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The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman Review 2022 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew
Midway through the three-episode true-crime docu-series, all I could do is shake my head in disbelief that despite the bucketloads of rather incriminating ‘evidence’, Robert Freegard, also known as David Hendy, who conned several people out of hundreds of thousands of pounds by posing to be an Mi5 agent, remains a free man.
The series is based on the accounts of four victims, and the children of a fifth, all of who, at some point, strongly believed that Robert/David was a spy and hence, in the interest of national security, held his word as the gospel truth. Over decades, he not only managed to convince several people, mainly women, of the dangers of his jobs, but also the imminent peril they were in, for which he got one to leave friends and family behind for 10 years, while another was apparently being put through ‘spy school’ at an exorbitant price. Seeing and listening to all of it now, you’d think who would be so stupid as to fall for any of that. Well, turns out, there were very many, although the docu-series only features a few.
Robert/David’s modus operandi was fairly similar with all his victims, all of who either had money or stood to get an inheritance – alienate them from all their near-and-dear ones and have them under his sole control and then squeeze them out of every last penny. The effect he had on them was quite mind-blowing, and yet, the fact that all his victims were adults and could have ideally walked away from it all at any point, was grounds enough for him to appeal a life-sentence conviction and walk out a free man. If this travesty of justice was not bad enough, Robert/David went right back to doing what he does best – hooking up with mom of two Sarah Clifton and making sure her kids left to join their father soon enough. To date, Robert and Sarah are in the wind; and it is not clear if the police is still actively pursuing the case anymore.
In fact, much of the narrative of the docu-series also focuses on the police inaction that resulted in such personal losses for the victims. They were all adults and had walked out on their own volition, so, there was no case. There’s no closure for the victims who tried to get justice and there may never be any for the many others, whose passports, credit cards and other documents were found in a hotel room Robert/David had rented.
As is the case with most true-crime drama, chances are that you already know what the outcome is going to be. The question is whether to still invest time in watching this docu-series, especially one as that remains an unsolved puzzle. Is the narrative compelling enough to warrant a watch – well, I am on the fence here. The only reason I continued watching is because it serves a reminder of how often the system fails the people, allowing culprits to get away with crimes of varying degrees. Also, although I am not a fan of third-party perspectives of people not involved with the situation directly or indirectly, this series could have perhaps benefitted from a short insightful word from a competitive authority on the mental hold that Robert/David had on his victims and the trauma sustained from it. It is also not clear if any of these women, Sarah included, were truly in love with him; Sarah’s ex-husband, after all, found massive deadbolts on the door of her room and newspaper covering the windows, which he inferred was to either keep her in or others out. I am inclined to go with the former, and yet the coercive nature of his relationship is not fully explored.