Conman who 'tried to kill a French cop' is caught after 8-day manhunt

British Netflix fraudster ‘who tried to murder French policeman’ is CAUGHT in Belgium after eight-day manhunt: Conman who spun incredible lies to trick women out of cash is caught after ‘running over cops’

  • Robert Hendy-Freegard, 51, stopped in a car travelling near Ghent, Belgium 
  • British fraudster starred in Netflix documentary before alleged policeman attack
  • He had been on the run for eight days after fleeing from his home in Vidaillat 

A British fraudster who featured in a Netflix documentary before allegedly attempting to murder a policeman in France has been recaptured after going on the run for eight days.

Officers in Belgium confirmed that Robert Hendy-Freegard, 51, was stopped in a car that had been travelling on a motorway near Ghent on Friday afternoon.

‘Hendy-Freegard was arrested, and is now in custody,’ an investigating source told France’s BFM news outlet.

He was last seen speeding away from his isolated country home in Vidaillat, east of Clermont-Ferrand, last Thursday.

He lived there with his partner, Sandra Clifton, 49, who was said to have been ‘under the control’ of Hendy-Freegard for the past decade.

Hendy-Freegard is said to have ‘deliberately run down’ a policeman using his Audi A3 before fleeing, according to a French judicial source.

Conman Robert Hendy-Freegard, 51, (pictured) allegedly drove his Audi A3 into the police officers while escaping from his hideaway in the rural village of Vidaillat in the sparsely populated Creuse region in central France

Hendy-Freegard was the subject of the hit Netflix documentary series ‘The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman’

‘The suspect pointed his car at two gendarmes and drove towards them, seriously hurting one.

‘A search for the suspect, who is wanted for attempted murder of a public official, focused on France to begin with, and was then extended across Europe.’

Hendy-Freegard, who is nicknamed ‘The Puppet Master’ because of the control he exercised over his victims, was jailed in the UK in 2005 for kidnap by fraud, theft and obtaining money by deception.

He is said to use the identities David Hendy and David Clifton as he travels around Europe.

A notorious conman, Hendy-Freegard convinced a series of highly respectable victims he was an undercover MI5 agent and they were IRA targets because they knew him.

Several of his victims lived in hiding for years on end. All of them ended up giving him money – £1million he spent living out his James Bond fantasy of fast cars, luxury holidays and expensive clothes. 

Over time he bought himself seven BMWs as well as an £80,000 Aston Martin Volante, Rolex watches and Savile Row suits.

As he became more confident, Hendy-Freegard controlled up to five victims at a time, keeping them in various ‘safe houses’ around the country and using a mixture of charm and menace to keep them under his spell. 

His crimes always began in the same way. He would meet victims on social occasions or as customers in the pub or car dealership where he was working. 

He would later reveal his ‘role’ as an undercover agent for MI5, Special Branch or Scotland Yard working against the IRA. He would win them over, ask for money and make them do his bidding.

Then he demanded that they cut off contact with family and friends, go through ‘loyalty tests’ and live alone in poor conditions. 

All had to carry out bizarre tasks which he told them were ‘tests’ set by their supposed ‘spymasters’. 

According to court evidence, he convinced seven women and a man that he was an MI5 agent protecting them from the IRA and forced them to hand over up to £1million in cash.

Hendy-Freegard’s kidnap convictions were later overturned, and he got out prison in 2009.

He met Ms Clifton, a dog breeder in 2012 on a dating app, and the pair kept 26 Beagles at their home in Vidaillat.

Ms Clifton’s children from a previous relationship – Jake, 25, and Sophie, 28 – allege Hendy-Freegard has convinced their mother he is a secret agent and is controlling her.

They tell the Netflix documentary The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman that they had not seen their mother since 2014.

Hendy-Freegard, who was dubbed ‘the puppet master’, forced his 10 victims to take on bizarre ‘tests’, including one who had to survive on rations of one Mars Bar per week

Hendy-Freegard was jailed for life by a London Court in 2005 for deception, theft and kidnapping in an extraordinary trial that heard from seven victims he fleeced out of money. Pictured: Hendy-Freegard with one of his victims, Maria Hendy 

Police said anyone who spots Hendy-Freegard should call the authorities immediately. Pictured: Detectives piece together their investigation about Hendy-Freegard in Netflix documentary ‘The Puppet Master’

Neighbours in France confirmed that Ms Clifton, from Wokingham, Berks, had lived a ‘controlled, hermit-style existence’.

‘She did not speak French, and made no attempt to mix with anyone,’ said one, who asked not to be identified.

‘It was pretty clear that she was only interested in interacting with her partner – somebody many of us recognised from Netflix’.

The semi-detached home that the couple share was raided by police and animal-welfare officers last Friday week, and the Beagles were taken into care.

Hendy-Freegard would claim he was going to marry his female victims, who often refused to cooperate with the police because he had warned them that police would be double agents or MI5 agents performing another ‘loyalty test’. 

Sandra’s situation bears a chilling similarity to that of Hendy-Freegard’s previous victims — in particular Sarah Smith, who went missing for ten years after he convinced her he was an undercover agent working for the government. 

Once he had brainwashed her, separated her from her family, wiped out her identity and become her only protector, she was entirely at his mercy. She also handed over her life savings of £180,000.

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