Freed Fast Eddie Maher 'got off lightly'

Eddie Maher and the Securicor van used in the theft Image copyright Suffolk police
Image caption Eddie Maher abandoned the Securicor van in a Felixstowe side street

A fugitive thief, who stole £1.2m, "got off lightly" after being freed half way through a five-year jail term, an ex colleague said.

Eddie Maher, 59, spent 19 years on the run after fleeing from Lloyds Bank, in Felixstowe, Suffolk, in a security van packed with cash in January 1993.

He was caught in 2012, living in the US under a false identity after authorities were tipped off.

Peter Bunn, who worked with Maher, said he was "surprised" at the release.

Maher, who the BBC has learned was freed from custody on January 8, was photographed in Eastbourne, East Sussex, by the Sunday Mirror newspaper last week.

Image copyright Suffolk police
Image caption Eddie Maher used the identity of Stephen King while on the run
Image caption Peter Bunn was left at Lloyds Bank, in Felixstowe, after Maher drove off

He was dubbed "Fast Eddie" in media reports and was once one of Britain's most wanted men.

Maher was working as a cable engineer in Missouri in February 2012 when authorities eventually tracked him down. He had been declared bankrupt two years earlier.

Police had been tipped off by his estranged daughter-in-law, Jessica King.

Ex-pub landlord Maher, formerly of South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, was sentenced to five years at Southwark Crown Court in March 2013 after being brought back to the UK.

Image copyright Kayla Jacoby
Image caption Eddie Maher lived with his partner Deborah Brett and son Lee in the US
Image copyright Suffolk police
Image caption "Fast Eddie" Maher splashed out on three houses within three years of arriving in the US

Mr Bunn, 70, had been working with Maher as a Securicor guard on 22 January 1993 but was left behind when Maher drove away after dropping him off at the Felixstowe branch.

Mr Bunn was initially suspected by police as a possible accomplice of Maher.

"I must admit I'm rather surprised he's out," said Mr Bunn. "I think he got off lightly, although considering he was on the run for the best part of 20 years I suppose he's pretty harmless now.

"It's all history as far as I'm concerned. I don't hold any grudges. He didn't hurt me, he just caused me a load of grief immediately after it happened."

Earlier this month, it emerged Maher's ex-daughter-in-law, Jessica King, had been paid a £10,000 reward for help in the conviction.

Image caption Eddie Maher drove away after dropping off a security guard
Image caption Eddie Maher was brought back to the UK in 2012

At Maher's sentencing hearing, the court was told it was likely he pocketed only a fraction of the £1.2m he escaped with. Several other people were suspected of helping him in an escape plan that saw him use at least two getaway cars.

Three people arrested as suspected accomplices of Maher were not charged.

Maher's £129,000 fire service pension was seized under the Criminal Justice Act in September 2013, with £50,000 paid to G4S, which took over Securicor, and the remaining £79,000 given to insurers Equitas.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) declined to comment on Maher's release.

Guidelines state that a five-year "standard determinate sentence" will mean a prisoner is automatically released at the halfway point but will serve the rest of the sentence on licence. Prisoners will be immediately recalled to prison if they breach the conditions.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites