The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman review – the true tale of a manipulative mastermind

January 18, 2022
Romey Norton 1
Netflix, Streaming Service, TV Reviews


Manipulation, corruption, and lies feed the story of how Robert Freegard conned multiple people into giving him nearly one million pounds.

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Manipulation, corruption, and lies feed the story of how Robert Freegard conned multiple people into giving him nearly one million pounds.

Netflix’s true-crime series The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman was released on the streaming service on January 18, 2022.

What makes this fascinating is that this is an ongoing case that’s thus far unresolved. Over three episodes we follow the unique, intense, and unbelievable story, where Derbyshire-born Robert Freegard controlled, conned, and fleeced at least seven women and one man, stealing close to a million pounds, over the course of ten years.

The Puppet Master unfolds on parallel timelines, both concerned with the con-man Robert Hendy-Freegard. The first story begins with Sophie and Jake recounting their mother Sandra’s story and trying to figure out where she and “David” might be on one timeline, while the second story starts all the way back in 1993. There is a lot to follow in this documentary, and a lot of names beginning with ‘S’ so you should be ready to concentrate.

In 1993, Freegard convinced a university student, John, that he was an agent for MI5 gathering intelligence on an IRA cell on campus. He recruits John and convinces John’s girlfriend Sarah Smith and a friend Maria to go on a road trip – which results in Sarah not seeing her family for over ten years and extorting thousands of pounds from her parents, all under the guise of this MI5 mission/cover story. Maria became Freegard’s girlfriend and suffered emotional and physical abuse from him for nine years and had two children with him.

In the more recent story, in 2011, Sandra Clifton, a divorced mother of two, started dating “David”, and very quickly became isolated from her family. Her two children, Sophie and Jake, and their father Mark discover that “David” is the con artist Robert Hendy-Freegard. This dangerous man has duped multiple people out of thousands of pounds. Sandra later ran off with “David” and hasn’t been seen since. Of course, the family is devastated and fear for their mother. Sandra was later found in 2015 and told the police she knew who Robert was, as being a grown adult, she is going with him freely. To this day their location is unknown.

Freegard, in this timeline, even got engaged to another woman, an American called Kim Adams. Kim had disappeared, telling her family that she was terminally ill and wanted to travel the world. This involvement triggered the Met Police and the FBI to collaborate, as US law considered Kim to be a victim of kidnapping. Freegard was arrested at Heathrow Airport. I’ll let you watch, to discover how and what happened.

The story is quite fascinating, as well as traumatizing, it is insane how this man was able to manipulate and control his victims and get away with and could still be getting away with it today. Freegard traveled from country to country conning people. He abused his victims and placed them in such a state of fear that they did whatever he asked. Whilst traveling around the country Freegard used the money to fund his extravagant lifestyle.

The documentary has interviews with victims and people who came into close contact with Freegard. The dark lighting and backgrounds emphasize the creepy and sinister nature of the stories. Also, the isolation his victims felt throughout his manipulative processes.

What was very difficult to see was the guilt that all the victims feel. You can understand why, as they have also hurt and conned their families as well as knowing that they have been lied to, abused, used, and haven’t got any closure. I feel very sorry for them and hope they can forgive themselves and find some peace. 

As a documentary, The Puppet Master is a great watch. Detailed storytelling, investigative, eye-opening and gives the chance for people to tell their stories. This series shows how the very ordinary person can be manipulated into a psychological fantasy, leaving their families devastated and still trying to find answers and closure. This series is created by the same people behind The Ripper and Don’t F*** With Cats documentaries, so if you were a fan of these, this documentary will be right up your street. If that doesn’t tempt you, this tale is so extraordinary that it has caught the eye of Hollywood, with a feature film starring James Norton and Gemma Arterton awaiting a release date.

What did you think of Netflix true crime series The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman? Comment below. 

You can watch this true crime series with a subscription to the streaming service. 

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1 thought on “The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman review – the true tale of a manipulative mastermind

  • January 23, 2022 at 7:49 am

    I watched this and felt like I was reliving my experience with a similar kind of man. When the 1 lady said you can leave but you can’t it was a punch to my gut. I was held hostage for 6 months and forced into horrible things. Looking back all these years later I realized I wasn’t as trapped as I believed I was. The mental abuse was crippling. I remember telling my family lies why I couldn’t come home. Once free I struggled with guilt and shame. To those who have never been abused at this level you find the story ridiculous. For me it hit too close to home. At the same time it helps to know I’m not the only 1.

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