South Woodham Ferrers: Eddie Maher always spent more than he had

Eddie Maher, jailed today for five years

Eddie Maher, jailed today for five years - Credit: Contributed

EDDIE Maher’s propensity to spend more than he got has led him into trouble throughout his life.

Known as Fast Eddie after the 1993 theft, Maher had previously acquired the nicknames of Flash Eddie or Two Jags Eddie.

Ironically for an ex-firefighter money seemed to burn a hole in his pocket, whether it be spending more than he had or simply being unable to hold on to it.

Maher was born in Ilford on June 2, 1955 into a large family of Irish descent. He joined the army after leaving school, signing up with the Royal Green Jackets at the age of 16 or 17.

During his three-year stint he got married and had his first child, Terry, but the union was not to last.

When Maher left the army, he had a number of jobs including working for a tannery in the Bournemouth area.

He then joined the London Fire Service and was a firefighter for around 10 to 12 years, eventually ending up as a sub officer at Euston.

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Maher left the fire service in 1991 with a pay-out after an accident during a training exercise.

By this time he had met Deborah Brett in a hotel near East Midlands Airport. Miss Brett, from Nottingham, was working as an air stewardess for Ryan Air at the time.

With Maher’s fire service pay-out the couple bought the tenancy of The Gardener’s Arms in Higham, near Rochester in Kent.

Despite sinking his money into the 150-year-old pub the couple were unable to make a go of it. Disillusioned they sold up after a year to new landlords Terrie and Brian Covington.

Mrs Covington, who now runs a guest house in Lyme Regis, Dorset, said: “He sold everything, lock, stock and barrel. He sold it to us at a rock bottom price. It was just amazing. It was an offer we couldn’t refuse.

“Towards the end they didn’t live on the premises and trade wasn’t particularly good. He never used to open the pub during the day.”

At one stage Maher owned two Jaguars including an XJS, and was known to some as Two Jags Eddie.

He and Miss Brett had a penchant for nice holidays in the United States and Canada. Maher also talked about moving to the US and learning to fly. After leaving the pub, letters arrived for him from America.

Mrs Covington said: “We received letters addressed to him from a flying school in the US which we subsequently told police about.

“I think there were two letters. At the time the theft had not happened and we didn’t think anything of it.”

Now with their baby son Lee in tow the Maher family returned to Essex. Maher’s mother Elsie was still living in the family home in Ilford.

Maher’s link with Essex was so strong he was said even to have had a tattoo featuring the words ‘Homeward-bound to London Town’.

Miss Brett became a civilian worker for Essex Police, but left during 1992.

The family had left a trail of debts in their wake moving from one rented home to another.

By January 22, 1993 they were living in Freemantle Close, South Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford.