Netflix The Imposter: Chilling crimes of conman Frédéric Bourdin who posed as missing teen Nicholas Barclay

The latest in Netflix’s true crime programming, The Imposter tells the chilling story of conman Frederic Bourdin who posed as missing teen Nicholas Barclay.

Netflix has added award-winning documentary The Imposter to their ever-expanding roster of true-crime programmes. The case of Nicholas Barclay is known well among true crime lovers and continued to peak the interest of investigative minds around the world.

The BAFTA award-winning documentary follows the story of a missing boy in the US, and whether or not the person who turned up several years later truly was who he claimed to be. What follows is a multi-leveled and twist-filled case that has left investigators and viewers alike gobsmacked.

The documentary was originally released over ten years ago in 2012, and the case remains unsolved to this day. The Netflix description reads: “An investigator sets out to unravel a mystery about a 13-year-old boy who vanished in Texas only to show up three years later in Spain.”

The film was directed by Bart Layton and mainly includes interviews with members of Barclay’s family. The film also features archive television news footage and reenacted dramatic sequences.

The documentary is based on the true story of missing Nicholas Barclay. Barclay disappeared at the age of 13, mysteriously returning three years later, but everything was not as it seems.

What is The Imposter about?

The Imposter is a true story based on the 1997 case of a French confidence trickster Frédéric Bourdin, who pretended to be Nicholas Patrick Barclay, an American boy who had disappeared in Texas at the age of 13 in 1994.

Nicholas Barclay went missing in San Antonio after a basketball game, the police launched an investigation under the assumption the boy had been murdered or kidnapped. However, nobody was ever found and the search was called off.

After Nicholas’s disappearance, his family was contacted by authorities in Spain claiming that they had found their son. However, Their son was a blonde-haired and blue-eyed child from Texas, but this kid was brown-eyed, had dyed hair, and spoke with a French accent. Bourdin was also seven years older than Barclay.

Still of Nicholas Barclay (Madman Films / YouTube)Still of Nicholas Barclay (Madman Films / YouTube)
Still of Nicholas Barclay (Madman Films / YouTube)

Frédéric Bourdin embellished his claim to be Nicholas Barclay by alleging that he had been kidnapped for purposes of sexual abuse by different military personnel and transported from the US to Spain. He managed to fool Spain and US officials and was reportedly accepted by many of Barclay’s family members.

It was later discovered that Bourdin had a long record of impersonating various children. The impersonation was discovered due to the suspicions of private investigator Charles Parker, and FBI agent Nancy Fisher. Following Bourdin’s arrest, Interpol confirmed his identity and long criminal record.

While in custody Bourdin told the police that the family killed the real Nicholas and that is why they accepted him in order to hide the crime. The main suspect is his brother Jason who had already died by this point.

Where is Nicholas Barclay now?

Unfortunately, the case has mainly gone cold, with Nicholas Barclay never being found. Private investigators do appear to be working on the case continuously, and it is suspected that foul play was involved.

Nicholas’s brother Jason is the prime suspect. However, following Nicholas’s disappearance Jason developed a drug problem and overdosed in 1998. The investigation stalled with his death.

While foul play is suspected in his disappearance, Barclay may still be alive and living in the San Antonio area with many agencies continuing to classify him as a runaway. According to the Charley Project, which profiles over 14,000 “cold case” missing people mainly from the US:

  • He was a small-built, 13-year-old white boy, with blue eyes; light brown hair that looked almost blonde; and a gap between his front teeth.
  • His height was 4’8” at the time of his disappearance, and he weighed somewhere around 80 pounds.
  • On the day he went missing, he was wearing a white t-shirt, black shoes, pink backpack, and purple trousers.
  • Perhaps most important are the home-brew tattoos: the letter “J” on his left shoulder, a “T” between his left thumb and forefinger, and the letters “LN” on the outside of his left ankle.
  • Barclay was also diagnosed with ADHD.

How to watch The Imposter on Netflix

The full 1 hour 38 minute film is available to stream on Netflix now. As a Netflix member, you are charged once a month on the date you signed up. There are no contracts, no cancellation fees, and no commitments. You have the freedom to change your plan or cancel online at any time if you decide Netflix isn’t for you.

Upon signing up you will get your choice between three monthly plans. They are the following:

  • Basic Plan - £6.99 - 480p resolution
  • Standard Plan - £10.99 - 1080p resolution
  • Premium Plan - £15.99 - 4K+HDR resolution

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