The French case is the loss of Puppet Master, according to a writer tracking down a British scammer

The co-writer of a feature film based on British con man Robert Hendy-Freegard’s crimes says he thinks the fraudster could be ‘screwed’ after he was arrested following an incident in which he rammed into French police officers last week.

Hendy-Freegard was arrested in Belgium on Friday August 2.

Read more: British Netflix scammer wanted for attempted murder in France is arrested

Michael Bronner is a journalist-turned-screenwriter who co-wrote the 2022 film Rogue Agent which traces Hendy-Freegard’s crimes to the 1990s and early 2000s. He said The connection that he was a bit taken aback when Hendy-Freegard suddenly resurfaced in France last week, but thinks it could be his downfall.

Hendy-Freegard is being investigated for attempted murder of a person in public authority following the incident with the police.

Last week, French police went to a house in the small village of Vidaillat (Creuse) to investigate a dog farm run by a woman associated with Hendy-Freegard, Sandra Clifton.

Hendy-Freegard later arrived at the property and when questioned by police sped away, hitting three officers and leaving them with serious injuries including a broken leg and facial injuries.

Read more: Briton on the run from French police linked to true Netflix crime drama

Hendy-Freegard is a notorious fraudster who runs elaborate scams to trick victims into giving him money.

He was sentenced to life in prison in the UK in 2005 for theft, deception and kidnapping by fraud, after being accused of extorting £1million from his victims and dubbed ‘The Puppet Master’ by Scotland Yard .

However, he was released in 2009 after the kidnapping sentence was downgraded on appeal.

He is also the subject of a Netflix documentary called The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman.

We caught up with Mr. Bronner on Friday hours before Hendy-Freegard’s arrest in Belgium to find out how he first became interested in his case, what he thinks of the con man and how the film went. realized.

How and why did you become interested in Robert Hendy-Freegard?

I was in London to edit the film United 93 [which was released in 2006]. In the middle of the night, I read a little newspaper text saying that there had been a guy convicted of kidnapping by fraud.

I thought it was either nonsense or a really interesting story just waiting to be told.

I started researching and ended up meeting a lot of Freegard victims. I wrote an 11,000 word article that was ultimately not published.

I kept it and it was then taken over by a production company. I was hired to write the script and that’s how the movie happened.

What do you think drives Hendy-Freegard?

He really is a sociopath.

His victims were not only women, there were also John Atkinson and Simon Young. So it seems to me that he hates women, he hates wealth, and he hates normality.

His first scam involved wealthy students. These children were land-rich children who had none of the worries that Freegard had growing up.

But these scams, that’s how he made his living. He had sex with the women, but I think it was mostly about power in the end.

One of the most surprising things about Hendy-Freegard’s story is that he’s able to scam so many people at once. What do you think of that?

Yeah, I mean, those are different sources of income for him. That’s what finally brought him down [prior to his first arrest in 2002]. Once the heat got up, he was simply unable to juggle it all.

Were you surprised when you read that Hendy-Freegard showed up in France at the house where Sandra Clifton was and was involved in this incident in which he rammed several French police officers with his Audi?

Yeah, totally. I mean, I was aware [Sandra Clifton].

Around February 2019, our movie was announced.

We hadn’t shot it yet, but actor James Norton had just come on as lead and there was a little article about it somewhere in the film press.

Then we got a call from this guy, Mark Clifton, who is Sandra’s ex-husband.

He said: “I know who Robert Freegard is and my ex-wife was brainwashed by him and disappeared and is in his clutches”.

It chilled us. It was confirmation that he was still out there doing it again.

our movie, Rogue Agentends with his first arrest.

We couldn’t really go any further than that, there was too much to add. I think Mark may have gotten frustrated by that and went to the documentary company instead, and that’s how the Netflix documentary ended up being made.

Anyway, on Thursday August 25th I had just landed in Boston on a flight from the UK and got this call from Mark telling me this crazy story about what happened in France.

It’s weird because in our film we couldn’t replicate the actual arrest of Freegard that took place at Heathrow Airport in London because it was too complicated.

So instead, we had him locked up in a remote farmhouse with one of his victims and he ended up driving his Audi straight to the police. A few weeks after the release of our film, the real Freegard ends up driving his Audi over some police officers and beating them up. It’s crazy. Life imitates art.

What will be the consequences of this incident for Hendy-Freegard?

It looks like he’s screwed up.

Fraud is complicated and difficult to prove, this dog breeding business seems fraudulent but it is a more difficult case to bear than the attempted murder of a police officer, whose witnesses have been numerous.

Read more: French mayor sounded the alarm over British ‘Puppetmaster’ scammer in 2018

How faithful is the film to reality Rogue Agent?

There have been so many victims and so many people whose lives have been torn apart by this guy.

It all took place over so many years and it’s very difficult to squeeze into a 90 minute film, which is the case with many films dealing with a true story.

My goal when I started trying to make it into a movie was to capture an accurate version of the dynamics by which [Hendy-Freegard] would slowly seep into someone’s consciousness and take over.

I wanted to show that the people he was attacking were no different from anyone else, that we all have vulnerabilities at one time or another in our lives that make us susceptible to someone who is a very, very good crook.

He knew how to be patient and really see even the smallest vulnerability [in his victims] and open it slowly and skillfully,” he said.

The FBI agent who was involved in his initial capture… I spoke to him a lot and he was a very experienced senior agent. She told me he was the most naturally gifted con artist she had ever met.

The point of the film was not to make any of the victims feel like they were being laughed at or pathetic but to really show that everyone is vulnerable. That was really my goal in writing the play.

Are you satisfied with the turn the film is taking?

Yeah. I mean, I think it’s very well done and well reviewed. It’s hard when you’re so close.

Would you consider writing a sequel because the story isn’t over?

Yeah. We talk about it. It’s very early to tell but we’re talking about it.

Why is Hendy-Freegard such a fascinating figure to everyone?

I have never met him. I tried when he was in jail when I was doing the initial research, but couldn’t reach him.

For me, what is fascinating is this concept of kidnapping by fraud. While it doesn’t hold water as a legal concept, it caught my interest because of this notion that you can completely enslave or deprive someone of their freedom. [without doing it physically].

You can brainwash them and alienate them from their family, their friends, their finances…

It can happen to anyone, whether you’re the lead attorney at a high-profile financial firm or a college student.

For me, it was fascinating.

I don’t think he’s necessarily a fascinating guy to hang out with or rub shoulders with. I mean, I think it’s pretty unpleasant work at the end of the day, but it was the concept that really interested me – the dynamic that his crimes represented.

Michael Bronner has been following the Robert Hendy-Freegard case since 2005 and recently wrote two articles about the scammer and the Rogue Agent movie for US publication Air Mail, which you can read here and here.

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