South Woodham Ferrers: Where are Eddie Maher accomplices?
- Credit: Contributed
DETECTIVES who investigated Eddie Maher’s 1993 theft of a Suffolk security van containing £1.2million are still searching for possible accomplices.
As Maher, 57, formerly of South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, was jailed for five years after admitting the theft at Southwark Crown Court yesterday – blowing a kiss to his family before being sent from the dock – prosecutors said police inquiries were continuing.
Maher, known as ‘Fast Eddie’, spent almost 20 years on the run following the theft, from outside a Felixstowe bank on January 22, 1993.
Prosecutor Richard Southern told the court: “We believe the defendant received assistance from people in this country in the months after the offence.”
Maher’s partner Deborah Brett, 47, his sister, Margaret Francis, 64, Paul Muggleton, 54, from Woodford Green, east London, are all on bail after being arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender and conspiracy to commit theft.
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Mr Southern said it seemed likely Maher had travelled to the US using his brother Michael’s passport.
“Michael Maher has now gone off to Spain, as far as we know,” Mr Southern added.
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The court heard that Michael Maher’s passport was used to go through border control on February 22 when a person purporting to be him travelled with another man, Terrence Bender.
“There was a physical resemblance between the defendant and Michael Maher and we say he would have been able to use his brother’s passport,” Mr Southern said.
The court heard that forensic evidence showed an acquaintance of Maher’s had contact with the getaway vehicle around the time it was stolen in November 1992.
Detectives also found phone calls between this man and Michael Maher in the run-up to the theft and the days after it.
At one point the suspect had a “lengthy” conversation with the passport office and also had direct contact with Maher.
He visited the US in March 1993, returning that May.
Mr Southern said that this trip coincided with the issue of Maher’s false documents which were used to support his new identity.
Another acquaintance, Michael Sulsh, also made trips to the States around that time, Mr Southern said.
“Sulsh and Bender have not been arrested and inquiries continue,” he added.
The court heard yesterday how Maher’s life unravelled when Jessica King, the disgruntled ex-wife of his son Lee, contacted US authorities to tell them he was a wanted man.
He was arrested for immigration and firearms offences before being deported to the UK.
Maher had been due to stand trial for theft after being deported from the UK but yesterday changed his plea to guilty.
His partner, Deborah Brett, and younger son, Mark, sat in court as he was jailed. Mark mouthed the words “I love you” as his father was led from the dock.
Lee King sat on a separate row. His family did not acknowledge him throughout the court appearance.
None of the family spoke as they left court.
Jailing him, Mr Justice Nicol said: “You made a very substantial gain even if, as you say, the money has now gone.
“The temptation to commit the offence must have been too great.
“You told the authorities after your arrest that you only received £40,000. Your wife has said it was about £200,000.”
Maher – who used the false identities of Stephen King and Michael Maher while on the run – had intended to fight the allegation on the grounds that he had been forced to commit the crime after racking up “significant debts”. But Suffolk Police and the Crown Prosecution Service built up evidence proving that the former soldier and firefighter had profited to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
After his conviction, detectives revealed details of series of property investments which they say he funded from the proceeds of the crime.
This included a house in Colorado bought with 120,000 US dollars in cash just six months after the theft.
Later Maher built a ranch on 80 acres of land in Colorado before moving around various US states.
At the time of his arrest on February 9 last year, he was working as a cable engineer in Missouri.
David Nathan QC, mitigating, said: “An extraordinary aspect of this case is Mr Maher’s daughter-in-law had originally been the partner of his son Lee’s best friend.
“Lee won a lot of money on the lottery and she left her partner to marry Lee.
“When the money ran out, she did a little research on Google on the name Maher and found out he was wanted for the theft back in 1993.
“She heard that there was a reward and she went to the federal authorities.”
Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector David Giles, from Suffolk Police, said: “Over the years Edward Maher has almost been portrayed as a Robin Hood character, someone who stole from a bank, where no-one was injured.
“Maher took on a position of significant trust working for a security company, a position he abused, resulting in the theft of over £1m.”
In 1977 Maher received a 12- month suspended prison sentence for robbing a milkman of £35.