Where Are Robert Hendy-Freegard And Sandra Clifton Now?

"David Hendy," according to Netflix's "The Puppetmaster: Hunting the Ultimate Conman," was a self-attested "car salesman" with a deep aversion to photographs, personal facts, and handling his own finances. According to Sophie and Jake Clifton, from the moment their mother, Sandra Clifton, first met "David," she began to change: she grew increasingly dependent on him, isolated from reality, and alienated herself from her own family. 

Their home became a labyrinth of "David's" arbitrary, unspoken rules and cold discipline, and their mother played the roles of both spectator and participant in these methods. Sophie and Jake were, in their own telling, virtually forced out of their own childhood home. Eventually, their mother cut contact with her family entirely, becoming estranged from everyone except "David." In 2014, Sandra and "David" abandoned their home (as corroborated by The Times), and her family discovered she was gone. 

After Sandra's disappearance, Sophie, Jake, and Sandra's ex-husband Mark expended all efforts to locate her — and to find answers about how she'd fallen so completely under this strange man's control. Who was David, actually? How did his presence in their mother's life seem to warp her mind so much? In the digital age of the 21st century, how did "David" have no online footprint? He was like a ghost. One day, out of options, a nearly-apoplectic Mark Clifton typed "David Hendy con man" into his computer's search bar.

This was how Mark Clifton discovered Robert Hendy-Freegard had run away with his ex-wife.

Confidence, Coercion, Captivity, Cash

Dubbed "the Puppetmaster" in the British press, Robert Hendy-Freegard cultivated deep psychological influence over his victims, which he exercised callously and cruelly (per The Guardian). Among his many deceptions and coercive acts, Freegard has left at least two women nearly starving, imprisoned others, physically abused others, and even attempted to get one to kill her own son (via "Crafty Crooks & Conmen"). Freegard's primary victims funneled all their income back to him, leaving them destitute; he also coerced his victims into taking out exorbitant loans or extorting money from their families (as the BBC reported, sometimes both).

In 2005, Freegard's lifestyle caught up to him: He was convicted of fraud and kidnapping by the Crown Court at Blackfriars and sentenced to life in prison. He did not, ultimately, end up serving this sentence — he won an appeal in 2007 to get the kidnapping convictions overturned and was released from prison in 2009 (as noted by The Independent). Once a favorite of the British penny press, Freegard's post-prison life was, in contrast, one of obscurity until Netflix released a documentary in January 2022, which is bad news for any con man.

What Happened to Sandra?

Robert Hendy-Freegard (also known as "David Clifton," "Rob Freegard," and a rolodex of other names) has posed as a car salesman, a nuclear engineer, a fertility doctor, and the practitioner of numerous other trades. In reality, he's a convicted fraudster recently released from prison — dubbed a "confidence trickster" by litigators in Crown Court

But is Robert Hendy-Freegard a callous criminal who will stop at nothing to deceive, or a misunderstood ex-fraudster hoping for a shot at an honest life? That's the question posed by the Netflix documentary "The Puppetmaster: Hunting the Ultimate Conman." The three-part docuseries, narrated by Robert Hendy-Freegard's victims, describes the smooth-tongued Brit's career as a "confidence trickster" — most notably, the nearly decade-long scheme in which he posed as an undercover secret agent while coercing, defrauding, and kidnapping multiple adults.

After "confiding" in his victims that he is actually an undercover spy for British intelligence agency MI5, Freegard then used what the Crown Court at Blackfriars referred to as a "web of lies and deceit" to entrap his victims in a paranoid reality they eventually were powerless to escape.

Humiliation, Degradation, and Despair

The Netflix documentary picks up in 2012, three years after Robert Hendy-Freegard was released from prison. Freegard's post-prison life is juxtaposed with a parallel timeline that begins in 1993. Drawing from memory, we hear the stories of John Atkinson and Sarah Smith, two of three former college students whom Freegard controlled for five, nine, and seven years respectively. As Freegard's former victims recount memories of their lives under his control, the series then cuts to present-day: 28-year-old Sophie Clifton and 25-year-old Jake share the story of their mother, who met a man named "David Hendy" on a dating site in 2012. 

As the story of Sandra Clifton and the ever-cryptic "David" unfolds alongside the story of John, Sarah, and the ever-cryptic "Rob," the Netflix documentary casts stark parallels between Sandra's transformation and that of Freegard's past victims: her rapid behavioral transformation, sudden total dependency, and subsequent alienation from her loved ones certainly align with the cycle of behaviors Freegard's victims exhibit when he is conducting his signature con

Searching for Sandra

The documentary and the Clifton children argue their case without ambiguity: Robert Hendy-Freegard is not a changed man, but still a "puppet master," still ensnaring his victims with deceit and lies, and probably still subjecting them to lives of callous cruelty. His latest victim, according to Sophie and Jake, is their mother Sandra Clifton.

But where is Sandra Clifton? Where is Robert Hendy-Freegard now?

While little is known about the couple's permanent whereabouts, some have suggested Freegard (still operating as "David Clifton") may be making money breeding and selling pedigree dogs throughout England and France (via Newsweek). According to Cinemaholic, a spokesperson for the Beagle Association reportedly shared that the couple is known for selling beagles, but that Sandra is no longer making appearances. "We've not known where Sandra is for a very long time and have all been very, very concerned," the spokesperson said. "They're very hard to pin down. No-one knows their address."

Days after "The Puppetmaster" debuted on January 18, 2022, journalists began searching for Clifton and Freegard. Three days later, The Times claimed to have located Freegard living at a house in Berkshire with his dogs. The Times said that Freegard initially refused requests to make a statement, but then decided he would instead use the opportunity to argue his innocence. He told reporters he "strongly denies" all accusations that Sandra Clifton is somehow under his control, and that he is tired of being "publicly castigated" for the sins of his past.

The Confidence Trick and the Art of Apology

During Robert Hendy-Freegard's encounter with The Times, The Reading Chronicle reported that he phoned a woman that he claimed was Sandra Clifton. "Clifton" reportedly said via phone that she was not being held against her will. Neither she nor Freegard would confirm her whereabouts.

For the record, Hendy-Freegard (or "David Clifton," as he now identifies) admitted that his past behavior was vile. In an interview (via TheNetline), he told the Times, "I would also be the very first to admit that I have made some senseless mistakes in life of which I do unreservedly and unequivocally offer my most sincerest apologies."

Clifton's children have not seen their mother in seven years (per the Daily Mail). Since skyrocketing to international fame once again, thousands are wondering where she and Robert Hendy-Freegard are now and if she's safe. But the truth is that perhaps only Hendy-Freegard himself knows the answer.