Briton jailed for $2.2m heist after 20 years on run

LONDON (AFP) - A British man dubbed "Fast Eddie" who spent nearly 20 years on the run in the United States was jailed on Tuesday for driving off with a security van containing 1.2 million pounds (S$2.2 million).

Eddie Maher, 57, had been a fugitive ever since the van he was driving disappeared from outside a bank in Felixstowe, eastern England, on Jan 22, 1993.

He pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court in London and was jailed for five years.

In a series of property investments which detectives said were funded by the proceeds of his crime, Maher bought a house in Colorado with US$120,000 six months after the theft, then built an 80-acre ranch before moving around various US states.

He was working as a cable engineer in Missouri at the time of his arrest on Feb 9 last year.

Maher's lawyer David Nathan said the disgruntled ex-wife of his client's son had been his downfall.

When Maher's son Lee won a big prize on the lottery, she walked out on Lee's best friend to marry him instead, he said.

When the money ran out, she looked up the Maher name on the Internet and saw that her former father-in-law was wanted for theft.

"She heard that there was a reward and she went to the federal authorities," Nathan said.

Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector David Giles, from Suffolk Police, said: "Over the years, Edward Maher has almost been portrayed as a Robin Hood character, someone who stole from a bank, where no one was injured.

"Maher took on a position of significant trust working for a security company, a position he abused, resulting in the theft of over 1 million pounds."

Prosecutors said they were still looking to trace three possible accomplices.