Raid sparks memories of Maher's crime

IN criminal folklore, he may forever be “Fast” Eddie Maher - the man who committed the perfect crime. The terrifying raid on Felixstowe's Woolworths store this week brought back memories of master-crook Maher's great escape from the resort with £1million.

IN criminal folklore, he may forever be “Fast” Eddie Maher - the man who committed the perfect crime. The terrifying raid on Felixstowe's Woolworths store this week brought back memories of master-crook Maher's great escape from the resort with £1million. Felixstowe editor RICHARD CORNWELL looks back at a crime which has never been solved.

WITH just one escape route - the A14 - Felixstowe always seems an unlikely place for a major crime.

But 15 years ago one thief chose the resort for an audacious robbery, an intricately planned raid on a Securicor van which netted him £1million and paved the way for a new life, although one in which he would always be on the run, a wanted man.

The raid on the town's Woolworths store this week brought back memories of Eddie Maher's daring raid.

The two balaclava-clad armed robbers are understood to have got away with about £26,000 - a lot less than Maher - but once again it shows that thieves are not afraid to target Felixstowe.

Stuck at the end of a peninsula, the resort has seen few major incidents over the years.

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There have been occasional raids on small supermarkets and post offices, but not usually by out-of-town gangs. Other towns and villages with more escape routes have suffered worse.

The alarm at Woolworths was raised within seven minutes of the crooks leaving just before 6am on Monday, but they were already probably long gone up the A14 with their haul before police could even consider a lock-down and seal off the dual carriageway.

Fast Eddy's crime was 15 minutes of cool, calm, calculated villainy and by the time he left the seaside town he had swapped vehicles twice.

While the Woolworths bullies terrified, threatened and tied up two members of staff, Maher never hurt anyone. He simply took the cash.

It was January 22, 1993, when Maher, then 37, struck.

Just after 9am he and a colleague arrived outside Lloyds Bank in Hamilton Road.

Maher waited in the van while his colleague went inside to make a delivery. While his colleague - who played no part in the robbery - 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 believed 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. His 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.

Much later police discovered Maher's girlfriend Debbie Brett, then 27, and son Lee - now 18 - had already booked into a hotel in Boston, USA, before the crime was committed.

Maher has never been found and all the sightings of him in nearly 20 countries have been thoroughly investigated.

Officers though have never given up hope and believe there is still a chance that one day he could trip up - that one piece of information could come to light which could lead them to him. The case is still open.

If that doesn't happen Maher will have committed the perfect crime but he will never be able to tell anyone about it and will carry his secrets to his grave.

Police investigating the robbery at Woolworths have appealed for anyone who saw anything suspicious to call them - especially if they saw a white estate car in the Hamilton Road or Highfield Road area around 6am on Monday or in the days prior to the raid.

Anyone with information should contact Det Insp Steve Clabburn on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Fast Eddie Maher

Maher is believed to have fled to America after the robbery - his common-law wife Deborah Brett and their young son Lee booked into the Buckminster Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, the day before.

It is thought he had accomplices in England who would have taken care of the cash and wired it to him once he had a new identity and bank accounts.

Rewards of £100,000 were put up in a bid to help catch Maher by tempting someone to provide a vital clue.

A national TV appeal was made on Crimewatch but detectives were left disappointed by a low-key response.

Officers interviewed more than 450 people in 15 countries in their bid to find Maher, liaising with Interpol and foreign police forces.