A con that lasted close to a decade and claimed many marks had Robert Freegard at its center. Often coming across as a charming man who could convince people of anything, he conned his victims out of close to £1 million before being caught. Netflix’s ‘The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman’ is a three-part docuseries that explores Robert’s crimes and how nothing changed even after spending time in prison. So, let’s find out more about this case then, shall we?
Who is Robert Freegard?
Robert was born in Derbyshire, England. In 1992, he worked as a barkeep at a pub in Newport, England, when he met John Atkinson, an agriculture student there. Soon, Robert convinced John that he was an undercover MI5 agent and told him someone in his circle was part of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Robert then claimed that John and his friends’ lives were in danger, and they had to go on the run from the IRA while he would be protecting them.
So, John, Sarah Smith, and Maria Hendy went away with Robert and severed contact with their families and friends for many years. Convinced that the IRA was after them, they traveled all over England. To supposedly protect them, Robert would ask them for money which they readily gave up. Over the years, he even had two children with Maria. But in reality, Robert was not an MI5 agent, and John and his friends were not the only ones who fell for the scam.
In 2003, Caroline Cowper went to the authorities to report Robert defrauding her out of substantial money. The investigators then looked into Robert’s background and learned of a disturbing pattern where he would use his charm to convince people of his lies, isolate them, and take their money. Caroline later stated that he kept borrowing money from her, promising to pay her back. But that never happened, and Robert suddenly disappeared.
Through the investigation, the police found out that Robert had been engaged to Kimberley Adams, an American psychologist. He told Kimberley the same lie of him being an MI5 agent and, after proposing marriage, told her she would become a spy as well. Robert convinced Kimberley that she had to cut off contact with her family and undergo specific tests. He pushed Kimberley into asking her parents for money to pay for “spy school,” later asking for more, claiming she failed the test and had to re-take it.
Through a sting operation, Robert was arrested in May 2003. He was lured to the London airport under the pretext of Kimberley’s mother handing over money to him in person. The authorities then learned of others who were conned by Robert. Leslie Gardner was frauded out of more than £16,000 over six years since Robert told her he needed money to pay off killers or IRA blackmailers.
Elizabeth Bartholemew was told the IRA was after her and asked to stop talking to her loved ones. Robert put her through “loyalty tests” that included sleeping on park benches and in the airport, surviving on barely any money and food. He once told Elizabeth about a sniper pointing in the direction of her house, leading to her crawling on the floors and spending her evenings in darkness.
Where is Robert Freegard Now?
Robert, then 34, was convicted of kidnap, theft, and deception in June 2005. A few months later, he was sentenced to life in prison. During trial proceedings, the jury was convinced that even though the victims were not bound or restrained physically, Robert’s deception and controlling behavior amounted to kidnapping. However, his lawyers later appealed, claiming that the survivors were free to go as they pleased, with the evidence not pointing to them being held against their will.
As a result, some of Robert’s convictions were overturned, leading to him being released from prison in 2009. He resurfaced in 2011 as David Hendy when he began dating a woman named Sandra Clifton. Following a similar pattern of isolating Sandra from her folks, he is reported to have left with her, but it is unclear where they currently live. However, a news report talked of Robert living in Berkshire, England. He was known to be working in the dog breeding business of late, using the name David Clifton.
Read More: Where is Sandra Clifton Now?