Securicor driver 'Fast' Eddie Maher who went on run in U.S. for 20 years after stealing 1.2m from his van in Suffolk is jailed for just FIVE YEARS
Maher, 57, made off with Securicor van outside bank in Felixstowe in 1993Loaded 30 sacks of cash into a getaway vehicle before flying to America
Lived in U.S. under false identities of Stephen King and his brother MichaelBuilt new life with partner, Deborah Brett, and their son Lee, who
was three at time of heistBought house in Colorado with $120k in cash just six months after the theftArrested in February last year after his daughter-in-law called the policeDenied charge after being deported, but entered last-minute plea today
10:40 GMT, 5 March 2013
13:52 GMT, 5 March 2013
A British man who spent
almost 20 years as a fugitive in the U.S. after stealing 1.2million from a security van was jailed for just five years today after finally admitting his crime.
Maher – known as 'Fast Eddie' – was wanted by Suffolk Police after the
Securicor van he was driving disappeared from outside the Lloyds Bank in
Felixstowe, Suffolk, on January 22 1993.
57-year-old, originally from South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, was arrested
by U.S. authorities in February last year.
He had been held in custody awaiting
trial after denying the theft following his deportation, but today he entered a last-minute guilty plea at Southwark Crown Court in London.
Now and then: Eddie Maher's mugshot after his
arrest in Missouri in February (left) and (right) on a 'wanted' poster
issued after he disappeared in January 1993
Dash with cash: The Securicor van that Maher was driving when he disappeared from outside the Lloyds Bank in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on January 22 1993
Maher, who used the false identities
of Stephen King and his brother Michael Maher while on the run, intended
to fight the allegation on the grounds that he had been forced to
commit the crime after racking up 'significant debts'.
But Suffolk Police and the Crown
Prosecution Service built up evidence proving that the former soldier
and firefighter had profited to the tune of hundreds of thousands of
During his time on the run, Maher
built a new life with his partner, Deborah Brett, and their son Lee, who
was three years old at the time of the theft.
After his conviction, detectives
revealed details of a series of property investments they say he funded
from the proceeds of the crime.
This included a house in Colorado bought with 120,000 U.S. dollars in cash just six months after the theft.
Later Maher built a ranch on 80 acres in Colorado before moving around various U.S. states.
Double life: Maher with his son Lee King, who was just three when the theft took place, and his wife Lisa, who turned her father-in-law in just months after this wedding day picture in November 2011
Fake IDs: Maher grew a beard and wore over-sized spectacles before applying for a passport in the name of Stephen King (left). He also used bogus driving licences (right) under that name and his brother Michael's
At the time of his arrest on February 9 last year, he was working as a cable engineer in Missouri.
But his attempts to escape justice unravelled as he was arrested for illegally possessing firearms.
When U.S. authorities contacted their UK counterparts about immigration issues, it became clear he was a wanted man.
Wearing a grey suit and blue tie, Maher, whose grey hair was closely cropped, looked composed as he entered his new plea.
Outlining the case, prosecutor
Richard Southern QC, told the court that on the day of the theft Maher
had been on the delivery run with colleague Peter Bunn, who was
responsible for carrying cash from the van to the bank.
New abode: Within months of fleeing the UK, Maher bought this house in the comfortable Woodland Park neighbourhood of Colorado with $120,000 in cash which police say came from proceeds of his crime
Splashing out: In 1996, the Maher family moved into this home in New Hampshire complete with a hot tub
Life in the fast lane: Another of Maher's homes. Records show that each of his properties was sold on and the money spent. He ended up penniless
He said: 'Mr Bunn recalls that when they arrived in Felixstowe the bank was not open and he had to wait a while.
'Once inside, he was delayed and
tried to contact Mr Maher to tell him. He could not make contact but was
not at that point concerned because the radio signal was variable.
'It was not until he came out of the bank that he found the van had disappeared.'
Police believe Maher unloaded about
30 sacks of notes into a Toyota Previa Space Cruiser which was later
found at a viewing area at nearby Landguard Fort.
This car had been stolen from east London in November 1992.
A second getaway vehicle, an Opel Oascona, was later found torched.
Scene: The Securicor van Maher was driving disappeared from outside the Lloyds Bank in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on January 22, 1993
Dumped: Maher's Securicor van was found, but minus more than 1million in dozens of bags of cash
Losing his tail: Maher drove the van to nearby Landguard Point in Felixstowe where he got into its secure area and loaded about 30 sacks of cash into this stolen getaway vehicle
Elaborate plan: Maher then used this Opel Ascona as a second getaway vehicle
Covering his tracks: The Opel getaway car was later found torched
MAHER LIED TO LAND SECURITY JOB
Eddie Maher joined Securicor in September 1992 after lying about previous convictions on his application form.
During the same year, the former soldier, firefighter and pub landlord had trained as a locksmith.
His former Securicor colleagues told police that, just days before the 1.2 million theft, Maher had requested the Felixstowe run as it would allow him to finish early for a hospital appointment.
At about 9.30am on January 22 1993, the armoured van made its first delivery to Lloyds Bank in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk.
Maher remained in the van while another guard made a delivery to the bank.
When the other guard returned, he found the van missing.
The vehicle was later discovered abandoned in the town’s Micklegate Road with just 2,100 in coins remaining.
In the hours after the theft,
detectives thought Maher and his family might have been kidnapped, but a
search of their house in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, showed no sign
of a struggle.
Detectives discovered that Maher’s
partner, Deborah Brett, and their son, Lee, had left the UK the previous
day and booked into a hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.
Every port and airport was monitored
but Maher managed to leave the country as hundreds of police and border
officials searched for him.
Interpol was alerted, a reward of up
to 100,000 was placed on his head, detectives travelled to Cyprus and
investigations were carried out in the West Indies in an attempt to find
Speaking outside court, Detective
Inspector David Giles, from Suffolk Police, said: 'Maher said he was
forced to carry out this crime and that he only got a small amount of
money from it.
'He never named the people who he claimed forced him into it and never put forward a credible story.
'We have succeeded in proving that he
profited substantially from the theft and was a key player in the
planning and execution of it.
'Since his arrest, he has displayed no
remorse for what he did – but I get the impression he has spent 20
years looking over his shoulder and hoping the law would not catch up
Ms Brett, 47, Maher's sister Margaret
Francis, 64, and a 54-year-old man, from Woodford Green, east London,
are all on bail after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to
His incredible double life: How Fast Eddie became just another 'cable guy' in the U.S. working for 9.20 an hour
Started a new life in America: Maher pictured with his son, Lee, on a family
holiday in Ireland three years before the theft
In the neighbourhood where he fled to, Eddie Maher was known as Stephen King, a cable engineer and family man living in small-town America.
But he was responsible for one of the UK’s most notorious heists and, as he admitted the 1993 theft of a security van containing 1.2 million, detectives revealed details of Eddie Maher’s secret life on the run from British police.
While officers still do not know precisely when and how Maher, now 57, left the UK despite a nationwide manhunt, they outlined a picture of a careful plan to begin a new life across the Atlantic.
The day before the theft, Maher’s partner, former air hostess Deborah Brett, and their son Lee, then aged three, had flown to the US on a flight booked at the last minute.
Within months of the crime, Maher had set up a family home in Colorado.
He grew a beard and wore over-sized spectacles as he changed his appearance and applied for a passport under the assumed name of Stephen.
Detective Inspector David Giles, from Suffolk Police, said: 'In 1993, Maher had a lot of debts. We found a string of properties which he had left leaving rental arrears.
'There have been reports that he had gambling debts but we have found no evidence of that, just debts from living beyond his means.
'When he was arrested by the FBI, he told them he had been forced to carry out the security van theft.
'Our job has been to prove that he was a willing participant who benefited financially from the crime.
'What we found was a trail of properties which proved that he made a significant profit.'
When police questioned Maher’s neighbours in the US, many remembered him, Mr Giles added.
'His Stephen King alias worked against him,' he said.
'One person who had bought a house from him clearly recalled Maher as he liked to joke that he bought a house from the famous horror novelist.'
Without a trace: Maher's home in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, which police found abandoned
In July 1993, within months of fleeing the UK, Maher used his false identity to buy a house with mountain views in the comfortable Woodland Park neighbourhood of Colorado.
He paid 120,000 dollars in cash which, police say, came from the proceeds of his crime. His fingerprint was later found on the paperwork.
In February 1995, Maher bought 80 acres of land in a remote part of Colorado where he built a ranch-style home 30 minutes drive from the nearest town of Calhan.
The following year the family moved to a home, complete with hot tub, in New Hampshire.
But by the time of his arrest in February last year, Maher had been declared bankrupt and was living under the name of his brother Michael in a rented house in Ozark, Missouri.
Busted: The law finally caught up with Maher when Jessica King (pictured), his son Lee's estranged wife, contacted police after a reward of up to 100,000 was put on his head
Records show that each of the properties was sold on and the money spent.
is not clear where Maher spent the intervening years but it is thought
he worked under a variety of names in Florida, Wisconsin, Texas,
Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
Maher and Ms Brett enjoyed a Las Vegas wedding, although it is not thought this marriage has any legal standing.
They had a second son and were known locally as 'the English family'.
leaving the UK, Dagenham-born Maher, who spent three years in the Royal
Green Jackets infantry regiment after leaving school, worked as a
firefighter for the London Fire Brigade.
was forced to leave this job after suffering a back injury and used a
payout to buy the tenancy of the Gardener’s Arms pub in Higham, near
Rochester, Kent, which he ran with Ms Brett.
One local said: 'He was known as Two Jags because he owned two Jaguars and seemed to like the finer things in life.'
Penniless: By the time of his arrest in February last year, Maher had been declared bankrupt and was living under the name of his brother Michael in a rented house in Ozark, Missouri
Regulars said the couple, who holidayed in the US and Canada, spoke about their dream of starting a new life in the States.
In September 1992, Maher trained as a locksmith then lied about his previous convictions to get a job as a Securicor van driver.
Five months later, then aged 37, he specifically requested the Chelmsford to Felixstowe run, saying he needed to finish work early for a hospital appointment, Suffolk Police said.
From the moment the Securicor van disappeared during a routine delivery to Lloyds Bank in Hamilton Road Suffolk, at 9.30am on January 22, Maher was identified as the prime suspect.
A reward of up to 100,000 was put on his head. Investigations were carried out in Cyprus and the West Indies after reported sightings but the trail soon went cold.
The law finally caught up with Maher when Jessica King, his son Lee’s estranged wife, contacted police.
Lee King had reportedly told her of his father’s crimes and, as their relationship deteriorated, she decided to break her silence.
She later hired lawyer Brandon Potter of Springfield, Missouri, in an attempt to get the reward offered for Maher’s capture.
The couple, who married in October 2011, are now going through a divorce.
Maher was arrested and charged with being an illegal alien in possession of firearms.
When he was questioned and checks were made with UK authorities, it soon became clear he was a wanted man.
Re-born free: Maher built a ranch on 80 acres in Colorado before moving around various U.S. states