Detectives have today released a new image of Shane O'Brien - wanted for the unprovoked murder of Josh Hanson - and announced the reward for finding him has increased to £50,000.
O'Brien, 29 (1.3.88), fled abroad after Josh's murder in Hillingdon in October 2015 and is now known to have changed his appearance. He heads the National Crime Agency’s Most Wanted list and his image has been circulated worldwide.
In February this year he was arrested in Prague for criminal damage and assault. He used the Italian alias of Enzo Mellonceli, supported by false documentation, and was bailed pending further enquiries.
An image taken then shows he has grown his hair and has a full beard and a distinctive new tattoo of an owl holding a skull, which covers up his previous “Shannon 15-04-06” tattoo.
A substantial £50,000 Met Police reward is now on offer for information leading to O'Brien's arrest and prosecution on the second anniversary of Josh’s murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, of the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: "£50,000 is a huge amount of money which demonstrates the Met’s determination and commitment in finding O'Brien and bringing him before the courts.
“Today marks the second anniversary of Josh's brutal and senseless murder and my team, supported by the National Crime Agency, have been working tirelessly to track O'Brien's movements.
"It is clear he is being helped by others to evade police and has the ability to move around without using his own identity. That is why we decided to offer such a large reward - £50,000 is a substantial amount of money and I hope it will encourage someone who moves in O'Brien's circles to come forward. If you have been debating whether to make that call, just listen to the pain in the voices of Josh’s mum Tracey and his sister Brooke. Your silence is denying justice to Josh’s family.
“When arrested in Prague, O’Brien had boxing gloves with him. He uses gyms and will continue to do so I’m sure. Hs new tattoo is so distinctive it should stick in the mind of fellow boxers, or possibly a new partner. I would like to hear from the tattoo artist who covered up his original ‘Shannon 15-04-06’ tattoo, it would have taken several sittings.
"I have the greatest respect for Josh's family who have acted with such dignity and patience during what can only be described as a living nightmare. Tracey and Brooke have been inspirational in leading personal campaigns against knife crime; but of course they are desperate to see the person responsible for Josh's murder brought to justice. When pondering on whether to make that call, imagine the relief your information could give to Josh’s family."
Josh, 21, from Kingsbury, died after an incident at the RE Bar in Field End Road, Eastcote, Hillingdon. Police and the London Ambulance Service attended the bar at around 01:10hrs on 11 October 2015 and Josh was found suffering a serious wound to the neck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A post-mortem examination gave cause of death as haemorrhage, inhalation of blood and an incised wound to the neck.
In an emotional appeal Josh’s mum Tracey today said: “Take a minute and look at your child and imagine your world without him or her…no - neither could have I done before my son was brutally murdered in a totally unprovoked knife attack on 11 October 2015.
“These past 24 months have been a living nightmare, a nightmare that I would not wish on anyone. I nurtured my son from the moment I saw him, held his hand while he took his first steps, handed him his school bag on his first day of school and watched him grow into a bright, capable, funny and loving young man who worked hard and provided for his family. We laughed and cried together and shared our innermost thoughts and secrets; he was my son and he was also my best friend.
“Imagine pouring over photos and small video clips because that is all that is left that can bring you close to almost touching your child, and imagine having to share your pain and your grieving alongside a manhunt. While we grieve Shane O’Brien, the man the police would like to speak to in connection with my son's murder, has yet to be caught and we still wait for justice. Justice for the most heinous crime that my son had to endure and justice to ensure that innocent people are safe.
“I hope and pray that you only ever have to imagine what I have just shared with you and it never becomes your reality because it rips at your soul and your very being.
“Please can you help us, Josh leaves behind a sister and a family who miss and love him very much. Take a moment to look around you and if you think you may have seen O’Brien please call the police. Someone has seen him and all it takes is that one phone call to help us get justice so we can grieve in peace.”
After Josh's murder, O’Brien was flown out of the UK in a privately chartered plane from Biggin Hill Airport. In March 2015 he was added to the Most Wanted list by the National Crime Agency and Crimestoppers. At that time it was believed he could be hiding in the Netherlands. Information later indicated he had travelled to Dubai. He was last seen when arrested in Prague. He had been using the Italian aliases of Enzo Mellonceli and Enzo Machado.
O'Brien, originally from Ladbroke Grove, is described as white and 6ft with grey eyes and dark brown hair. He should not be approached by members of the public - any sightings of him should be reported to police immediately on 999.
Two men have so far been arrested as part of the investigation into Josh's murder.
On Wednesday, 28 October 2015, detectives arrested a 24-year-old man [A] and a 29-year-old man [B] - who were on an inbound flight to the UK - on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.
They were subsequently bailed to return on a date in October pending further enquiries.
Anyone with information about O’Brien or his whereabouts can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org or the police incident room on 020 8785 8099.