UK fugitive evades arrest for decades

2012-02-20 13:00

kalahari.com

Kansas City - On the surface, Edward Maher and his wife appeared to enjoy a comfortable middle-class life. They had homes in quiet neighbourhoods, drove late-model cars and took occasional weekend trips. They raised two sons.

But beneath that veneer lay a darker past: Maher was an international fugitive - wanted in Britain on allegations that he stole a fortune worth $1.5m back in 1993 while working as a security guard for an armoured truck company.

When he was captured in rural Missouri, the suspect dubbed "Fast Eddie" by the British media had managed to evade arrest for nearly two decades.

Public records and interviews with neighbours suggest he did so mostly by living an inconspicuous life of unremarkable jobs and making frequent, sometimes abrupt cross-country moves.

Maher's adult son, Lee, claims his parents did not tell him anything about their real identities until shortly before his father was arrested on February 8.

"I had just found out that my life is ... not anything that I thought it was," the 23-year-old Maher said in a phone interview.

Fifty bags of money

Growing up, he said, "nothing ever seemed out of the ordinary. It's not something I would even consider because everything was so normal. It really kills me for it to be portrayed this way. I had no idea".

Prior to his arrest, Maher was last seen sitting in an armoured truck in Britain, waiting for a fellow security guard to return from a bank with a load of cash. Maher, who was then in his mid-30s, vanished, along with the armoured truck.

The vehicle was later found abandoned. Fifty bags of coins and currency were gone.

Authorities offered a reward. Sightings were reported across Europe. But Maher's trail quickly went cold.

At some point, the family fled to the US, where Maher often used a brother's name or the alias Stephen King.

No one knows what happened to the money. Spread over nearly two decades, the stolen cash would amount to $75 000 a year - enough for a contented, though not extravagant lifestyle.

Affluent family

To throw off any pursuers, Maher sometimes uprooted the family. At least once, they left in the dark without saying goodbye.

"They literally packed up and moved in the middle of the night," said Betsy Voit, a neighbour when they lived in Grafton, Wisconsin, about 40km north of Milwaukee.

Jim Coffey lived across the street from the "Kings" in Laconia, New Hampshire, for several years in the 1990s. He described them as a quiet, seemingly affluent family.

"They were always buying things," Coffey said. "They put in a new pool. They were always doing something around the house."

The man Coffey knew as Stephen King was a "very pleasant fellow" who spoke with a British accent. One day, a truck from the Fast Cash Trading Centre in nearby Tilton showed up and took away most of the furniture. King's explanation was that they were buying new furniture.

"Next thing you knew, they were gone," Coffey said. "They were here one day and disappeared the next."

Guns and a mansion

By 2004, the family was living in Philadelphia, where Maher worked for Nielsen Media Research as a field representative and supervisor.

They then moved to Milwaukee, where he became a field supervisor for the company in 2005 and a regional manager in the St Paul, Minnesota, area in 2007. He was laid off from Nielsen in 2008.

His wife, Deborah Ann Brett, who went by Sarah, acknowledged to neighbours that the family had guns. But she didn't want anyone to worry. The weapons were always locked up, Voit said, and the Maher family used to go to a firing range regularly.

Sarah didn't often open up about her background. She said the family had moved from Pennsylvania because of Maher's job, and she showed Voit a photograph of their old house, a home that Voit described as a "mansion".

In Wisconsin, the family lived in a two-storey townhome near a large park. Voit said they never flaunted any wealth, but they also spent freely. They bought four expensive mountain bikes, which they used for several months and then abandoned in Voit's backyard when they moved away.

Sarah, a homemaker, once mentioned to Voit that her family needed a second vehicle. Shortly thereafter, her husband drove up in a decked-out SUV for her.

Bankruptcy

"The one thing I remember her saying was that they didn't believe in payments," Voit said. They preferred to pay in cash.

Sometime in 2008, the family moved to the small town of Ozark, Missouri. And in 2010, the family's finances soured so badly that they filed for bankruptcy.

Maher, now making about $2 000 a month as a cable technician, reported having only $85 in his checking account and a slew of bills from hospitals, dentists and credit card companies. The Internal Revenue Service was after him for $3 148 for back taxes.

Hannah Evans, a former girlfriend of Lee Maher's who says she's pregnant with his child, described the family as traditional. The father was the boss.

"When Mike came home it was about Mike. You had to be quiet, and Sarah devoted all of this attention to him," said Evans, who lives in Springfield. "It was like their family felt very kind of 1950s. ... He's in charge, what he says goes. It's all about pleasing him."

Early in their relationship, Lee told her that he had learned as a teenager that he had actually been born in Britain and that his father had a different identity, Evans said.

Trained to lie

Months later, after she told Lee she wanted to break up - in part because of his "constant lying" - he shared the story of "Fast Eddie" and said his father had robbed the armoured car. She felt that was Lee's way of explaining his own penchant for lies.

"He said 'This is just how I am. I've been trained to lie by my parents because they've lied to me'," Evans said.

Lee Maher denied knowing anything about his father's earlier life until this month.

Evans said she did an internet search then for "Fast Eddie" and found only a rapper under that name, so she assumed it was "another of Lee's lies".

But soon authorities were in pursuit. Ozark police, working on a tip, contacted the FBI about Maher. They had heard he was a possible fugitive, but there was no active warrant that would justify an arrest.

Authorities then determined he was in the US illegally and picked him up on a weapons charge. He acknowledged using a fake name and was jailed.

Wonderful husband


British police have asked that Maher, now 56-years-old, be returned to his home country, but the extradition process could take months.

The day after Maher's arrest, his wife appeared wan but resolute. She declined to discuss the family's past or any criminal allegations. But she said if Maher is sent back to Britain, the family will go there with him.

"He's a wonderful father and a wonderful husband," she said, patting the head of her younger son. "He's never hurt anybody."

- SAPA

Read more on:    us  |  uk
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

Shilowa supports Vote No campaign

Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa has come out in support of the Vote No! Campaign launched recently by former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, says a report.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1595.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.