British Netflix conman wanted for attempted murder in France is caught

Robert Hendy-Freegard who inspired the ‘Puppet Master’ series has been on the run since August 25 after driving into police officers in a village in Creuse

Robert Hendy-Freegard, a conman known as the Puppetmaster, has been arrested in Belgium
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Robert Hendy-Freegard, the British conman who is the subject of a recent feature film and Netflix documentary and who is being investigated for attempted murder after driving into several French police officers last week, has been arrested in Belgium.

He was stopped by Belgium’s highway police around 30 minutes south of Ghent after his car was spotted by Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. He was in the same car as when he hit the police officers.

He is expected to appear before a Belgian judge today (September 3) with a view to being sent back to France.

Hendy-Freegard, 51, is a notorious fraudster who runs elaborate scams to trick victims into giving him money.

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 released in 2009 after the sentence was downgraded on appeal.

Last week, French police attended a house in the small village of Vidaillat (Creuse) to investigate a dog breeding facility run by a woman associated with Hendy-Freegard, Sandra Clifton.

Ms Clifton’s decision to leave her family and run off with Hendy-Freegard is a key theme of the Netflix documentary The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman. Hendy-Freegard typically uses psychological manipulation to trap his victims, and it is believed this is what has happened to Ms Clifton.

Hendy-Freegard arrived at the property shortly after and when questioned by the police he sped off, hitting three police officers and leaving them with serious injuries, including a broken leg and facial injuries.

During a search of the property, officers later found new phones with prepaid cards.

An investigation was opened by the Guéret public prosecutor's office for "attempted deliberate homicide of a person holding public authority" and entrusted to the investigation unit of the Limoges judicial court (Haute-Vienne).

Martine Laporte, the mayor of Vidaillait, told The Connexion on August 30 that the dogs are now being cared for by an animal protection organisation, and that she “does not know” where Ms Clifton is.

She said that she had been trying to raise the alarm over the dog breeding facility and the suspicious activities of Hendy-Freegard there for years.

Read more: French mayor raised alarm over British ‘Puppetmaster’ conman in 2018

A film based on Hendy-Freegard’s scams, called Rogue Agent, was released this year.

Michael Bronner, who co-wrote the film and who has been following Hendy-Freegard’s case for over 15 years, told The Connexion that he thinks the investigation into attempted murder of a police officer will be the conman’s downfall.

“The fraud is complicated and hard to prove, this dog breeding business appears to be fraudulent but that’s a harder case to bring than attempted murder of a policeman, to which there were many witnesses,” he said.

“It seems he is pretty screwed.”

Mr Bronner described Hendy-Freegard as an “expert conman”.

“He was able to be patient and to really see even the smallest vulnerability [in his victims] and slowly and expertly pick it open,” he said.

“The FBI agent who was involved in his initial capture…I talked to her quite a bit and she was a very experienced senior agent. She told me that he was the most naturally gifted conman she had ever come across.”

Our full interview with Michael Bronner will be published shortly.

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