Robert Hendy-Freegard and Religion

Written 2006/11/29, last edited 2020/10/11
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

Robert Hendy-Freegard was a con-man who, over a period of more than ten years, fooled at least eight people into believing that he was a spy and that they had to go underground for fear of IRA assassination.

Wikipedia has an article on Freegard at Robert Hendy-Freegard. A quote from that page...

"He would win them over, ask for money and make them do his bidding. He demanded that they cut off contact with family and friends, go through "loyalty tests" and live alone in poor conditions. He seduced five women, claiming that he wanted to marry them. Initially some of the victims refused to cooperate with the police because he had warned them that police would be double agents or MI5 agents performing another "loyalty test".

BBC News has a page on Freegard's exploits at BBC News, and there was a TV documentary on the matter.

Freegard's victims were all English:

  • Kimberly Adams, Reading;
  • John Atkinson, Cumbria;
  • Maria Hendy, Somerset;
  • Caroline Cowper, London;
  • Renata Kister, London;
  • Elizabeth Richardson, Sheffield;
  • Sarah Smith, Kent;
  • Simon Young, Doncaster.

Most people, when they read about how Freegard took in his English victims would wonder how they were taken in to such a degree. One of his victims, Sarah Smith, was in his power for ten years.

Why did they believe what Freegard told them? The answer is simply, because he was very convincing.

What evidence was there that Freegard was what he claimed to be? Only the very convincing stories that he came up with.

The link with religion

This has a lot in common with the way that religions get a hold over the minds of their adherents. They too, rely on fear to hold the victims – the victims are afraid of the reactions of their families, friends and associates if they leave their religious community, and they fear punishment in some afterlife if they think for themselves.

The adherents of religions, similarly to Freegard's victims, have no evidence for the truth of their beliefs apart from what they have been told. While Freegard's victims took what he told them as the source of their false beliefs, how much more convincing must it be when many people in the society in which you live tell you the same fallacies?