BRADFORD, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Ghislaine Maxwell was hiding out in style: her luxury timber-framed home perched on 156 acres of New Hampshire pine and oak forests boasts dramatic views of Mount Sunapee's foothills, but is secluded enough to have kept her out of eyeshot of the tight-knit locals.
It was not until Thursday that other residents of this rural corner of New England knew her whereabouts, after FBI agents arrested her on charges she lured underage girls for the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse.
"I had no clue she was there," said Laurie Colburn, 53, whose home is within a mile of Maxwell’s compound on the outskirts of Bradford, a town of less than 2,000 people defined by its white colonial homes, horse farms, stone walls and a historic covered bridge.
“Goes to show you, you don’t always know who your neighbors are.”
Maxwell’s arrest is the latest twist in the saga of Epstein, a former math teacher-turned high-flying investor who was found hanged in a New York City jail last August in an apparent suicide while awaiting trial on federal charges of trafficking.
Prosecutors allege Maxwell lured girls for Epstein from 1994 through 1997.
Maxwell’s home, identified to Reuters by a law enforcement source, has a narrow and treed-in half-mile dirt driveway with "No Trespassing" signs, obstructed by a padlocked metal fence. A real estate listing said the house has cathedral ceilings, a floor-to-ceiling fieldstone fireplace, and a “wall of glass” overlooking New Hampshire’s hills.
A stone with the words "Tucked Away" carved into it stands near the gate.
The FBI scorned her choice of getaway spot in the home that officials said she purchased in December for $1 million in cash.
"She had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims look at the trauma inflicted on upon them years ago,” William Sweeney, the FBI’s assistant director in New York, said after the arrest.
Bradford locals said they were surprised Maxwell chose their town.
“I’m surprised, because this is a small, quiet town. But I guess that makes it a good place to hide,” said Jenna Cook, 18, as she worked a shift at the Sweet Beet farm market on Bradford’s main street.
She and other residents said they had never seen Maxwell in town.
“People mainly know each other here, but there are plenty of places to hide away and not be seen,” said Alan Grandy, a retired 74-year-old, who said he’d gotten to know most of the people in the area by working for years at the counter of the local grocery store.
Nate Herrick, a 47-year-old English teacher, said Maxwell’s choice of a sprawling compound on the outskirts of Bradford was smart.
“She’s right up to the Washington town line, and that is the smallest town in the world,” he said, sporting a tie-dye shirt and trucker hat outside the local coffee shop. “I ride my motorcycle along that road, and there’s just not much back there.”
(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)