05/03/2013 06:34 GMT

'Fast Eddie' Maher Pleads Guilty To Security Van Robbery Of £1.2m

A British security van robber who spent almost 20 years as a fugitive in the US has admitted the theft of the vehicle containing £1.2 million.

Eddie Maher - known as "Fast Eddie" - was wanted by Suffolk Police after the Securicor van he was driving disappeared from outside the Lloyds Bank in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on January 22 1993.

The 57-year-old, originally from Essex, was arrested by US authorities in February last year and held in custody awaiting trial after denying the theft following his deportation.

eddie maher

Eddie Maher, who has spent almost 20 years as a fugitive

On Tuesday he entered a last-minute guilty plea at Southwark Crown Court in London. He is expected to be sentenced later on Tuesday.

Maher, who used the false identities of Stephen King and his brother Michael Maher while on the run, 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.

During his time on the run, Maher built a new life with his partner, Deborah Brett, and their son Lee, who was three years old at the time of the theft.

After his conviction, detectives revealed details of a series of property investments 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 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.

But his attempts to escape justice unravelled as he was arrested for illegally possessing firearms.

When US authorities contacted their UK counterparts about immigration issues, it became clear he was a wanted man.

Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector 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."

Ms 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.

Wearing a grey suit and blue tie, Maher, whose grey hair was closely cropped, looked composed as he entered his new plea.

Outlining the case, prosecutor Richard Southern QC told the court that on the day of the theft Maher had been on the delivery run with colleague Peter Bunn, who was responsible for carrying cash from the van to the bank.

He 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.