"If you ever saw him on the street you would never think he was capable of doing these things. He is highly intelligent, very educated and is very, very charming. That is how he manages to manipulate people and he is very good at that."
His danger comes from his utter obsession with young children and the way in which he has been able to get close to them. With hindsight, it is easy to see how time and time again he managed to avoid those checks designed to protect the most vulnerable in society.
Hopkinson, a former member of Mensa, was born in June 1953 in Eastbourne, only child of middle-class parents. His father worked for British Rail. When Hopkinson was four, his family moved to southern Africa, living in Bulawayo and then Salisbury (now renamed Harare in Zimbabwe).
As a boy, Hopkinson was bright. At Churchill High School for Boys he obtained six O-levels and three higher exams before taking a series of clerical jobs. By the time he was 21, he had completed two spells of national service with the air force, an experience he did not enjoy. Hopkinson returned to England at 23 and lived with relatives in Sidcup, south-east London, working as a manual labourer and in clerical jobs. In 1981 he took a computer programming course, and that was a turning point.
But Hopkinson was a loner. When his parents returned to England in 1987 he lived with them. He rarely went out, he had no friends and moved from job to job - usually involving computers - never staying long. For two years he held a junior post with the Bank of England.
By then the bespectacled Hopkinson had begun a relationship with his cousin, Jean Taylor. They lived together with his parents in Maidstone, Kent. But Hopkinson had developed a reputation as an unsavoury character.
"We used to call him `the pervert'," said Gloria Clout, a former neighbour. "You'd be out in the garden pegging out the washing and there would be a whistle. By instinct you'd look up and he would be standing in the upstairs window. He'd have nothing on."
His "offences" soon got very much worse. In July 1990 he began acting out the secret fantasies he had been outlining in a diary he kept called "The Evil Rapist". First he tried to abduct an 18-year-old French hitchhiker and drag her into his car, but the girl escaped. Then four months later he struck again, this time grabbing an 11-year-old as she walked home from school. He tied her, forced her into the boot of his car, drove her to nearby woods and sexually assaulted her. He took her back to his parents' home and forced her into a tiny upstairs cupboard. Police questioned a classmate of the victim and raided the house hours later. They found the little girl and a hoard of pornography, videos and photographs. Hopkinson, who told police he enjoyed dressing up in women's clothes, was sentenced to seven years for kidnap. Ann Widdecombe, MP for the constituency, complained: "If we cannot have severe sentences for child abusers we will not deal with the problem."
In prison, unknown to officers, Hopkinson drew a macabre map of schools in the Eastbourne area, annotated with the names of children cut from the local paper. He even tried to find their home addresses using the prison phone book. He also wrote another book - purportedly as part of his treatment - called Foiling the Beast. It examined, in 25 chapters, why men dreamt of abusing little girls.
Hopkinson served four years and was released on licence. Because he was not charged with sex offences he was under supervision for only six months. Prison sources said he had been "a model prisoner". He moved into a shabby Eastbourne flat above a shopping centre a few hundred yards from the parents he visited every day.
He was selecting young girls. "He used to have lots of children coming to visit all the time," said Esther Adams, 18, his next-door neighbour. "It was always the same bunch, they were from the local school. One used to wear her uniform.
"They would come at all hours. They seemed to think of him as a father figure. He would buy them sweets. Then they would come back and make cookies. One night three girls came round and said could I hand a letter to Alan. There was an envelope (with two hearts in the corners) and Alan in the middle. It made me feel sick."
Then the parents of one of his regular visitors complained to police. They visited Hopkinson and warned him his behaviour was "inappropriate". He did not stop. A year later came another complaint and another investigation.
Police were so concerned they tried to secure a court order against him, keeping him away from children. But they ran out of time. As they were still gathering evidence, Hopkinson struck. This time his victims were two 10-year-old girls on their way to school.Reuse content