Less than glamorous reality of life on the run laid bare as 'Fast Eddie' Maher is jailed for £1.2m security van theft 20 years ago

UK security van thief ended virtually penniless in US earning $14 an hour

Crime Correspondent

They called him ‘Fast Eddie’ and he certainly spent like a man in a hurry. He began his 20 years on the run in the United States with a hefty slice of a £1.2m fortune from a security van theft; he ended it virtually penniless and earning 14 dollars an hour as a broadband repair man.

The less than glamorous reality of life as a fugitive from justice was laid bare yesterday after a well-planned heist on a Securicor van in 1993 resulted in debts, family betrayal and a five-year jail term for Eddie Maher after two decades of running from state to state in the US.

Security van driver Maher, 57, was wanted by Suffolk police after disappearing during a round of deliveries to banks and a post office in Felixstowe in 1993. While his work partner was inside a branch of Lloyds carrying out a routine delivery, Maher drove off with their van and the £1.2m cash inside.

He was later seen with two accomplices loading a getaway car with bags of cash. Although the ripped-off epaulettes from his Securicor uniform and his burnt out old car were found in the hours after the theft, Maher was not seen in Britain for nearly 20 years.

Having packed off his partner, former air hostess Deborah Brett, and their young child Lee on a flight to Boston in the US state of Massachusetts just days before the robbery, Maher followed shortly afterwards with an estimated £200,000 share of the proceeds from the crime.

Police believe he used his brother Michael’s passport to fly to Florida with an accomplice and met up with his family and lived with them under at least two assumed names until he was arrested last year.

He successfully shook off the manhunt. While British officers travelled to the West Indies and Cyprus after reported sightings of Maher, he had quietly assumed the name of Stephen King and embarked on the first of a series of property purchases. However, his assumed name worked against him. Later questioned by police, one neighbour remembered buying a house from the Englishman with the same name as the horror novelist, police said.

Using the proceeds of the robbery, Maher, aka Stephen King, bought a house for (USD) 120,000 with mountain views in the comfortable Colorado town of Woodland Park where he set up home with his family. He also grew a beard and wore over-size spectacles to change his appearance.

Maher – a former soldier and publican with a history of racking up debts – kept moving, building a ranch on an 80-acre site elsewhere in Colorado before selling it for profit and moving to New Hampshire.

Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday that to keep up with his high-spending lifestyle, he worked as an HGV driver and a technician for a cable company while he moved from place to place. But in the end, he stopped running, and the money ran out.

The court heard that Maher, who became a father for the second time while on the run, was finally run to ground after his true identity was revealed by his new daughter-in-law.

His eldest son Lee, now aged 23, won a reported £100,000 from a lottery scratch card in the United States. The girlfriend of Lee’s best friend dumped him and “within a short space of time was so devoted to Lee that she married him,” said Maher’s counsel David Nathan QC.

“When the money ran out she did a lot of research on the name Maher and realised he couldn’t go back to this country because of the theft back in 1993,” said Mr Nathan. “She heard there was a reward and went to the federal authorities.”

Lee Maher and his wife are now divorcing.

Maher realised the net was closing in on him when he went to a local police station where he was then living in Ozark, Missouri, to bail his son who was being held for a driving offence.

He was told by one of the officers of a rumour that he was wanted for the 1993 security van theft, the court heard. Maher, then living in rented accommodation, took his family to a hotel with the plan of fleeing again but had a change of heart, the court heard.

He took his younger son Mark to school the next day and was arrested at their home by US authorities for immigration offences and for illegal possession of four guns under an assumed name.

He voluntarily returned to the UK to stand trial in July 2012 and yesterday pleaded guilty to the 20-year-old theft.

“This man has made a mess of his life but what concerns him more is the mess he has caused to the ones he loves. Deborah and the two children,” said Mr Nathan. Maher and Ms Brett had a Las Vegas wedding, although it is not thought this marriage has any legal standing.

Jailing him for five years, Mr Justice Nicol told him: “It is plain that that this theft was well planned and several of you were involved in this joint enterprise.

“Your wife of partner has stood by you. She and your two sons will be pained by the sentence that I will have to pass. But it is unfortunately a common occurrence that those who commit crimes cause pain and distress to those who are close to them.”

Maher, with close cropped receding grey hair and wearing a grey suit, turned and winked to his wife and two children sitting at the back of the court at Southwark Crown Court and mouthed “I love you” before he was taken down to serve his sentence. He faces a confiscation order in a hearing at a later date.

Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector Giles said: “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 with him.”

Maher is the only person to have been convicted for the security van theft. Three people – including his partner and sister – are on bail, while his brother Michael is believed to be in Spain, the court heard.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable