British con artist arrested in Belgium, wanted by France

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BRUSSELS (AP) — A British con artist who is the subject of a Netflix documentary has been arrested in Belgium after fleeing from neighboring France, where he had injured two police officers, authorities said

Robert Hendy-Freegard, 51, was expected to appear before a Belgian judge on Saturday, a day after he was arrested on a highway in Groot-Bijgaarden, east of Brussels, Belgian federal police said.

Hendy-Freegard had been on the run since last week, when he hit two officers with his car as he was fleeing a police raid at his home in the village of Vidaillat in central France.

Gilles Blondeau, spokesperson for the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Halle-Vilvorde disctrict, said Saturday that “about a week ago, the person in question was supposed to undergo a checkup by the police and he fled. He also hit two policemen, one of whom was very seriously injured.”

France had issued a European arrest warrant. The country's prosecutors have open an investigation for “attempted murder” on police officers.

Blondeau said Hendy-Freegard had been located through the license plate on his vehicle.

“The East Flanders road police were able to intercept the man in Groot-Bijgaarden, and it turned out that it was indeed this person and the wanted vehicle,” he said.

Netflix streaming service released a documentary this year called “The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman” about the life of Hendy-Freegard. In the 1990s and the early 2000s, the con artist ruined numerous lives while posing as an undercover MI5 agent in Europe. He spent 10 years emotionally manipulating his victims into giving him their money, their trust and eventually their freedom by running away with him, according to Netflix.

Arrested in 2002, Hendy-Freegard was convicted of kidnapping, theft and deception and sentenced to life in prison in 2005 in the United Kingdom. He appealed against the kidnapping conviction and got his sentenced reduced to nine years. He was released from prison in 2009.

According to the Netflix documentary, he was living in recent years in France, where he was breeding dogs.

The Associated Press