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Chasing Agent Freegard: Salisbury Poisonings' NI writer Lawn to direct thriller about 'IRA dodging' conman

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Declan Lawn with screenwriting partner Adam Patterson

Declan Lawn with screenwriting partner Adam Patterson

Declan Lawn with screenwriting partner Adam Patterson

Northern Ireland screenwriter Declan Lawn will reunite with his Salisbury Poisonings co-creator to direct a thriller about a British conman who convinced his victims he was an MI5 and Special Branch agent dodging IRA hitmen.

Three-part series The Salisbury Poisonings, which depicted the deadly 2018 nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, aired on BBC One in June.

It was broadcast over three consecutive nights. The first episode was watched by 7.2m viewers, making it the biggest UK TV premiere this year.

Penned by former BBC NI journalist Lawn and fellow ex-BBC reporter Adam Patterson, The Salisbury Poisonings starred Shameless actress Anne-Marie Duff, Rafe Spall, MyAnna Buring and Johnny Harris.

Their latest project, Chasing Agent Freegard, is based on the gripping true story of English conman Robert Hendy-Freegard, who masqueraded as an MI5 agent and manipulated and threatened multiple people into going underground for fear of IRA assassination.

Hendy-Freegard met his victims on social occasions or as customers in the pub or car dealership where he was working.

He would reveal his "role" as an undercover agent for MI5, Special Branch or Scotland Yard working against the IRA before winning them over, asking for money and making them do his bidding.

The movie, which is due to begin filming in 2021, is written by Captain Phillips co-producer Michael Bronner. James Norton will star as Hendy-Freegard.

In a statement Lawn and Patterson said: “As soon as we heard the pitch for Freegard we were hooked. It’s one of the extraordinary stories of our times – a surreal tale of deceit and manipulation played out over many years.

"James is one of the finest actors around and it will be a true pleasure working with him and the rest of the team at Rabbit Track, TDP and Great Point.”

McMafia star Norton said: “We are so excited to be working with Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn. Their incredible show The Salisbury Poisonings was both gripping as well as deeply human, and showed their unique skill for dramatizing true stories.”

Great Point Media co-founder Jim Reeve, who is serving as an executive producer on the film, added: “We’re thrilled to have Adam and Declan on board and we’re confident that the duo will deliver something special we can all be proud of.”

Belfast Telegraph