Fifteen minutes of cool, calm, carefully calculated villainy.

That was all it took for Eddie Maher to commit what many people believed for two decades to be the perfect crime as he absconded with a supposedly impregnable Securicor van and its £1.2million contents from outside a Felixstowe bank.

Maher - dubbed by the media as 'Fast Eddie' - escaped to America with many people believing he alone was behind the intriguing and ingenious crime and was living the high life on his ill-gotten gains.

But a life of crime - indeed any life - is never that simple.

East Anglian Daily Times: A picture of Eddie Maher released by police at the time of the theft Picture: Suffolk ConstabularyA picture of Eddie Maher released by police at the time of the theft Picture: Suffolk Constabulary (Image: Suffolk Constabulary)

In his autobiography, Maher reveals how the money initially enabled him to live his dream, how life on the run in a different country in inquisitive communities was often perilous, and how his downfall came when his secret came out.

It was 30 years ago today, just after 9am on the morning of January 22, 1993, when the plan to steal the security van swung into action.

After arriving at Lloyds Bank in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, former fireman and army sharpshooter Maher waited in the security van while his fellow security guard went inside to make a delivery.

While his colleague Peter Bunn – who had no part in the robbery at all – chatted and joked to the bank clerks, Maher made his move, driving away the armoured van.

East Anglian Daily Times: Det Insp John Barnett being interviewed by the media in Micklegate Road, Felixstowe, with the stolen Securicor van Picture: NewsquestDet Insp John Barnett being interviewed by the media in Micklegate Road, Felixstowe, with the stolen Securicor van Picture: Newsquest (Image: Newsquest)

He drove to the seafront, parking in Micklegate Road, alongside Charles Manning's Amusement Park, where the 50 bags, containing coins, £20 and £10 notes, were unloaded into a car.

This was then driven to a car park on the nearby Landguard peninsula for a second transfer. Securicor epaulettes were found nearby.

Popular theory at the time had it that Maher, then aged 37, transferred the money into getaway a car – and within minutes was on the A14, bound for an airport and the USA.

But in his book called "Fast Eddie: My 20 Years on the Run as Britain's Most Wanted Man", Maher reveals that the theft was not a quick rich scheme he dreamed up. He says he was doing a job he didn't like much to make a living, but he was forced to take part in the crime after being approached by people from the underworld only weeks earlier.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Securicor van that was driven off and emptied of its bags of cash Picture: PAThe Securicor van that was driven off and emptied of its bags of cash Picture: PA (Image: PA Wire)

While he managed to scrape enough cash together to get his partner Debbie and young son away to America for what he told them was a holiday, he knew little of the details of the theft until the day it actually happened.

On the morning, as he was waiting outside the bank, his own Opel Ascona car pulled up alongside him and he was signalled to follow it.

Maher jokes that he was certainly not 'Fast Eddie' (he was actually Eddy but police told journalists he was Eddie and the misspelling stuck) at that moment as he drove the armoured truck sedately and carefully away to avoid attracting any attention.

In Micklegate Road, the money was unloaded from the van into the Opel by Maher and two other men before they drove to Landguard, where it was again transferred to a  Toyota Previa spacecruiser vehicle with false number plates and which had been stolen earlier in London. 

From the Previa, Maher was delivered to a safehouse in London - a flat in Wapping - where he was told he would lie low while the gang arranged for him to leave the UK to join his family in the USA. Food, clothes, shaving gear, TV, bed - everything he needed was there.

While police were initially concerned that Maher might have been kidnapped, the investigation quickly turned into a manhunt.

East Anglian Daily Times: Eddie Maher pictured in 2012 Picture: FBIEddie Maher pictured in 2012 Picture: FBI (Image: FBI)

Writing in his book, Maher said: "It became progressively apparent that the public were rooting for me. No one had been hurt and the only victims were the banks and a huge security company that would have to pay out.

"For many people it was a victimless crime and they enjoyed the idea that I'd stuck two fingers up at the corporations and was winning."

About two weeks later, he was provided with a false passport - new name Stephen King - a business class air ticket for a United Airlines flight to Dallas, and £125,000 cash, which was his share of the stolen cash.

It was the start of two decades on the run, which Maher candidly recounts in his autobiography - initially starting out with a "retirement plan", a chance to "do all the things we dreamed of" and have a better life, but knowing that the money would not last forever and what might be ahead.

While the money allowed the family to live in some amazing homes, for Maher to gain a pilot's licence and buy a small plane, take part in all sorts of hobbies and experiences, eventually he needed to work again.

The family needed to keep on the move too, upping sticks whenever neighbours or friends became a little too interested in their back histories.

Over the years, their life on the run saw them living in Colorado Springs, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Texas, Minnesota, South Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania.

The Twin Towers attack made life in America more precarious - harder to travel internally, more ID checks, the authorities more interested in every little detail of people's lives, and ultimately Maher - who was by then living under his brother's name - was caught by the information about him on the internet.

The dream came to an end in 2012 when Maher, then 57, was arrested in Ozark, Missouri, and extradited back to Britain, where he faced court and was jailed for five years.