A murderer who thought he could evade justice after slashing a 21-year-old man's neck in a packed bar has been jailed for life.

Shane O'Brien went on the run for three and a half years after killing Josh Hanson in an act of "pitiless savagery" at RE bar in Eastcote in the early hours of October 11, 2005.

Mr Hanson was stabbed front of his horrified girlfriend who watched as he clutched his throat and stumbled with blood pouring out of a wound from his left ear to right chest.

O'Brien, a father-of-two, then used false travel documents to evade police until he was arrested in Romania and brought back to Britain in April.

He was found guilty of Mr Hanson's murder after an Old Bailey jury deliberated for 55 minutes.

Judge Nigel Lickley jailed O'Brien for life with a minimum term of 26 years, but the young victim's family have spoken out to say they feel they have been sentenced for life "without our beautiful Josh".

'I cry for him every day'

As O'Brien was sentenced today (Wednesday, October 23), Tracey Hanson tearfully described her son as a "considerate, kind and generous" man who was a "rising star" in his work.

She said: "On October 11, 2015 my life changed forever."

She received a call to say he had been stabbed in the early hours and was 10 minutes away when he died.

She told the court: "He was taken from us in the most horrific way possible - suddenly, abruptly, viciously and violently."

Ms Hanson said she had been unable to grieve for him without justice.

Harrow Times:

Stabbing victim Josh Hanson was described as having an "infectious" smile

Sister Brooke Hanson said: "Josh was not just my brother, he was my best friend."

She said his smile was "infectious" and his presence "magical".

She told the court she suffered from anxiety and post-traumatic stress, always wondering if she could have protected him from the "evil" that took him away.

Grandmother Mary Hanson said in a statement read on her behalf that at the age of 80, she did not want to carry on when her grandson died.

She wrote: "There is not a day when I don't think about my grandson. I cry for him every day, what he went through and how he suffered."

Angry shouts of 'coward'

The judge said O'Brien calmly walked away after the stabbing, leaving Mr Hanson to drawn in his own blood in front of "shocked and traumatised" friends.

He then got a friend called Vanessa to secure a chartered four-seat plane to take him from Biggin Hill Airport to the Netherlands, the court heard.

O'Brien grew long hair and a beard and got a tattoo of his daughter's name covered over as he used false identity documents to travel to countries including Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic.

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Shane O'Brien has been jailed at the Old Bailey for life for murdering 21-year-old Josh Hanson. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Friends helped the boxing and martial arts fan lay low after he was added to Europol and Interpol's most wanted lists, his trial heard.

Despite being arrested in Prague in 2017 for assault, he slipped through the net after using the alias Enzo Melloncelli and fleeing when released on bail.

O'Brien denied murder, claiming he felt threatened by Mr Hanson's "very aggressive body language".

He told jurors he only wanted to scare Mr Hanson and did not mean the blade to make contact.

The court heard O'Brien had two previous convictions for having a blade and had shown no remorse.

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CCTV image of Shane O'Brien (back to camera) during an attack on 21-year-old Josh Hanson (facing camera) who puts his hand up seconds after being slashed in the neck. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

There were angry shouts of "coward" from the public gallery as O'Brien was led from the dock.

The judge said: "This was a grotesque, violent and totally unnecessary attack on an innocent man.

"The reason why you behaved in such a way may never be fully explained. You, however, know the reason."

'A lifetime of birthdays, Christmases and family celebrations with an empty seat'

Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, who led the murder investigation at Specialist Crime, said: “Today’s lengthy sentence is fitting for such a brutal and unprovoked attack. O’Brien will be 57 before he can be considered for release, the best part of his life spent behind bars. It also shows no one is untouchable despite their connections and background - O’Brien thought he could evade justice with the help of his ‘associates’ but he was wrong.

“It is only now, upon sentence, that it’s sinking in for myself, my investigation team and Josh’s family that O’Brien has finally been caught and convicted and will be off the streets, away from society, for a very long time.

"He is an extremely dangerous individual who murdered a young man in the prime of his life in a packed bar for no reason whatsoever. O’Brien’s five seconds of incomprehensible violence have left a lifetime of misery for Josh’s family.

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Victim Josh Hanson, 21, was killed at a west London bar. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

He added: “At the centre of this tragic story are Josh’s mum Tracey and sister Brooke, who have remained focused and dignified throughout. 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 may never be caught. They have supported the police investigation every step of the way and driven a huge appeal for information and help from the public.

“I know their grieving for Josh can only truly begin now O’Brien is behind bars but that won’t help with the lifetime of birthdays, Christmases and family celebrations they must endure with an empty seat at the table thanks to one man’s devastating and callous actions. No sentence will ever being Josh back nor heal their pain."