Fugitive Sean Lopes on New York City's most wanted list worked at Sainsbury's in Pepper Hill
Neighbours have reacted with shock to the news they were living just yards from one of New York City's most wanted men.
Police arrested Sean Lopes in New Road, Chatham on Monday after obtaining an extradition warrant from Westminster magistrates.
Lopes, 47, who has been living at an address in Victoria Road, Luton, is wanted for the attempted murder and kidnap of a 22-year-old woman in New York in June 2004.
He was jailed for 15 years in his absence for the offences and has been on the run since then.
In 2006, Lopes was said to have been labelled by the New York Police Department as in the top 10 of the city’s most wanted fugitives.
Last year the US authorities said they believed Lopes was hiding in Trinidad and Tobago.
It was after his court case heard Lopes became obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Amanda Hopkins, after she dumped him.
Prosecutors claimed Lopes sneaked into the 22-year-old Bronx teacher’s Upper East Side apartment in New York on the last day of school, on June 25, 2004.
The statue of liberty, New York
When Hopkins came home Lopes threatened to kill her and then commit suicide, the court heard.
Police later stormed the apartment and found Lopes holding a butcher’s knife to Hopkins’ throat.
Lopes was arrested in Chatham after a tip-off from someone who raised concerns about him.
It is believed he had only been living in the area for nine weeks and may have lived in the Essex area before that.
National newspaper reports suggest reporters have spoken to his former neighbours in Basildon, who have said he had two little boys and seemed like a normal family man.
Lopes is said to have lived there in 2010 for about nine months and told neighbours he was a manager at a Sainsbury’s store in Pepper Hill, Northfleet, Gravesend.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman: “We can confirm that a member of staff from our Pepper Hill store was arrested on Monday.
“We are helping the police with their investigations but are unable to comment further.”
One former colleague, 25, who lives in Gravesend who didn’t want to be named said: “He was a department manger on the night shift, so was in charge of the store when it was closed at night.
Lopes worked as a manager at Sainsbury's in Pepper Hill. Stock picture.
“He was in charge of the store and the staff who were working at night.
“I was surprised when I heard he was one of America’s most wanted, I never suspected.
"He was quite an enthusiastic man and was always happy to be there, I got to know him a bit and liked him at first. He seemed pretty nice, but then when I got to know him I realised he was a bit confrontational.
“If you did something wrong, he was a bit menacing, but he was a small bloke so most people would take no notice of him.
“If you called in sick he would have a go at you about it and tell you that you should have come in and that you are not a doctor, so how did you know you were sick?
“The women didn’t like him much, but he was always nice to the young ones, but he would bully people who didn’t stand up to him, but if you did stand your ground he would back off.
“But nothing raised my suspicious about him, but I never believed him about his science degree, he said he knew a lot about science, so I couldn’t understand why he was working at Sainsbury’s.
"Before he came to the store I think he worked at one in Essex."
Police in Kent worked with the Metropolitan police and the authorities in New York to track down and arrest him.
His arrest came as he was driving his car along the road when armed officers along with patrol response officers, swooped on the car and arrested him.
"It was a big shock. He was a very, very nice man. He only moved in just over two months ago and when he did he came over and shook my hand and seemed very nice" - one of Lopes's neighbours
Police confirmed he was arrested without incident and no shots from the armed officers were fired.
Neighbours in Chatham said they were shocked by the news.
One woman who didn’t want to be named said: “It was a big shock. He was a very, very nice man. He only moved in just over two months ago and when he did he came over and shook my hand and seemed very nice. I am really surprised.”
Another resident added: “It is quite worrying really. You just wouldn’t ever think that you were living near to a most wanted fugitive. It is a big shock.
“This is Luton, which doesn’t have the best reputation, but this is known as one of the quieter, nicer parts. Most of the people on this road work and it is considered one of the nicer parts, so I am really surprised.”
One woman, who didn’t know Mr Lopes, added: “Am I surprised something like that happened in this area? No. This is Luton.”
Lopes appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, where he was remanded until next Tuesday, May 14.
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