Ex security guard Eddie Maher jailed for £1.2m theft
A man who spent almost 20 years on the run in the US has been jailed for five years for stealing a security van containing £1.2m in Suffolk.
Eddie Maher, 57, had been wanted by police since the Securicor van he was driving disappeared from outside Lloyds Bank, Felixstowe, on 22 January 1993.
He was arrested in Missouri in February 2012.
Maher, originally of South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, entered a last-minute guilty plea at Southwark Crown Court.
On the day of the theft he had been on a delivery run with colleague Peter Bunn, who was responsible for carrying cash from the van to the bank.
Prosecutor Richard Southern QC said: "Mr Bunn recalls that when they arrived in Felixstowe the bank was not open and he had to wait a while.
"Once inside he was delayed and tried to contact Mr Maher to tell him.
"He could not make contact but was not at that point concerned because the radio signal was variable.
"It was not until he came out of the bank that he found the van had disappeared."
It is thought Maher drove the van to nearby Landguard Point where he got into its secure area and loaded about 30 sacks of cash into a stolen getaway vehicle.
He used false identities while on the run and built a new life in the US.
At the time of his arrest on 9 February 2012, he was working as a cable engineer in Missouri.
'Found on Google'
David Nathan QC, mitigating, said: "It does take a degree of courage to face up to an offence as old as this."
He added: "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."
He added that shortly before his arrest, Maher had visited a local police station to bail Lee King out after he was arrested for a motoring offence.
"He was told by one of the local officers that there was a rumour he was wanted for an offence in the UK," Mr Nathan added.
"He took the children and his partner to a hotel, no doubt with the intention of fleeing but thought better of it.
"He took his younger son to school and then was arrested the following day."
'Looking over shoulder'
Speaking outside court, Det Insp David Giles, from Suffolk Police, said: "Maher said he was forced to carry out this crime and that he only got a small amount of money from it.
"He never named the people who he claimed forced him into it and never put forward a credible story.
"We have succeeded in proving that he profited substantially from the theft and was a key player in the planning and execution of it.
"Since his arrest, he has displayed no remorse for what he did - but I get the impression he has spent 20 years looking over his shoulder and hoping the law would not catch up with him."
Maher's partner, Deborah Brett, 47; Maher's sister Margaret Francis, 64, and a 54-year-old man, from Woodford Green, east London, are all on bail after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit theft.