Netflix's New True Crime Series Exposes A Serial Conman Who's Still At Large

But where is Sandra Clifton now?

'The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman' Production Stills

Netflix’s brand new true-crime series The Puppet Master: Hunting A Con Man tells a harrowing and complex story of Britain’s most notorious fraudster. Released on Jan. 18, the three-part docuseries charts the inconceivable crimes of Robert Hendy-Freegard, a serial conman who tricked victims into believing he was an MI5 agent for decades, fleecing £1 million from innocent people in the process.

Featuring interviews from victims and their families, The Puppet Master details the British fraudster’s elaborate web of deceit and arduous attempts to track him down, and the victims that suffered under his coercive control, including Sandra Clifton.

The documentary begins with brother and sister Jake and Sophie Clifton, as they appeal for their mother, Sandra, to return home. And what follows are the disturbing and heartbreaking details of their seven year plight to find their mother, alongside their father, Mark Clifton. Today, the Shropshire scammer is still at large. But how did Freegard become involved in this family’s life and where is Sandra Clifton now?

Who Is Sandra Clifton?

Sandra Clifton married childhood sweetheart Mark Clifton and had two children, Sophie and Jake. The couple separated after many years of marriage but stayed amicable. After a period of time, Sandra decided to use dating websites to look for love. In November 2011, she met David Hendy. Per the documentary, David claimed to work in the media field and sold ad spaces. However, Sandra’s two children – who are now in their 20s – began to feel alienated, ignored and claimed that David treated them poorly.


By 2014, David’s influence on Sandra increased dramatically and the couple left the home they had been living in. When Sandra’s son Jake visited the home, he noticed that all the household bills remained unpaid, and the house’s windows were covered with paper from the inside.

Both Jake and Sophie grew suspicious and decided to investigate the real identity of David Hendy, and was shocked to discover that he was, in fact, Robert Freegard, a convicted serial conman who has lied over the course of a decade about being an MI5 agent, tricking his victims into giving him money.

The siblings now claim that they haven’t seen their mother in seven years, is being coercively controlled and also allege that she missed the funerals of both her beloved parents. They are desperate for answers of her whereabouts.

Where is Sandra Clifton Now?

Mark and his two children contacted the authorities after discovering the real identity of Robert Hendy-Freegard. In 2015, they managed to track Sandra down and discovered that she was still with Robert. However, when Mark told her about Robert’s criminal past, she said she already had knowledge of it, and chose to stay with him.

Two years later, top dog breeder Dianne Spavin, from Solihull, said she sold three beagles to the couple. But when she discovered David Hendy’s real identity, she ceased further dealings with him. He later inquired about using one of her dogs as a stud. “I just said, ‘if you’re Robert Hendy-Freegard, then the answer’s no.’” Hendy then allegedly claimed that he had a twin brother, then Spavin never heard from him again.

In 2020, Jake Clifton attempted to thwart his mother's attempts to claim an inherited house, for fears that the money would be taken by Freegard-Hendy. However, because of legalities, his mother was able to claim the house through the courts. It was over Zoom that Jake would see his mother for the first time since she disappeared in 2014.

Handout/Getty Images

“The judge was very sympathetic to us,” explains Jake in an interview with The Times. “The problem is my mum has been trained, controlled to do whatever Freegard wants her to say and do. When the police found her to tell her that we wanted to hear from her and to tell her who she was with, she said, ‘I’m not bothered. I know who I am with.’

“The police technically don’t have any grounds to say or do anything because as far as they are aware she is happy and healthy,” Jake says in the interview. “Sadly, the law doesn’t do a lot for people like my mum.”

As the documentary painstakingly details, Sandra and her children weren’t Freegard-Hendy’s only victims. In 1993, Freegard-Hendy convinced three university students that they were being targeted by the IRA. His victim, Sarah, spent a decade “on the run”, later handing over £180,000 from her inheritance.

The documentary has already sparked an outcry on social media, with one viewer writing: “I think we all need to search for Sandra,” while others praised the series for highlighting the impact of coercive control.

The Puppet Master: Hunting A Con Man is available to watch now on Netflix.