began to try to trace exactly where O’Brien was.

The Romanian authorities were alerted and O’Brien was detained on Saturday, March 23. He was carrying a false Danish passport, false residence permit and driving licences, credit cards in various names and three mobile phones.

O’Brien was extradited to the UK, arriving at Heathrow on Friday, April 5. He was immediately taken to Heathrow police station and charged, appearing in court the following day.