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How the past finally caught up with "Fast" Eddie Maher

Eddie Maher Credit: ITV News Anglia

Edward Maher had financial difficulties. He was in debt and needed help.

That help couldn't have been closer - or more tempting.

As a security guard working for Securicor. Maher was dealing with huge sums of cash. Right in front of him was the solution to his worries.

On January 22nd 1993, those money problems all of a sudden disapppeared. So did he - and so began the hunt for an international criminal who stole more than £1.1m from his security van delivering to Lloyds Bank in the Suffolk seaside town of Felixstowe.

This was no spur of the moment decision. It was a carefully planned operation, with Maher specifically asking to be on the Felixstowe run that winter's day. It wasn't his normal route.

"It certainly seemed quite a lot of pre-plannng had gone into this," said Det Insp David Giles, the senior investigating officer in the case. "He chose his route; he chose the van which was abandoned in Felixstowe. He then transferred the money to a stolen vehicle and managed to escape to America, with most if not all the money."

An audacous crime committed by the former London fireman who'd helped rescue survivors of the Kings Cross Underground fire in 1987.

For almost 20 years he was on the run, moving from state to state to avoid being detected. He assumed false identities, using false documents. He had a passport in the name of Stephen King and was also known as Michael Maher - his brother's name.

Maher's driving licence in his brother's name Credit: ITV News Anglia

"It was slightly strange that he chose the name Stephen King, who was a well-known American author. That drew a certain amount of attention to him. When we spoke to people afterwards, they said 'yes, I remember him - the English Stephen King!"

– Det Insp David Giles.

To illustrate the extent of Maher's pre-planning, he arranged for his partner Debbie and their three-old-son Lee to leave their rented house in South Woodham Ferrers in Essex the day before the theft and fly to Boston.

A family reunited in the United States with new-found wealth, they bought several properties and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle while detectives in England attempted to hunt them down. They were way off the mark. Searches in Cyprus and the Carribean proved fruitless.

Eventually, the Mahers - or Kings - ended up in Missouri where Eddie worked as a broadband engineer for a local cable company. By this time, the money was getting scarce and in 2010 he was declared bankrupt

.

One of Maher's homes in the US Credit: ITV News Anglia

That was nothing compared to the damage inflicted on him by his son, Lee who inadvertently brought the great American adventure to an end. After too many drinks he told his wife Jessica about his father's secret past.

"I just couldn't believe it, "said Jessica King, now divorced from her husband. "It just seemed such an outlandish story.

I nearly fainted when he told me.To think that I had shared dinners with this man. I thought he was strange but had no idea he could have been an international fugitive."

– Jessica King, Maher's former daughter-in-law

In February last year, Jessica King went to her local police station in Ozark and told them the whole story.

The game was up. Maher was arrested for immigration and firearms offences but the American authorities were keen to help their counterparts in Britain and he was extradited to face the music back home .

It became big news in the the States, where he was dubbed 'Fast Eddie.'

"The Ozark area is a pretty good plce to try and hide,"admitted Rance Burger, editor of the Ozark Leader newspaper. "People tend to keep themselves to themselves here but they thought it was pretty neat that someone who'd stolen 1.5 million dollars should come and live here."

When Maher appeared in court in September, he pleaded not guilty to stealing the money. His defence was that he'd been forced to do it.

"We didn't believe that at all,' said Chris McCann, from the Crown Prosection Service's complex case unit. "A man who was able to get to the States with a lot of money and spend 120,000 dollars in cash on a property was at the centre of the crime and certainly not under duress."

20 years on, Eddie Maher today finally admitted he'd stolen the money.

Several years ago, John Barnett - a detective working on the case - said Maher would always worry that some day, somone would tap him on the shoulder and tell him that it was all over

That's precisely what happened in the American mid-west exactly a year ago. His luck disappeared. So did his freedom.

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