A car salesman accused of posing as a spy to plunder more than £600,000 from a string of victims, insisted yesterday he was the one who had really suffered.

Robert Hendy-Freegard, who is also said to have kidnapped four people and threatened a fifth with death during a decade of "unbelievable" deceit, said "outrageous falsehoods" had been levelled against him.

"I have sat for six months and listened to allegations and I am astounded how anybody could believe this," he told those trying him at London's Blackfriars Crown Court.

"I am most definitely the real victim here."

The Crown has claimed he was "like a spider" at the centre of a web of suffering that began in early 1993 when he used tales of shadowy IRA death squads to effectively abduct three students from Harper Adams Agricultural College in Newport, Shropshire.

Jurors have been told that over the next several years he allegedly forced them to cut themselves off from family and friends as they flitted from one dingy "safe house" to another during a frightening life "on the run".

Two were said to have been persuaded to hand him more than £500,000 between them - most of it either from relatives or trust funds - and carry out a series of bizarre "loyalty tests".

The third, said to have been "in his thrall" for eight years, bore him two children.

Others he is accused of targeting include a child psychologist, a solicitor and a company director, all of whom insist they were not only bedded by him, but left thousands of pounds poorer.

Yet another of his alleged sexual conquests has told of how she was made to sleep on park benches, live on a slice of Mars Bar a day and forage for fresh water in public toilets, mostly to prove she was worthy of his hand in marriage.

But Hendy-Freegard, who is spending his third week in the witness box, has variously dismissed their claims as "ab-solute rubbish", "untrue" and "ludicrous".

The 34-year-old, of High Street, Blyth, Nottingham-shire, denies an 18-count indictment comprising four kidnap charges, eight of theft, five of obtaining a money transfer by deception and one of making a threat to kill between March 1993 and May 2003.

Godfrey Carey, QC, who opened the prosecution case last October by branding the defendant "wicked, callous and a control freak", launched his cross-examination.

He began: "What you are saying, as I understand it, is that there is no substance in any of the allegations made against you, not only by the victims but by supporting prosecution witnesses. They have all placed falsehoods against you before the court."

Hendy-Freegard: "To a large extent I would agree with that."

The barrister: "So the effect of the last six months has been that you have had an outrage perpetrated against you by the witnesses?"

"Well, yes, but there's more to it than that," he replied.

Mr Carey: "When you were interviewed - this is the bottom line. You said, 'I have never, ever persuaded anybody that they should do something they did not want or wish to do'."

The defendant: "I would agree with that entirely."

Counsel: "So what it amounts to, you are the victim and they have not suffered a thing."

Hendy-Freegard: "Well that is a clever way of putting it but, yes, I am most definitely the victim here."

The barrister: "And you would have this jury believe you have had a catalogue of falsehoods given against you?"

"That is correct," he replied. During further questioning Hendy-Freegard assured jurors: "On no occasion did I say I was a secret agent, a spy or any variant of it."

The only person to suggest they had secrets to hide was John Atkinson, one of the students allegedly kidnapped.

"On numerous occasions he informed me that he was working above board for some particular body on the right side of sinister."

Asked about civil servant Lesley Gardner, who claimed the defendant conned her out of £16,000, he denied using "sex to soft soap her" into giving him money.

Far from "ripping her off", the thousands of pounds she handed over was simply one "genuine friend helping another genuine friend".

However, he added, he was "ashamed" he had never managed to repay her more than a fraction of what he owed.

But being arrested made it "very difficult" to address such issues.

Mr Carey then put it to him: "You just cock a snook at anybody who dares tell the truth about you."

"No, that is not true," the defendant replied.

The barrister: "According to you, you are the one who is always wronged. You have never done anything wrong."

"No," Hendy-Freegard disagreed. He had once broken the speed limit between Aberdeen and Preston.

The trial continues.