A British man who is on the run after injuring two French police officers in central France is reportedly a notorious fraudster who is the subject of the recent Netflix documentary ‘The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman’.
Martine Laporte, the mayor of Vidaillat, the village i Creuse where the incident took place, says she believes the suspect is 51-year-old Robert Hendy-Freegard.
Hendy-Freegard – who also goes by the name of David – is a conman known for masquerading as an MI5 agent to scam victims.
He was sentenced to life in prison in the UK in 2005 for kidnap and fraud, having been accused of extorting £1million from his victims and dubbed ‘The Puppet Master’ by Scotland Yard.
However, he was eventually released in 2009 after the sentence was downgraded on appeal.
French police yesterday (August 25) paid a visit to a house in Vidaillat to carry out an inspection on a dog breeding facility after complaints from local authorities.
When they arrived, only a woman was present – this is reportedly Sandra Clifton, whose decision to leave her family and run off with Hendy-Freegard is a key theme of the Netflix documentary.
A man driving an Audi later arrived at the property and when the French gendarmes asked to see his papers, he sped off, hitting two officers, one of whom is still in hospital with injuries.
An investigation has been opened for attempted murder of a public official.
France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted his support for the officers.
Plein soutien aux deux gendarmes blessés, dont un est toujours hospitalisé, à la suite d'un refus d'obtempérer cet après-midi dans la Creuse.— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) August 25, 2022
The couple have already twice been investigated for failure to sort out the administrative situation of their dog breeding facilities, Franceinfo reported.
Ms Laporte said that the couple have been living in Vidaillat for seven years, in an area called La Forêt Belleville. She said they lived “totally secluded from the rest of the local residents”.
They were breeding dogs and reportedly kept 26 in cages at their property.
“The inhabitants of La Forêt-Belleville realised [soon after the couple moved in] that there was something wrong,” Ms Laporte told France bleu.
“We have been sounding the alarm for at least two or three years about a complicated situation. Their dog breeding practices do not comply with standards, many steps have been taken, without much result, until this outcome.”
Another neighbour told France 3 that: “[Ms Clifton] lives under the influence of this man. We can go months without seeing him. She breeds the dogs and he comes to sell them.”