A bogus MI5 officer duped a string of people into spending years in hiding while stealing more than £650,000 of their savings, a court was told yesterday.
Robert Hendy-Freegard, 32, spun an elaborate web of deceit by pretending to be an undercover agent over a 10-year period as a way of funding a lavish lifestyle.
Described as an "insatiable trickster", he used flattery to win over his victims and maintained his control with the threat of violence, Blackfriars Crown Court in central London, where he faces charges including kidnapping, fraud and actual bodily harm, was told. The prosecution said his first victims were three students. He allegedly told them they featured on an IRA hit list because of their association with him. They were subsequently alienated from their families and spent between three and 10 years in hiding in a series of fabricated "safe houses".
Meanwhile, he led a life of luxury after making them hand over hundreds of thousands of pounds from their savings and trust funds.
During the same period, it is alleged, he seduced three women whom he manipulated emotionally for financial gain. Some were forced to travel across the country on elaborate "spy missions" that involved waiting for hours at railway stations and airport terminals for people who did not exist.
Others were reduced to leading the life of a "tramp", with one women claiming the defendant gave her only £1 a week to live on.
At the opening of the trial, Godfrey Carey, QC, for the prosecution, said: "The spider at the centre of Mr Hendy-Freegard's wide-rimmed web of deceit was his claim that he was an undercover Special Branch officer for MI5 or Scotland Yard, and variations thereof, which meant that those involved with him had to pursue a clandestine and secretive way of life."
Mr Hendy-Freegard, from Blyth, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire, denies 21 charges dating from 1993 to last year. These include four counts of kidnapping, two of making threats to kill, eight counts of theft totalling £605,893, five of obtaining a total of £60,309 by deception and two of causing actual bodily harm.
Mr Carey said: "There was cruelty in the way that he forced his victims to live, depriving them of valuable years of their young lives by insisting that they carried out his bidding because of this totally false mission upon which he claimed he had set out and which had compromised their liberty."
One of his victims was Elizabeth Richardson, now 32, who found him "absolutely irresistible" after meeting him in the car salesroom where she worked, the jury was told.
After informing her that he was an MI5 agent, they embarked on an affair despite the fact that she was married. He went on use a number of naked photographs of her as a "Damoclesian sword" to maintain his control over her, the court was told.
His final victims were Caroline Cowper, who worked in a car salesroom in west London, and Kimberley Adams, a child psychologist, both of whom he was engaged to at one point, the court heard.
The women gave thousands of pounds to Mr Hendy-Freegard, who said he needed the money for business enterprises, it was claimed.
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