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Last Updated: Monday, 12 January, 2004, 21:49 GMT
Salesman 'posed as MI5 operative'
A car salesman conned hundreds of thousands of pounds out of students by claiming they were being targeted by the IRA, a court has heard.

Robert Hendy-Freegard, 32, from Blyth, near Worksop in Nottinghamshire, pretended to be an undercover officer, telling them their lives were in danger, Blackfriars Crown Court in London was told.

The jury heard he befriended the students at Harper Adams Agricultural College in Newport in Shropshire while he worked at a nearby pub.

Mr Hendy-Freegard denies charges including kidnap, making threats to kill and deception.

Butter certainly melted in his mouth.
Godfrey Carey QC

The court heard he told a student, John Atkinson, that he was a Special Branch officer investigating an active IRA cell.

Mr Hendy-Freegard then told students Sarah Smith and Maria Hendy he had Aids - and persuaded them to go with him on a farewell journey around the UK.

During that time he told all three that that IRA had taken out contracts on their lives because of their association with him.

The court heard how Mr Hendy-Freegard initially forced the three students to live in appalling conditions while he gave them meagre allowances to live on, and convinced them to break off contact with their families.

'Calculated spite'

Godfrey Carey QC, prosecuting, said: "As is so often the case with charmers, beneath the veneer was a layer of calculated spite and ruthlessness. Butter certainly melted in his mouth."

The court also heard Mr Hendy-Freegard subsequently had affairs with both the women, and Miss Hendy bore him two daughters.

He met his fourth alleged victim, Elizabeth Richardson, a married woman, in a car salesroom where she worked, the jury heard.

He was said to have told her he worked for MI5, and the pair began an affair.

Nude pictures

Mr Carey said Mr Hendy-Freegard had a hold over Miss Richardson after taking pictures of her naked which he threatened to show to her husband if she disobeyed him.

He said the defendant made her take loans for 6,000 and 8,000 which he put in his account and told her it was to help sort out her debts.

Mr Hendy-Freegard met his next alleged victim, legal adviser Caroline Cowper, at a car salesroom in Chiswick, west London, in 2000.

He persuaded her to part with 12,800 twice in consecutive months for a money-making scheme which was centred around buying cars to rent them out, the court was told.

Airport arrest

When she threatened to go to the police he threatened her life, the court heard.

The court was also told of Mr Hendy-Freegard's relationship with psychologist Kimberley Adams which began in 2002, and he managed to con thousands of pounds from her family on the pretence of being an MI5 operative.

At one point he threatened to kill her and her son claiming he had killed before and that he once drilled a hole in a man's head.

He was eventually arrested at Terminal 4 of Heathrow Airport in May last year.

In interview Mr Hendy-Freegard said the claims that he had behaved dishonestly for 10 years had all been invented as part of a "conspiracy" by those who held a grudge against him.

In addition to four counts of kidnapping and two of making threats to kill, Mr Hendy-Freegard is also charged with eight counts of theft, five of obtaining money by deception and two of causing actual bodily harm.

Altogether he is accused of stealing a total of 605,893 and obtaining a further 60,309 by deception.

The trial continues.

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