Shropshire Star

Bogus spy Robert Hendy-Freegard 'may have new victim' alleges Netflix documentary

When the dapper new entrant at Crufts turned out to show off his beagles, he wasn't short of self-confidence.

Last updated
Robert Hendy-Freegard. Picture: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Immaculately turned out, David Clifton was full of chat.

"He gave off the persona of being quite wealthy," said one dog lover. "He said he had a Rolex watch. He boasted about having suits made in Savile Row. He once offered to take another guy, also showing dogs, to Savile Row, to get him a 'decent suit'."

What he wasn't so keen to brag about was how he had made the money to fund this lifestyle ­– particularly the fact that just a few years earlier he had been in prison for theft and deception.

Because David Clifton was really Robert Hendy-Freegard, the bogus MI5 agent who had fleeced more than £1 million out of innocent victims, convincing some of them their lives were in imminent danger.

And according to a new documentary series on Netflix, it looks as if the former Shropshire conman is up to his old tricks again.

In the new programme The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman, the son and daughter of Sandra Clifton believe Hendy-Freegard is coercively controlling their mother, who met the conman 10 years ago through a dating app.

By this time, Hendy-Freegard – who was born Robert David Freegard ­– was going by the name David Hendy.

The couple had two beagles, named Watson and Holmes, which they regularly entered in shows. They were not "world beaters", said one woman, but "did their fair share of winning".

One breeder observed that Mrs Clifton was "very quiet", while Hendy-Freegard "was the one doing all the talking".

Top dog breeder Dianna Spavin, from Solihull, said she had sold the couple three beagles, but declined any further dealings with him after she discovered his identity.

"There was always something about him," she said. "He was one of those sort of people you didn't trust, but didn't know why."

She said that, after she discovered his identity, Hendy-Freegard inquired about using one of her dogs as a stud.

"I just said 'If you're Robert Hendy-Freegard, then the answer's no.'

She said he claimed to be the conman's twin brother, but never heard from him again.

After Hendy-Freegard's identity was rumbled in 2015, the couple went to ground, and haven't been see on the dog-show circuit since.

A source at the Beagle Association said: "We've not known where Sandra is for a very long time and have all been very, very concerned. They have been selling beagles. They're very hard to pin down. No-one knows their address."

But while the Netflix documentary team were unable to track down Hendy-Freegard, a reporter from The Sunday Times did find him at an address in Berkshire. He described the house as being in an unkempt state, with the dogs shut in a room upstairs.

Mrs Clifton's daughter Sophie, now 28, said she felt totally brainwashed when Hendy-Freegard moved into the family home, and caused her to cut her father out of her life.

"My mum has been trained, controlled to do whatever Freegard wants her to say and do," she said.

Freegard told The Sunday Times that he had regrets about his past.

"However, I have sat back and tried very hard for so long for the sake of primarily my children and those involved to shun the spotlight and let untruths go by uncorrected," he said.

"It seems there are those who were involved in this sorry episode that must obviously need reminding of a large number of facts and truths."

The conman, whose web of deceit began while working behind the bar at The Swan at Newport pub, is also the subject of a new film starring James Norton as Hendy-Freegard, and Gemma Arterton as the woman who brings him down.