Detectives investigating the brutal murder of Josh Hanson have renewed appeals to find chief suspect Shane O’Brien on the third anniversary of the 21-year-old’s death.
Josh, from Kingsbury, died after an unprovoked incident at the RE Bar on Field End Road in Eastcote in October 2015, with O'Brien fleeing the country via private plane immediately afterwards. Detectives believe he is being helped by criminal associates who are providing him with money, false identifies and the means to move across borders.
Over the last three years, the investigation team at the Homicide and Major Crime Command, led by Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, have worked tirelessly to trace O’Brien and follow up every lead alongside the National Crime Agency.
However, he has yet to be caught despite a £50,000 reward being on offer for information leading to his arrest and prosecution and being placed on a Global Most Wanted list.
Earlier this week, Josh’s mother wore a sandwich board with details of her son’s murder at Waterloo Station and then Victoria Station to appeal to travellers to keep their eyes open for any possible sightings of O’Brien. She will be at Paddington Station on Thursday, 11 October.
DCI McHugh, said: “For Josh’s family, the last three years - more than 1,000 days and nights without Josh - have been horrendous. No words adequately describe the pain they are going through. His mum Tracey and sister Brooke have to live on a daily basis with the frustration and ongoing disappointment that as yet O’Brien evades capture.
“The determination of Josh’s family to do all they can to help raise awareness is inspiring and I am so proud of Tracey for putting herself among commuters so people can see first-hand what she is going through. It is so cruel that the silence of a few people is torturing her daily. Josh is the last thing on her mind when she goes to bed and the first thing she thinks about when she wakes up. It is wicked that she is being put through this pain. One call could allow Tracey and Brooke to start grieving.
“Since O’Brien’s escape, we have been working tirelessly to track him across the world with the help of the NCA. As well as our proactive appeals, a huge amount of work has been going on behind the scenes. Three years may have passed but our resolve to track down O’Brien is undiminished.
“We know that O’Brien is being supported but that does not mean he cannot be found. Sharing our ‘wanted’ poster as wide and far as possible, I believe we are making it more and more difficult for those helping O'Brien to remain hidden and there will come a point where they will see him as a liability and they will make that anonymous call.”
O'Brien was placed on Interpol's Most Wanted list in May 2018. A number of sightings were reported to police and the National Crime Agency, which is working abroad to track down O'Brien. Those sightings were thoroughly investigated but all lines of enquiry have now drawn to a close and officers continue to need the public’s help.
Efforts have been focused on France, Spain, the Netherlands and Dubai but with means at his disposal, he could be anywhere.
DCI McHugh, said: "The public have been brilliant and I can’t thank them enough for supporting our appeals and doing what they can to help Josh’s family.
“But we really need people to keep up the momentum and keep their eyes open wherever they are in the world. Please don't be discouraged by the fact some potential sightings have been investigated and discounted - we want to hear from anyone and everyone who thinks they see O'Brien or has any information no matter how small. We could be a single phone call away from catching him.
"The number one thing we need people to do is save our wanted poster to their phones and share with others. It means you have all the information you need to hand; if you are abroad and think you see O'Brien tell local police or call the National Crime Agency's public line on 0370 496 7622, which is staffed 24 hours a day, immediately - it is really important we are able to act quickly."
Josh, 21, from Kingsbury, died on 11 October 2015. Police and the London Ambulance Service attended the RE bar at around 01:10hrs 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.
O'Brien was flown out of the UK in a privately chartered plane from Biggin Hill Airport, landing in Germany. In March 2016 he was added to the Most Wanted list by the National Crime Agency and Crimestoppers and his image circulated worldwide. At that time it was believed he could be hiding in the Netherlands. Information later indicated he had travelled to Dubai. He was elevated to Europe's Most Wanted and placed on Europol's list and later added to Interpol's Most Wanted list
In February 2017, he was arrested in Prague. He used the Italian alias of Enzo Mellonceli, supported by false documentation, and was bailed pending further enquiries.
An image taken then shows O’Brien had changed his appearance – he had grown his hair and had a full beard and a distinctive new tattoo of an owl holding a skull, covering up his previous "Shannon 15-04-06" tattoo.
Officers believe he was in Prague for at least seven months and carried out extensive appeals there to try to build up a picture of his lifestyle. They know he has an interest in boxing, gyms and nightclubs and may have been involved with a number of women – officers are asking anyone who can help to come forward in confidence and in particular keep looking for O’Brien’s eye-catching tattoo. O'Brien, originally from Ladbroke Grove, also has grey eyes and dark brown hair and is 6ft tall.
Josh’s mum Tracey, said: “Three years without Josh have been unimaginable and I have not even started to grieve.
“I am asked ‘where do you get your strength from?’ Every time I do an appeal, it takes a bit more from me and it hurts so badly. How long will I continue? Well, there will be no end, my family and I are going to get louder and more creative until we get justice for Josh.
“I struggle to look at the picture of Shane O’Brien and the tattoo on the poster and for the past three years these images have taken over my life. It’s incredibly distressing that tomorrow is the anniversary of Josh’s murder and O’Brien is still at large. I find it astonishing how Europe’s and now Interpol’s most wanted man can be so elusive, or well networked, as the police say.
“More than 40,000 posters have been requested worldwide and over the past two days alone we have handed out 8,000 posters, in addition I have taken the extraordinary step of wearing a sandwich board outside major London transport hubs. I have the face of the man the police want to speak to in relation to my son’s murder close to my heart………..that cannot be right! Moreover, I have to do this because he has not been caught.
“But the sandwich board is working - we have made great connections with the public and they have taken leaflets and they will be sharing the online poster. Sadly, the public report back to me that despite the efforts of Interpol and the National Crime Agency, there are countries where the police are unaware of the appeal poster, that’s a surprise and deeply troubling.
“I would like to thank the public for their support and ask that they continue to call the police if they think that they have information that might help their investigation. Information no matter how old it is, is relevant, so please don’t worry about making that call.
“The public are and always have been amazing. For Josh, please do one thing right now, not in 10 minutes, because something else will have come across your screen, right now attach the PDF poster to your Facebook and other social media and share it far and wide. You could be the person who opens up an opportunity for the investigation, so please share widely throughout the world.
“If you’re contemplating whether to call the police, look at what I have been reduced to – you could change things so dramatically for my family. As a mum, please make that call.”
Two men have so far been arrested as part of the investigation into Josh's murder.
On 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. Both were later released with no further action.
Anyone with information about O'Brien or his whereabouts can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org, the police incident room on 020 8785 8099 or the National Crime Agency's public line on 0370 496 7622, which is staffed 24 hours a day.