Fast Eddy still running 10 years on
IN criminal folklore, he may forever be "Fast" Eddie Maher – the man who committed the perfect crime.But for retired Det Insp John Barnett who led the hunt for the fugitive security guard he is simply the man who got away.
By Richard Cornwell
IN criminal folklore, he may forever be "Fast" Eddie Maher – the man who committed the perfect crime.
But for retired Det Insp John Barnett who led the hunt for the fugitive security guard he is simply the man who got away.
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the day when 15 minutes of cool, calm, calculated villainy made Maher a millionaire as his daring plan to raid a supposedly impregnable Securicor van succeeded.
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But it left Maher – and his partner Debbie, 27 at the time, and their son Lee, then aged four – on the run forever.
"It was annoying that he didn't come to justice before I retired," said Mr Barnett, who retired two years ago after 30 years in the force.
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"It was frustrating because it wasn't as if we didn't know who committed the crime, but you have to deal with it and move on. It wasn't the most important case of my career, just one which got enormous publicity!"
It was just after 9am on the morning of January 22, 1993, when security guard Maher, 37, and a colleague arrived outside Lloyds Bank in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe.
Maher waited in the van while his colleague went inside to make a delivery. While his colleague – 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.
The ex-fireman and expert locksmith, known to have gambling debts, drove to the seafront, parking in Micklegate Road, where he unloaded the 50 bags, containing £1m in coins, £20 and £10 notes, into a Toyota Previa spacecruiser vehicle with false number plates and which had been stolen earlier in London.
It is not known if he was helped, but police believe he may have had an accomplice.
The Toyota was then driven to a car park on the nearby Landguard peninsula. All the money was transferred into a car – and within minutes Maher was on the A14, bound for an airport and the USA.
The Toyota was found abandoned at Landguard with a pair of Securicor uniform epaulettes nearby. The getaway car was found torched in Essex.
There was no sign of Maher. Maher's getaway was a complete success because it was some minutes before it was even realised that he was missing and 45 minutes before the security van, equipped with a tracking device was found.
At that stage, detectives did not even suspect Maher of the robbery and believed he had been taken hostage with the money.
Later police discovered that Maher's girlfriend Debbie and the youngster Lee had already booked into a hotel in Boston, USA, before the crime was committed.
Mr Barnett believes Maher will never be completely safe, wherever he is, even with a false identity and disguise, and one day could trip up.
Lee is now 14 and will be questioning perhaps why he once had a different name, why he lives in a different place, where is relatives are. A rebellious teenager with the details could be like a timebomb.
"No-one knows where they are and the police team have investigated many reported sightings over the years – both in the UK and abroad. They all have to be thoroughly checked out," he said.
"We can only assume that he followed Debbie and Lee to the States, and they could still be living there somewhere now. But ten years down the line, they could have returned and be living in this country.
"One piece of information could still bring them to light – everyone seems to turn up eventually. I think they could one day be found. Maher has got to live with that fear of discovery for the rest of his life."
There have been sightings in nearly 20 countries and police say any new leads will be checked out as the crime is still unsolved.
"The file is still open and any new information received will be looked at closely and investigated," said a Suffolk police spokesman.