Bizarre tale of Doncaster fake spy Robert Hendy-Freegard told in Netflix show as conman resurfaces

The bizarre story of a Doncaster fake spy has been revealed in a gripping new Netflix documentary, as it emerged that the notorious conman has resurfaced.
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Robert Hendy-Freegard masqueraded as an MI5 agent and fooled several people to go underground for fear of IRA assassination as part of a bizarre plot that eventually landed him in jail.

The captivating story of Hendy-Freegard, from Blyth has been revisited in Netflix documentary The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman, telling the tale of how he "controlled, conned and fleeced at least seven women and one man, stealing close to a million pounds.”

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Since the show was released, Hendy-Freegard is understood to have been tracked down to Berkshire and is reported to have contacted a paper in Reading wanting to tell his side of the story.

Doncaster conman and fake spy Robert Hendy-Freegard.Doncaster conman and fake spy Robert Hendy-Freegard.
Doncaster conman and fake spy Robert Hendy-Freegard.

Hendy-Freegard’s deception went on for more than a decade before he was eventually trapped in a sting involving the FBI and he was sentenced to life after an eight month trial.

Born in 1971 in Dronfield, Hendy-Freegard began his double life in 1992 while working as a barman and car dealer in Wales.

He met his victims on social occasions or as customers and would reveal his "role" as an undercover agent for MI5, Special Branch or Scotland Yard working against the IRA.

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He would win them over, ask for money and make them do his bidding and demanded that they cut off contact with family and friends, go through "loyalty tests" and live alone in poor conditions as their lives were supposedly in danger.

It emerged that he seduced a string of women, claiming that he wanted to marry them and 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".

In 1992, while working in a pub, he befriended two women and one man, telling them he was an MI5 undercover agent investigating an IRA cell.

He forced the man to let himself be beaten up to prove his loyalty and also convinced him to behave in a bizarre manner to alienate him from friends.

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He then told him his cover was blown and both of them had to go undercover, telling the women that the man had cancer and decamping to Sheffield where they gave him all their money.

The three spent five months in a flat in the city because Hendy-Freegard had forbidden them to go out.

One of the women eventually became his lover, giving birth to his two daughters. But when she eventually found out about his other affairs and confronted him, he beat her up and threatened to kill her before he told her that she could not talk to anyone for “security reasons”.

Hendy-Freegard convinced the man and his parents to give him £300,000. He was put into “training”, performing spurious jobs and later, stole £14,000 from a lawyer he met while working as a car dealer.

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One woman was forced to sleep on park benches and in airport terminals as a loyalty test and also had to live on £1 a week, surviving on a loaf of bread and a Mars bar.

He forced another woman to hide in a bathroom for a week.

But in 2002, his world unravelled when Scotland Yard and the FBI organized a sting operation, snaring him at London’s Heathrow Airport where he had gone to collect £10,000 from one of his victims after her family became suspicious.

On 23 June 2005, after an eight-month trial, Blackfriars Crown Court convicted Hendy-Freegard for two counts of kidnapping, 10 of theft and 8 of deception and he was given a life sentence.

However, in 2007, the BBC reported that he had appealed against his kidnapping convictions and won, his life sentence being revoked and being released later that year.

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At London's Court of Appeal, Hendy-Freegard's barrister, Tim Owen QC, argued the charges of kidnapping against his client were incorrect.

He said the offence of kidnapping required, in law, deprivation of a victim's liberty and free will and there was no evidence of this in the case against his client.

Speaking after his trial in 2005, Metropolitan Police Det Sgt Bob Brandon said Hendy-Freegard lived a millionaire lifestyle while his victims lived in abject poverty.

"He was motivated by power; he was a sad, pathetic individual who achieved nothing from his life but by pretending to be a spy he had power and control over people."

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Hendy-Freegard's whereabouts are unknown, although The Times said they 'tracked him down to a house in Berkshire' where dogs were shut in a room upstairs.

The Netflix documentary revealed that he is in a relationship with a woman called Sandra Clifton, 49, whose family have not seen her since 2014.

Her two children Jake, 25, and Sophie, 28, feature in the docuseries where they believe Hendy-Freegard is coercively controlling their mother.

According to the Times, "he strongly denied allegations that he was controlling his new partner and said in a written statement that he had been “publicly castigated” for “such a long time” for his previous crimes."

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The Times reported: "Last week we tracked him down to a house in Berkshire. Pictured for the first time in many years, Hendy-Freegard did not want to speak on the record at first. The house had rubbish all over the floor, and dogs were shut in a room upstairs.

"Later he phoned a woman he said was Sandra, saved in his phone as “hot stuff Sandra” and remained on the call, during which she said she was not being coercively controlled by her partner. She did not speak to the reporter independently and would not reveal where she was.

Last month, the editor of the Reading Chronicle received a call, purporting to be from Hendy-Freegard, who wanted to tell his story.

In the call, he said the show didn’t portray his relationship with Sandra Clifton accurately.

However, he failed to show for the appointment with a journalist.