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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Fake spy guilty of kidnapping con
Hendy-Freegard
Hendy-Freegard faces a life sentence
A former bartender has been found guilty of kidnapping and theft in an elaborate spy con that lasted 10 years.

Robert Hendy-Freegard, 34, of Blyth, Nottinghamshire, conned his victims out of a potential 1m by persuading them they were being hunted by the IRA.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard he forced his victims to endure squalid lives and made them perform loyalty tests.

He denied all 24 charges, but was convicted of two counts of kidnap, ten of theft and eight of deception.

Lives in danger

Hendy-Freegard was cleared of two kidnap counts, one of theft and one of making a threat to kill at the end of an eight-month trial.

Judge Deva Pillay warned Hendy-Freegard he faced a life term when sentence is passed on Monday.

Three of his victims - agriculture students Sarah Smith, Maria Hendy and John Atkinson - were convinced their lives were in danger, the court heard.

You are an egotistical and opinionated confidence trickster who has shown not a shred of remorse or compassion
Judge Deva Pillay

Hendy-Freegard, who worked at a pub in Newport, Shropshire, when the con began in 1992, told them he was an MI5 agent and that they were being hunted by the IRA.

The three friends were told not to contact their families because their phones were bugged.

The court heard his first two victims were "kidnapped by fraud" - one of the few times such an offence has been successfully prosecuted - by claiming terrorists were on their trail.

Relentlessly manipulated

Hendy-Freegard convinced them to abandon their college studies, betray their wealthy farming families and "jettison their self-respect".

His victims told the jury how he relentlessly manipulated their lives. Most gave evidence behind screens.

In the process he drained them of every penny they could beg, borrow or earn, leaving several either in debt, or with zero credit ratings.

Maria Hendy
Hendy-Freegard convinced Maria Hendy her life was in danger

Finally, one of them went to the police.

Even the FBI, who helped set a trap for Hendy-Freegard at Heathrow airport two years ago, said nothing in their experience came close to the case.

Even now police doubt whether they have discovered all his victims. They are convinced he pocketed a total of 1m.

Judge Pillay said: "You have been convicted by this jury upon overwhelming evidence of the most heinous pattern of offending against a number of victims, all of whom fell prey to your devious charm.

"It's plain to me... that you are an egotistical and opinionated confidence trickster who has shown not a shred of remorse or compassion for the degradation and suffering to which your victims were subjected.

"Having regard to the previous physical and mental injuries your victims were made to suffer I now give advance warning I am minded to impose a discretionary life sentence upon you."

She said he was a "continuing danger" to others, and women in particular.

'Once in a lifetime'

Scotland Yard detective Robert Brandon said after the trial, said:"Mr Hendy-Freegard was an evil con artist. He ruthlessly exploited weaknesses in any of his victims.

"When he started he'd be charming, he'd listen and listen, and find any weakness in character, any vulnerability, and then he would ruthlessly exploit that.

"When he had control of his victims he went to whatever ends he possibly could to take all their money and all their dignity."

FBI special agent Jaclyn Zappacosta, who helped snare the former car salesman, described it as "a once in a lifetime career case".

She said: "He was someone that was probably the best I have seen in my career at affecting deceit and subterfuge. He excelled at what he did."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear how Mr Hendy-Freegard pulled off the con



SEE ALSO:
Fake spy created 'web of deceit'
23 Jun 05 |  Nottinghamshire
Barman denies elaborate spy scam
13 Apr 05 |  Nottinghamshire
Bogus spy 'took students on run'
22 Oct 04 |  Nottinghamshire


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