Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

£1.2m van heist fugitive jailed

Eddie Maher has been jailed for five years after admitting the theft of a security van containing more than one million pounds (Suffolk Police/PA)
Eddie Maher's house in the Woodland Park neighbourhood of Colorado, US (Suffolk Police/PA)
The Securicor van stolen by Eddie Maher (Suffolk Police/PA)

Eddie Maher - known as "Fast Eddie" - blew a kiss to his family before being jailed for five years for the 1993 theft of a security van containing £1.2 million.

As the 57-year-old fugitive was jailed at Southwark Crown Court, prosecutors revealed they were still looking to trace three possible accomplices. They include Maher's brother, Michael Maher, and two acquaintances, Michael Sulsh and Terrence Bender.

Maher spent almost 20 years on the run in the US following the theft of the Securicor van he was driving from outside a bank in Felixstowe, Suffolk. Outlining the case, prosecutor Richard Southern QC said: "We believe the defendant received assistance from people in this country in the months after the offence."

Maher's life unravelled when his son Lee King's disgruntled ex-wife Jessica King contacted US authorities to tell them he was a wanted man, the court heard. He was arrested for immigration and firearms offences before being deported to the UK.

Maher, originally from South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, had been due to stand trial for theft after being deported from the UK but changed his plea to guilty on Tuesday. His partner, Deborah Brett, and younger son, Mark, sat in court as he was jailed. Mark mouthed the words "I love you" as his father was led from the dock.

Lee King sat on a separate row. His family did not acknowledge him throughout the court appearance. None of the family spoke as they left court.

Jailing him, Mr Justice Nicol said: "You made a very substantial gain even if, as you say, the money has now gone. The temptation to commit the offence must have been too great. You told the authorities after your arrest that you only received £40,000. Your wife has said it was about £200,000."

Maher - who used the false identities of Stephen King and Michael Maher while on the run - had intended to fight the allegation on the grounds that he had been forced to commit the crime after wracking 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 pounds.

After his conviction, detectives revealed details of series of property investments which they say he funded from the proceeds of the crime. This included a house in Colorado bought with 120,000 US dollars in cash just six months after the theft. Later Maher built a ranch on 80 acres of land in Colorado before moving around various US states. At the time of his arrest on February 9 last year, he was working as a cable engineer in Missouri.

Maher's partner Deborah Brett, 47, his sister, Margaret Francis, 64, and Paul Muggleton, 54, from Woodford Green, east London, are all on bail after being arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and conspiracy to commit theft.