'Fast' Eddie still missing, 10 years on
Ten years ago tomorrow security guard Eddie Maher stole £1million in a Securicor van outside a Suffolk bank. The former fireman, his wife and three-year-old son vanished without trace.
By Danielle Nuttall
Ten years ago tomorrow security guard Eddie Maher stole £1million in a Securicor van outside a Suffolk bank. The former fireman, his wife and three-year-old son vanished without trace. Crime reporter DANIELLE NUTTALL looks back at the notorious theft.
TEN years on, it remains one of the most audacious crimes the region has ever seen.
Securicor guard Eddie Maher, making a routine delivery to Lloyd's Bank in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, simply drove off with £1million, dumped the van and disappeared with his wife and young son.
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"Fast" Eddie – as he was later dubbed – was never seen again, but on the tenth anniversary of the crime, the man who helped lead the hunt has told how he believes Maher could one day still be caught.
Nothing would have appeared unusual to the people going about their Friday morning duties in Felixstowe on January 22, 1993.
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The Securicor vehicle pulled up outside Lloyds Bank and security guard Maher waited in the van as he did every other day, while his co-guard made his way over to the bank.
But while his colleague was inside, Maher, an ex-fireman with gambling debts, drove away in the Securicor van with the contents of more than £1million inside in 50 bags of coins, £20 and £10 notes.
Maher, who was 37 at the time of his disappearance, his common-law wife Deborah Brett, then 27, and their son, Lee, who was three, have been on the run for the past decade.
But all hope of catching the security guard has not faded.
Former deputy senior investigating officer on the case, John Barnett, said there is still a possibility that somebody will provide police with the information they need.
Mr Barnett, who spent seven of his 30 years with Suffolk police on the case but has now retired, said the police theory had not changed since the initial hunt was launched.
It is presumed Maher and his family are still living under different identities – and they could be either in the UK or abroad.
He recalled: "It was a strange case in that it came in almost as soon as it happened. Within ten minutes of something wrong, we had policemen on the scene."
Mr Barnett continued: "Because Deborah and Lee were subjected to publicity as well, it may be that they are living somewhere in this country under a false name and identity. It could be that they are still where they disappeared in the first place."
But Mr Barnett said there was always a possibility he could still be caught.
"It will only get solved if he turns up as a result of a routine check or if somebody comes forward with information which leads us to his whereabouts," he said.
"That could happen anytime in the future. It could be tomorrow.
"I would love to see the matter resolved because of the work that went into it. I would like to think anybody that steals that kind of money gets dealt with."
But for the past decade, people living in the seaside town have been in no doubt that Maher has got away with the perfect crime.
Fifteen minutes after leaving in the security van, Maher was seen on the then A45, having unloaded the contents into one vehicle, and then transferring the cash to a car at Landguard.
The vehicle was found abandoned in Micklegate Road, alongside the resort's seafront funfair.
A few days later, Maher's car was found burned out on a country track near Harlow.
His home at Fremantle Close, South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, was deserted, showing signs of a hurried exit.
The raid was so meticulously planned, very few people noticed anything unusual.
Workmen reported seeing a Securicor van in Sea Road, but no one saw it unloaded and Landguard was deserted, as was the seafront.
Police cannot be sure if Maher is at home or abroad, dead or if he's still alive, which seems most likely.
Popular opinion has it that Maher, known as Fast Eddie, is sunning himself at a permanent holiday hideaway.
During their hunt, police have received numerous unconfirmed sightings of Maher and his family in more than 17 countries. They have spoken to hundreds of people in their bid to discover his whereabouts, and have liased with Interpol and foreign forces.
Police revealed Maher's wife Deborah and son Lee booked into the Boston Buckminster Hotel in Boston, USA, the day before the £1million theft.
A few months after Maher's disappearance, detectives leading the investigation made an appeal during a reconstruction of the theft on BBC's Crimewatch UK programme.
The programme featured photographs of Maher and his family, pictures of the Securicor van and a photograph of a seven-seater Toyota Previa space-cruiser, which was found abandoned at Landguard Fort and believed to have been used in the crime.
However, after the television programme had been screened, police reported a limited response to their appeals and the special phone-line set up to help with the enquiry.
A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said yesterday that the case remained open and asked anyone with information on the theft to contact the force on 01473 613500.