Detectives investigating the violent and unprovoked murder of Josh Hanson are appealing for information following possible sightings of the chief suspect as he is placed on a world-wide Most Wanted list.
An appeal in October, to mark two years since Josh’s tragic death, prompted a number of people to come forward with possible information about Shane O’Brien and detectives have been working hard since then to gather more information.
O’Brien, 30 (1.03.88), fled the UK immediately after Josh’s murder at the RE Bar in Eastcote and has been on the run ever since. Last week, he was placed on Interpol's Most Wanted list which has world-wide coverage. A £50,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to O'Brien's arrest and prosecution.
Three days after October's appeal, information was received that a man matching O’Brien’s description had been seen in central Prague on several occasions; the last time around mid-September 2017.
Detectives know O’Brien had been in Prague as he was arrested there in February last year for criminal damage and assault and now believe he was in the city for at least seven months. Extensive appeals have been carried out in Prague to try to build up a picture of his lifestyle.
Another person came forward to say O’Brien may have been in Gibraltar around the same time. Information was also received that O’Brien may have been in Nice in early November.
A great deal of work has been carried out, with the help of the National Crime Agency, around all these sightings to gather further information.
Investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: “Were these sightings of Shane O’Brien? We know he has been travelling extensively since Josh’s murder and has the ability to move around without using his own identity with the help of others.
“Based on what we know about O’Brien’s lifestyle and interests, we are looking to people in nightclubs and boxing gyms as well as ex-pats and any women he may have become involved with to come forward. Those who have been in close proximity to him may well have seen his distinctive and rather poor quality cover-up tattoo of a owl holding a skull. As always, any calls we receive with information will be dealt with in the upmost confidence.
“Please do not assume that someone else will call in; what you perceive to be a small piece of information could in fact be the missing piece of the jigsaw that gets justice for Josh.
“After more than two-and-a-half years, some may feel that will we never catch O’Brien. But with the work that has and continues to be done, I believe we are making it more and more difficult for those supporting and 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. It is hugely significant that he is now included on Interpol’s world-wide Most Wanted list, it is about reducing O’Brien’s options.
“I would urge the public to remain vigilant wherever they are in the world. I am going to ask that we all save the poster to our phones and share it as widely as possible, especially when out of the UK or with colleagues, family or friends abroad. If you think you see O’Brien, please make that call immediately – I can’t emphasis enough how important it is for us to move quickly. The best number to call is the National Crime Agency’s public line on 0370 496 7622, which is staffed 24 hours a day.
“As well as contacting the NCA, please also inform local police so they can act immediately – show them the poster saved on your phone.
“Of course, in an emergency always call 999 - O’Brien is dangerous and should not be approached. A substantial reward of £50,000 remains on offer for information leading to his arrest and prosecution.”
DCI McHugh added that he is keen to also hear from those involved with the private aircraft industry.
He said: “O’Brien left the UK in a privately chartered plane. Has he chartered more planes as he moves around the world - are you that pilot or ground crew who has seen O’Brien?
“Obviously he will not be travelling under his own name but O’Brien has an air about him, a presence he will struggle to conceal. I’d ask private pilots for both planes and helicopters and those involved in the aircraft industry to keep their eyes and ears open. Equally O'Brien could be using ports and private boats. Please circulate the appeal poster as wide and far as possible and into any communications that you have. The posters have a QR code so everyone can save them easily to their phones. Imagine how powerful it could be if everyone travelling had an eye out for O’Brien.
“As always I am indebted to the public for the support they have and continue to provide. Everyone wants to give Josh’s mum Tracey and his sister Brooke the news they so desperately need to hear. As the months go by, the lack of justice only adds to their heartbreak.”
Josh, 21, from Kingsbury, died after an incident at the RE Bar in Field End Road, Eastcote. 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.
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 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 last week also 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 he 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.
DCI McHugh said: "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 still like to hear from the tattoo artist who covered up his original ‘Shannon 15-04-06’ tattoo, it would have taken several sittings.
“There is a very large reward on offer for bringing O’Brien before the courts but more than that I hope people will be motivated by a need to help Josh’s family. Josh was an amazing young man with his whole life ahead of him and Tracey and Brooke miss him desperately. They need to see O’Brien bought to justice.”
Josh's mum Tracey, and sister Brooke, said: "We have lived for two years and seven months without Josh but we still have hope that we will get justice for him. Imagine if together, we could get justice for Josh. Well I believe we can, I believe that by sharing the wanted poster, home and away, justice will be ours in a matter of time. Brooke and I count down the days, hours and minutes hoping and praying that we receive a call to tell us that Shane O’Brien has been arrested, so that we can grieve and mourn Josh in peace. Our lives will never be the same without Josh and I would not wish our living nightmare on anyone, it is a pain that no words alone can describe.
"Now with O'Brien on Interpol’s Most Wanted list we encourage people from all over the world to get in touch for a copy of the Metropolitan Police Wanted Poster, which currently has a £50,000 reward on offer for information leading to his arrest and prosecution.
"We need your help, can you please share the wanted poster, if you are going on holiday or if your local shops are happy to display it, please ask and we will send them out to you. If you can help us please get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @JusticeforJoshHanson. Brooke and I would also like to thank those of you who have already shared the poster on social media and those who have displayed the poster home and away, your efforts mean that the police receive calls of possible sightings, and no call is a wasted call.
"Someone, somewhere also knows where O’Brien is and can change the pain and uncertainty that each day brings for us. We ask you to try and imagine the emptiness that we have been left to live with, please, please, please do the right thing and make that call or encourage someone else to."
O'Brien, originally from Ladbroke Grove, is described as white and 6ft with grey eyes and dark brown hair.
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.