Netflix has produced some big documentaries over the years, like Making A Murderer, My Octopus Teacher, The Last Dance, and the infamous Tiger King. They’ve garnered huge audiences and critical attention, and now a new series has the potential to join those lofty ranks.
It’s called The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman, and was released on the streaming service on the 18th January. Set around the search for the British conman Robert Hendy-Freegard, the series spans 3 parts and details how Hendy-Freegard was able to conceal his identity and steal money from a number of victims over some 20 years.
In the series, you’ll see how the bold and outrageous cons began as he was working as a car salesman in Shropshire, convincing unsuspecting customers that he was an undercover agent of MI5, Scotland Yard or Special Branch. He would use these fake stories in order to con people into believing that they were the targets of assassination plots by the IRA, and then coerce them into complying with his demands. He would cut them off family and friends, and extort money from them over time for his claimed services.
A large amount of his victims were women, and several appear in the series reflecting on their ordeal. But most prominently, the series focuses on two siblings, Jake and Sophie Clifton, who began to suspect in 2012 that their mother was being coerced and controlled by a criminal posing as her boyfriend. It’s since transpired that this was Hendy-Freegard, and the two of them have disappeared. It certainly makes for chilling viewing when the crimes could be continuing to happen right now, and you’ll feel awful for their family.
The series also features John Atkinson, who became friends with the scam artist in the early 90s, and is believed to be his first victim. After being psychologically pressured into believing stories about IRA plots, Atkinson’s family paid over £400,000 over several years in order to keep him in “witness protection”, which of course was Hendy-Freegard’s excuse for needing money.
It certainly makes for chilling viewing when these crimes could be continuing to happen right now.
He also began a relationship with Atkinson’s friend Maria Hendy, who was also a victim of the scam, and added her surname to his own. The series really is breathtaking: just when you think Hendy-Freegard’s scams can’t get anymore heinous and immoral, the documentary takes you through more wild twists and turns in three episodes of dramatic and tense true crime.
Wild twists and turns in three episodes of tense true crime…
The synopsis on Netflix’s website says: “The jaw-dropping story of one of the world’s most audacious conmen. Over the course of a decade, Robert Freegard controlled, conned and fleeced at least seven women and one man, stealing close to a million pounds… …Now, in an incredible twist, the story reaches into the present day, with a family who fear for their mother’s safety.”
The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman compared to other Netflix docs, is a relatively short three episodes long, but tells its story thrillingly and succinctly without dragging its feet. It’ll leave you both amazed at the audaciousness of the cons, but feeling hugely for the victims caught up in the tale. It definitely should be on your documentary watchlist.
The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman IS NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX