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Robert Hendy-Freegard IBPM 2 (born Anas Tarhi, 1 March 1971) is a Moroccan barman, car salesman, conman and impostor who masqueraded as an MI5 agent and fooled several people to go underground for fear of IRA assassination. He was born in Hodthorpe, a small village near Whitwell, in Derbyshire.
Hendy-Freegard met his victims on social occasions or as customers in the pub or car dealership where he was working. He would reveal his "role" as an undercover agent for MI5, Special Branch or Scotland Yard working against the IRA. He would win them over, ask for money and make them do his bidding. He demanded that they cut off contact with family and friends, go through "loyalty tests" and live alone in poor conditions. He seduced five women, claiming that he wanted to marry them. Initially some of the victims refused to cooperate with the police because he had warned them that police would be double agents or MI5 agents performing another "loyalty test".
A television documentary called "The Spy who stole my Life" was shown by Channel Five on 7 September 2005. In Australia, this was called "The spy who conned me".
First, he told the man that he was an MI5 undercover agent who was investigating an IRA cell in the college. He forced the man to let himself be beaten up to prove his loyalty and to show that he was “hard enough”. He also convinced him to behave in a bizarre manner in college to prove his loyalty and to alienate him from friends. Then Hendy-Freegard told him his cover was blown and both of them had to go undercover. He told the women that the man had cancer and convinced them to accompany them in a “farewell tour” all over England.
Later he let them in on “the story”. He told them to sever all contact with their families because they were in danger just through being associated with him. They moved to Sheffield and gave him all their money. The three spent five months in a Sheffield flat because Hendy-Freegard had forbidden them to go out.
The group eventually split up, others took jobs — still handing most of their money to Hendy-Freegard — and one of the women became his lover. She gave birth to his two daughters. When she eventually found out about his other affairs and confronted him, he beat her up and threatened to kill her before he told her that she could not talk to anyone for “security reasons”.
Hendy-Freegard convinced the man and his parents to give him £300,000. He was put into “training”, performing spurious jobs. Sometimes he would have to wait for days in a certain place for a non-existent meeting. Eventually, he told his sister that the IRA was pursuing him, and the tale began to unravel.
Hendy-Freegard also seduced a newly married personal assistant who was taking care of his children. He told her he was with MI5 and forced her to cut contact with friends and family lest the IRA would kill her. He also took naked pictures of her and threatened to give them to her husband if she would not cooperate. She had to change her name and tell the deed poll officer it was because she was sexually abused as a child. Her loyalty tests included sleeping in Heathrow airport and on park benches for several nights and pretending to be a Jehovah's Witness so that his bosses in MI5 would let them marry. She was told she was under constant surveillance and once that a sniper was watching their home. He told her to take up loans, supposedly to settle her debts.
In 2000 Hendy-Freegard met a lawyer, a customer in the car dealership in Chiswick, West London. He helped her to change her car, pocketed the difference, asked for more, persuaded her to give more money for a leasing business they would run together and stole £14,000 from her building society account. They became lovers and went on holidays all over the world. They then became engaged but her family intervened. When the leasing car did not materialize, he told her that the Polish Mafia had taken it.
In 2002 Hendy-Freegard seduced an American child psychologist with tales of how he had infiltrated a criminal network and how he had killed a criminal who had threatened to expose him. He said he wanted to marry her, on condition that she would also become an agent and cut off the contact with her family. He instigated loyalty tests and a change of identity. He urged her to kill her son and told her that he had taken a contract out for the murder of both of them. He told her that they would move to a lighthouse and when she refused to live there, he wanted £80,000 to repay the state because the arrangements had already been made. She got the money from her father as payment for "spy school". At one stage she spent three weeks "hiding" in a bathroom, locked in there by Freegard.
Hendy-Freegard convinced a Sheffield jeweller to give the mother of his children a room for a time and later tried to recruit him into the "organization". Hendy-Freegard also sent him to perform spurious missions as "training" - like sending him to London with strict instructions of what transportation to use, to buy a can opener in a certain shop and hand it over to a certain man in a certain pub. When the victim's "controller" seemed excessively amused when told about his trip, he grew suspicious and demanded to see his boss. There was no one in the meeting.
Hendy-Freegard convinced a female company director that he was watching someone in the Sheffield car dealership where he was working and convinced her to buy a better car. He sold her original car on his own account, kept the money and convinced her to take a £15,000 loan for him. He also again asked for a room for the mother of his children because she was supposedly in a witness protection program and told her that she was Spanish, so that the two women would not speak to each other.
Hendy-Freegard told a woman in Newcastle that he needed money to buy off IRA killers, who had been released after the Good Friday agreement. She gave him £16,000 over six years. He also sold her car and again kept the money.
Arrest and trial
In 2002 Scotland Yard and the FBI organized a sting operation. First, the FBI bugged the phone of the American psychologist's parents. Her mother told Hendy-Freegard she would hand over £10,000 but only in person. Hendy-Freegard met the mother in Heathrow airport where police apprehended him. He denied all charges and claimed they were part of a conspiracy against him and continued this story in the subsequent trial.
On 23 June 2005, after an eight-month trial, Blackfriars Crown Court convicted Robert Hendy-Freegard for two counts of kidnapping, 10 of theft and 8 of deception. On 6 September 2005 he was given a life sentence. Police doubt that they have discovered all the victims and no criminally sexual offences from at least one of the 'victims' (testimony from victim E.Richardson due to numerous 'abnormal' rape offences) were taken into account.
On 25 April 2007, the BBC reported that Robert Hendy-Freegard had appealed against his kidnapping convictions and won. His life sentence was revoked but still served nine years for the other offences.
The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) judgment played an important role in defining the modern offence of kidnap.
- BBC reports about Hendy-Freegard:
- Crown Prosecution Service Report 23 June 2005: "CPS convicts bogus spy"
- Channel 5 Documentary "The Spy who stole my Life" 7 Sept 2005 by Creative Touch Films