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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June 2005, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Conman held victims under spell
By Neil Bennett
BBC crime correspondent

Conman Robert Hendy-Freegard was convicted at London's Blackfriars Crown Court of two counts of kidnap, ten charges of theft and eight counts of deception.

The toughest question for the prosecution in the case of Robert Hendy-Freegard was this: "How will we persuade a jury to believe it?"

Robert Hendy-Freegard
Hendy-Freegard conned people for 10 years

The car salesman-turned-conman kept a dozen people under his spell over 10 years, robbing them in total of at least a million pounds and getting them to carry out a quite extraordinary series of loyalty tests.

He convinced his victims that he was an MI5 officer conducting an undercover campaign against the IRA.

He persuaded them that they were part of his counter-terrorist plans and that their lives as well as his would be under threat.

He needed money to fund his operations "to protect state security" and, unfortunately for his victims, it all came out of their bank accounts.

He beat up one of the three students he conned - John Atkinson. This was to "prove his loyalty".

He forced Elizabeth Richardson, 33, to sleep on park benches and in airport terminals. She had to live on 1 a week, surviving on a loaf of bread and a Mars bar.

He forced Kimberley Adams, a 37-year-old American child psychologist, to hide in a bathroom for a week.

It took a lot of courage for them [the victims] to come and give evidence knowing that they faced the astonishment of the world
Andrew West
Crown Prosecution Service

And his victims were often well-educated people from supportive families, while he left school at 14 without any qualifications and hardly did a day's work in his life. So how did he do it ?

Det Supt Bob Brandon of the Metropolitan Police described him as "the most accomplished liar I have ever encountered in 25 years in the police".

Andrew West, the lawyer from the Crown Prosecution Service, who took charge of the case against Hendy-Freegard, said: "I struggled to understand it, but he is very plausible and even when he gave evidence he appeared very convincing."

He was certainly a cunning operator and it needed a joint sting operation by Scotland Yard and the American FBI to trap him.

Maria Hendy
Victims included Maria Hendy

Hendy-Freegard was ripping off Ms Adams who had to ask her parents in the US for money.

But he never let her tell them where she was and despite six weeks of phone bugging at her parents home, they still didn't know her whereabouts.

Her mother promised to bring $10,000 to London but would only hand it over in person.

Hendy-Freegard went with her to Heathrow and it was there that he was arrested and his vicious campaign of conning ended.

Even though they were not physically restrained, the jury decided by their verdicts that his cruel methods of control and deception amounted to kidnap - a unique case by any standards.

As for the victims, this is the view of CPS lawyer Mr West: "I think a lot of them will never recover.

"They have had years taken out of their lives and it took a lot of courage for them to come and give evidence knowing that they faced the astonishment of the world."

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23 Jun 05 |  Nottinghamshire

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