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Robert Hendy-Freegard

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Robert Hendy-Freegard
Born
Robert Freegard

(1971-03-01) 1 March 1971 (age 51)
Other namesDavid Hendy, David Clifton
Known forConman and imposter
Criminal chargesTheft, deception and kidnapping-by-fraud (2005); kidnap conviction quashed on appeal (2007)
Criminal penaltyLife in prison (2005); reduced to 9 years on appeal (2007)
Criminal statusReleased in 2009

Robert Hendy-Freegard (born Robert Freegard, 1 March 1971)[1] is a British convicted conman and impostor who masqueraded as an MI5 agent while working as a barman and car salesman.[2] He is also known as David Hendy and David Clifton.[3]

Career

Hendy-Freegard was born in Dronfield and started his career as a barman and car salesman.[4] Hendy-Freegard met his victims on social occasions or as customers in the pub or car dealership where he worked. Having met the victims, he claimed to be an undercover agent, working for MI5, the Special Branch or for Scotland Yard. He applied pressure and psychological stress to his victims, claiming they were threatened with assassination by the IRA, to coerce them into following his demands.[5]

Having won his victims over, he coerced money out of them and pressured them to do his bidding, including cutting off contact with their family and friends; performing "loyalty tests"; and living alone in poor conditions. He seduced five women, claiming that he wanted to marry them. Initially some of the victims refused to cooperate with the police because he had warned them that police would be double agents or MI5 agents performing another "loyalty test".[6]

In 1992, while working in The Swan, a pub in Newport, Shropshire, Freegard befriended two women, Sarah Smith and Maria Hendy, and a man, John Atkinson. All three were agriculture students at Harper Adams University in Edgmond.[7] He told Atkinson that he was an MI5 undercover agent who was investigating an IRA cell in the college. He forced Atkinson to let himself be beaten up to prove his loyalty and to show that he was "hard enough". He also persuaded him to behave in a bizarre manner in college to prove his loyalty and to alienate him from friends. Hendy-Freegard then told Atkinson his cover was blown and both of them had to go undercover. He persuaded Atkinson to tell Smith, who at the time was Atkinson's girlfriend, and Hendy that he had liver cancer and persuaded them to accompany them in a "farewell tour" all over England.[8]

Later he let them in on "the story". He told them to sever all contact with their families because they were in danger just through being associated with him. They moved to Sheffield and gave him all their money.[9] Maria Hendy became his lover and gave birth to his two daughters; she was later beaten up by him losing one of her teeth.[9] During their relationship he changed his surname by deed poll to Hendy-Freegard.[10]

Next, in 1995, Hendy-Freegard had an affair with a recently-married personal assistant, Elizabeth Bartholomew (née Richardson). He told her to take up loans, supposedly to settle her debts following her divorce, and then made her sleep on park benches.[7]

In 1996, Hendy-Freegard told a woman in Newcastle, Lesley Gardner, that he needed money to buy off IRA killers, who had been released after the Good Friday agreement. She gave him £16,000 over six years. He also sold her car and again kept the money.[7]

In 2000, Hendy-Freegard convinced a female company director, Renata Kister, that MI5 had told him to watch someone in the Sheffield car dealership where he was working and persuaded her to buy a better car. He sold her original car, kept the money and persuaded her to take out a £15,000 loan for him. He also asked Kister for a room for Sarah Smith because she was supposedly in a witness protection programme. He told her that Smith could not speak English, and told Smith that for security reasons she had to pretend that she could not understand anything said to her, so that the two women would not speak to each other.[6][7]

In 2000, Hendy-Freegard met a lawyer, Caroline Cowper, who was a customer in the car dealership in Chiswick, West London. He helped her change her car, pocketed the difference, asked for more, persuaded her to give more money for a leasing business they would run together and stole £14,000 from her building society account. They later became lovers and went on holidays all over the world. They then became engaged before her family intervened. When the leasing car did not materialize, he told her that the Polish mafia had taken it.[7]

In 2002, Hendy-Freegard seduced an American child psychologist, Kimberley Adams, with stories of how he had infiltrated a criminal network and killed a criminal who had threatened to expose him. He said he wanted to marry her, on condition that she would also become an agent and cut off the contact with her family.[7]

In 2002, Scotland Yard and the FBI organized a sting operation with the help of Kimberley Adams' parents. First, the FBI bugged the phone of the parents. Adams' mother told Hendy-Freegard she would give him $10,000 but only in person. Hendy-Freegard met the mother in Heathrow Airport where police apprehended him.[11]

On 23 June 2005, after an eight-month trial, Blackfriars Crown Court convicted Hendy-Freegard on two counts of kidnapping (John Atkinson and Sarah Smith), 10 of theft and eight of deception. On 6 September 2005, he was given a life sentence.[9][12]

On 25 April 2007, it was reported that Hendy-Freegard had appealed against his kidnapping convictions.[13] The Court of Appeal judgment played an important role in defining the modern offence of kidnap, holding that inducing a person to go from one place to another by fraud does not constitute kidnapping.[14] His life sentence was revoked but he still faced nine years for the other offences.[15][16] He was released in May 2009.

In 2011, using the name David Hendy, he met and seduced a British woman named Sandra Clifton through an online dating site.[17] He claimed to work in the media industry selling advertising space to large companies, and often hinted at the amount of money he had, convincing Sandra of his wealth with expensive gifts and trips. It has been alleged that as their relationship developed over the course of the next few years, he gradually manipulated Sandra and her family members through deception, coercive control and mental abuse, progressively isolating Sandra from her family and friends.[17][18] Hendy-Freegard has denied these claims.[17] Sandra Clifton later ceased contact with her children Sophie and Jake, and with their father Mark Clifton.[17][19]

It has been reported that Hendy-Freegard and Sandra Clifton have been working in the beagle breeding and showing business, and that he uses the name David Clifton.[19] According to the Netflix documentary he lived and worked in France where he traded luxury dogs;[20] however, more recent media suggests he lived in Reading, Berkshire.[21]

On 26 August 2022, a British man, who the French media identified as Hendy-Freegard, caused severe injuries to two Gendarmes after a Veterinary Health inspection of his dog breeding activities in Vidaillat, France.[22]

On 2 September 2022, after being on the run for eight days, he was apprehended by the Police of Dilbeek in Groot-Bijgaarden (near Brussels) following the issuance of a European arrest warrant. He was travelling alone.[23] On 3 September, he appeared before a Belgian magistrate and was detained pending his extradition to France.[24] On 15 September, the Brussels council court authorised Hendy-Freegard's extradition to France.[25][26] On 19 September, the prosecutor's office confirmed that he had appealed against the extradition.[26] Hendy-Freegard was handed over to the French authorities on 17 October.[27] He appeared before judges in Limoges on 20 October, when he was indicted for the alleged attempted murder of 'persons holding public authority' and held in pre-trial detention at the Limoges remand centre.[27]

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Dronfield

Dronfield

Dronfield is a town in North East Derbyshire, England, which includes Dronfield Woodhouse and Coal Aston. It lies in the valley of the River Drone between Chesterfield and Sheffield. The Peak District National Park is three miles (4.8 km) to the west. The name comes from the Old English Dranfleld, probably meaning an open land infested with drone bees.

MI5

MI5

The Security Service, also known as MI5, is the United Kingdom's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and Defence Intelligence (DI). MI5 is directed by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and the service is bound by the Security Service Act 1989. The service is directed to protect British parliamentary democracy and economic interests and to counter terrorism and espionage within the United Kingdom (UK).

Assassination

Assassination

Assassination is the murder of a prominent or important person, such as a head of state, head of government, politician, world leader, member of a royal family or CEO. The murder of a celebrity, activist, or artist, though they may not have a direct role in matters of the state, may also sometimes be considered an assassination. An assassination may be prompted by political and military motives, or done for financial gain, to avenge a grievance, from a desire to acquire fame or notoriety, or because of a military, security, insurgent or secret police group's command to carry out the assassination. Acts of assassination have been performed since ancient times. A person who carries out an assassination is called an assassin or hitman.

Provisional Irish Republican Army

Provisional Irish Republican Army

The Irish Republican Army, also known as the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and informally as the Provos, was an Irish republican paramilitary organisation that sought to end British rule in Northern Ireland, facilitate Irish reunification and bring about an independent, socialist republic encompassing all of Ireland. It was the most active republican paramilitary group during the Troubles. It saw itself as the army of the all-island Irish Republic and as the sole legitimate successor to the original IRA from the Irish War of Independence. It was designated a terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom and an unlawful organisation in the Republic of Ireland, both of whose authority it rejected.

Double agent

Double agent

In the field of counterintelligence, a double agent is an employee of a secret intelligence service for one country, whose primary purpose is to spy on a target organization of another country, but who is now spying on their own country's organization for the target organization.

Newport, Shropshire

Newport, Shropshire

Newport is a constituent market town in Telford and Wrekin in Shropshire, England. It lies 6 miles (10 km) north of Telford, 12 miles (19 km) west of Stafford, and is near the Shropshire-Staffordshire border. The 2001 census recorded 10,814 people living in the town's parish, which rose to 11,387 by the 2011 census.

Harper Adams University

Harper Adams University

Harper Adams University, founded in 1901 as Harper Adams College, is a public university located close to the village of Edgmond, near Newport, in Shropshire, England. Established in 1901, the college is a specialist provider of higher education for the agricultural and rural sector. It gained university college status in 1998, and university status in 2012 when the requirements were relaxed.

Edgmond

Edgmond

Edgmond is a village in the borough of Telford and Wrekin and ceremonial county of Shropshire, England. The village population at the 2011 Census was 2,062. It lies 1 mile north-west of the town of Newport.

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Deed of change of name

Deed of change of name

A deed of change of name is a legal document used in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some other countries with legal systems based on English common law, to record an intended change of name by a person or family. It is one use of a deed poll.

Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle upon Tyne, or simply Newcastle, is a city and metropolitan borough in Tyne and Wear, England. The city is located on the River Tyne's northern bank and forms the largest part of the Tyneside built-up area. Newcastle is also the most populous city of North East England. Newcastle developed around a Roman settlement called Pons Aelius and the settlement later took the name of a castle built in 1080 by William the Conqueror's eldest son, Robert Curthose.

Chiswick

Chiswick

Chiswick is a district of west London, England. It contains Hogarth's House, the former residence of the 18th-century English artist William Hogarth; Chiswick House, a neo-Palladian villa regarded as one of the finest in England; and Fuller's Brewery, London's largest and oldest brewery. In a meander of the River Thames used for competitive and recreational rowing, with several rowing clubs on the river bank, the finishing post for the Boat Race is just downstream of Chiswick Bridge.

In popular culture

The Spy Who Stole My Life, a television documentary about Hendy-Freegard, was broadcast on Channel Five on 7 September 2005.[28]

He was the subject of the January 2022 Netflix documentary mini-series The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman.[29] In July 2022, Netflix UK streamed the feature film Rogue Agent, based on his life.[30]

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Channel 5 (British TV channel)

Channel 5 (British TV channel)

Channel 5 is a British free-to-air public broadcast television channel launched in 1997. It is the fifth national terrestrial channel in the United Kingdom and is owned by Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American media conglomerate Paramount Global, which is grouped under Paramount Networks UK & Australia division.

Netflix

Netflix

Netflix, Inc. is an American subscription video on-demand over-the-top streaming service and production company based in Los Gatos, California. Founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in Scotts Valley, California, it offers a film and television series library through distribution deals as well as its own productions, known as Netflix Originals.

The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman

The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman

The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman is a 2022 British Netflix docuseries directed by Sam Benstead and Gareth Johnson. The three-part series follows the search for British conman Robert Hendy-Freegard, and details how he masked his true identity in order to steal money from a multitude of different people for more than two decades. The series was released on 18 January 2022.

Rogue Agent (film)

Rogue Agent (film)

Rogue Agent is a 2022 British thriller film directed by Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn from a screenplay the pair co-wrote with Michael Bronner, based on the article "Chasing Agent Freegard" by Michael Bronner. James Norton portrays Robert Hendy-Freegard, a conman who tricked and convinced several people that he was an MI5 agent. Gemma Arterton also stars as the person who brought him down, with additional cast members including Shazad Latif, Marisa Abela, Edwina Findley and Julian Barratt.

Source: "Robert Hendy-Freegard", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hendy-Freegard.

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References
  1. ^ "Robert Hendy-Freegard Affair: The bigger the better the lie - Hendy-Freegard; Profile". Birmingham Post. 24 June 2005. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  2. ^ "True story of conman Robert Hendy-Freegard explored in Netflix documentary The Puppet Master". inews.co.uk. 19 January 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  3. ^ "The Puppet Master - where is Sandra Clifton now?". Digital Spy. 18 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Robert Hendy-Freegard: Derbyshire conman who convinced victims he was MI5 spy features in new Netflix series The Puppet Master". Derby Telegraph. 23 January 2022.
  5. ^ "'Evil' bogus spy jailed for life". BBC News. 6 September 2005.
  6. ^ a b "'It was every schoolboy's fantasy'". BBC News. 23 June 2005. Archived from the original on 14 July 2006.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "He told his victims he was a spy - and for 10 years took their money and abused them". The Guardian. 23 June 2005. Archived from the original on 19 September 2014.
  8. ^ "Students duped by 'IRA threat'". BBC. 13 January 2004.
  9. ^ a b c "'MI5 agent' conman jailed for life". The Guardian. 6 September 2005.
  10. ^ Andrews, Mark (18 January 2022). "How fake spy Robert Hendy-Freegard isolated Shropshire students with his web of lies". www.shropshirestar.com. Retrieved 3 September 2022.
  11. ^ "Robert Hendy-Freegard Affair: Kimberley was told to live in a lighthouse team; The Psychologist and his downfalls". The Birmingham Post. 24 June 2005.
  12. ^ "CPS convicts bogus spy". Crown Prosecution Service. 23 June 2005. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008.
  13. ^ "Bogus MI5 conman fights sentence". BBC News. 24 April 2007.
  14. ^ "Hendy-Freegard v R [2007] EWCA Crim 1236 (23 May 2007". bailii.org.
  15. ^ "'MI5' conman wins sentence appeal". BBC. 25 April 2007.
  16. ^ "Victims in fear as M15 conman is cleared". www.standard.co.uk. 13 April 2012. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  17. ^ a b c d "Robert Hendy-Freegard: The real story of The Puppet Master conman". The Independent. 3 February 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  18. ^ "The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman | Netflix Official Site". www.netflix.com. 18 January 2022. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  19. ^ a b "Here's where Robert Freegard and Sandra Clifton from Netflix's 'The Puppet Master' are now". Newsweek. 18 January 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  20. ^ "The Spy Who Loved Her : MSNBCW : October 29, 2011 10:00am-11:00am PDT". 29 October 2011 – via Internet Archive.
  21. ^ "Robert Hendy Freegard Puppet Master". Reading Chronicle. 3 February 2022.
  22. ^ "L'homme en fuite après avoir blessé deux gendarmes dans la Creuse a été condamné pour escroquerie en Grande-Bretagne". France Info. 26 August 2022. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  23. ^ ""Ultieme oplichter" Robert Hendy-Freegard uit Netflix-documentaire gevat op E40". Het Nieuwsblad (in Flemish). Retrieved 3 September 2022.
  24. ^ "Europe's ultimate conman, the 'puppet master', arrested and detained in Belgium". ABC News. 4 September 2022. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  25. ^ ""Pupper master" : Robert Hendy Freegard fait appel de son extradition de Belgique, après avoir renversé 2 gendarmes en Creuse". France 3 Nouvelle-Aquitaine (in French). Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  26. ^ a b "British conman wanted by France contests extradition". News24. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  27. ^ a b "Limoges : Robert Hendy-Freegard mis en examen". France 3 Nouvelle-Aquitaine (in French). Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  28. ^ "The Spy Who Stole My Life (2005)". BFI.
  29. ^ "The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman review – astounding true crime TV". The Guardian. 20 January 2022. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  30. ^ Moore, Kasey (10 July 2022). "Netflix UK Acquires Rights to 'Rogue Agent' starring Gemma Arterton". What's on Netflix. Retrieved 10 July 2022.

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