A British conman who had been on the run for more than a week after injuring two French police officers has been arrested in Belgium.
Convicted fraudster Robert Hendy-Freegard, who was the subject of a Netflix documentary, is facing possible attempted murder charges. He is expected to appear before a Belgian judge on Saturday before his extradition to France.
A hunt was launched after Hendy-Freegard, 51, drove into two gendarmes as he tried to escape during a raid on his home in France after reports he was illegally breeding dogs.
His Audi A3 was stopped by Belgian police on the E40 motorway at Grand-Bigard near Brussels on Friday.
Gilles Blondeau, from the local prosecutor’s office in Belgium, told journalists: “The motorway police recognised his vehicle, which had been flagged up because of what happened in France. He was arrested immediately.”
He said Hendy-Freegard would appear in front of a judge on Saturday before a decision was made on his extradition.
Hendy-Freegard had been on the run since last Thursday when French workplace and animal-rights inspectors, accompanied by gendarmes, turned up to inspect the remote house in the village of Vidaillat in Creuse, central France, where he lived with his partner, Sandra Clifton.
It is believed the couple moved to France in 2015 and were keeping about 30 beagles. The local mayor, Martine Laporte, said Hendy-Freegard was suspected of illegally breeding dogs.
While officers were asking Clifton to accompany them to the nearest station, Hendy-Freegard started his car and allegedly hit two gendarmes before fleeing, police said. One was reportedly carried 100 yards on the vehicle bonnet and required hospital treatment for a broken nose.
An investigation for “the attempted murder of a public servant” has been opened by the local prosecutors. He is facing up to 30 years in jail if convicted.
Earlier this year, Hendy-Freegard was the subject of a three-part Netflix documentary The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman, starring James Norton and Gemma Arterton, in which Clifton’s children, Jake and Sophie, said she had disappeared after meeting him on a dating website
In 2005, Hendy-Freegard was jailed for life by a London court for deception, theft and kidnapping, although the kidnap charges were quashed on appeal and he was released from prison in 2009.
Neighbours said Hendy-Freegard’s partner lived in “awful conditions” in the isolated house in the middle of the woods and was rarely seen in the village, unlike Hendy-Freegard, who made regular trips to Britain.
“She never went out, apart from in her small courtyard,” a neighbour called Serge told AFP. “I’ve been writing to the police, the prefect, the mayor’s office since 2017, but they didn’t take it seriously,” he added.
The couple’s dogs have now been taken into care by the French animal charity SPA.
During his London trial, the court heard that Hendy-Freegard was said to have lived by the motto “Lies have to be big to be convincing”. He persuaded his victims to believe he was a British intelligence officer and that they were on the run from terrorists and tricked them out of more than £1m.
Sarah Smith, one of his victims, recalled incidents such as being taken to a “safe house” with a bucket over her head and having to hide in a cupboard to avoid visitors.
September 3, 2022 at 05:59PM Kim Willsher