FORMER schoolfriends and neighbours of alleged Russian spy Peter Hill expressed their shock and bewilderment at his arrest.

One former classmate, who asked not to be identified, said he was "amazed" to hear of his arrest.

He said: "I was good friends with him at school and have kept in touch with him a bit since then.

"He was in the TA and he was always interested in the army, but for the last couple of years he's been working for a mortgage company in Skipton.

"He's the kind of person who is always doing one crazy thing one day and then he's got his heart set on something else just as weird the next.

"He has always been a bit of a fantasist, and definitely one on his own, but he has friends - there's no way he's a loner. He's sociable, chatty and even a bit of a ladies' man. He's funny and entertaining to have a conversation with."

Kate Turner, 23, another classmate, added: "I didn't know him well but I do remember him. I saw him in Colne a few months ago and he was really happy and chatty.

"At school, he was always in and out of the library, very well-behaved and very studious. I don't think he ever even had a detention.

"He was quiet then, but he came out of himself a bit more as he got older."

Many of his neighbours in Lambert Street, Skipton, North Yorkshire, said they knew little of a man who was rarely seen in the street.

There was a similar sense of confusion in nearby pubs where staff and regular customers confessed to knowing little about the former TA soldier at the centre of a suspected spying scandal.

Hill's house, which it is thought he shares with at least one other person, sits near the bottom of a steep terraced street that has around 10 houses on each side.

Pensioner Edith Varley, who lives across the road from Hill's home, said police had raided the house on Saturday afternoon and had been talking to neighbours in the wake of the arrest.

She said: "I have lived up here for a long time and have never seen anything like that before.

"I've never really seen much of him or the other person who lives there. You see them once in a while but not often.

"It's a shock that he's been arrested. When you start to see the police round it becomes a worry, living on your own you start to get a bit frightened to go to the door with all that going on."

Fellow pensioner Eleanor Story, who lives in another of the small stone terraced houses just up from Mrs Varley, said he was not well known in the street.

She added: "It's been a quiet street up until now but when the police came down here on Saturday I didn't know what to think.

"It's amazing that someone from our street could be arrested for something like this."

Mrs Story said that Hill's house, along with those near to it, had regularly changed hands over the last few years and she could not be sure how long he had been at the address.

James Thynne, 35, who lives a few doors from hill, said he rarely saw anyone at the house and struggled to recognise him when shown a picture of the former Clitheroe Royal Grammar School pupil.

In the Devonshire Arms, in nearby Newmarket Street, no one could recall seeing Hill around the town and many said they were stunned that a suspected spy had come from Skipton.

Neighbours living near his mum on Keighley Road, Colne, also said that they did not know Hill.