Hoogstraten no longer 'sorry' that his rival is dead

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The Independent Online

Nicholas van Hoogstraten has admitted that he is no longer sorry that his business rival was murdered.

Mr van Hoogstraten, 58, was freed last month after serving 12 months of a 10-year sentence for the manslaughter of Mohammed Raja, a rival landlord, a conviction he overturned after a complicated legal battle. Mr Raja's family brought a civil case against Mr van Hoogstraten after Mr Raja's death and, in December 2002, won a £5m award for alleged property fraud.

In his first interview since his release Mr van Hoogstraten was asked on BBC News 24's Hardtalk programme if he was "sorry" Mr Raja was dead. Mr van Hoogstraten said: "I was at the time, yes, but subsequently, as a result of the action by his family and that, I'm beginning to see things in a different light."

Pressed as to whether he was no longer sorry, he said: "I was sorry at the time, no matter what he's done and what he's involved in, he didn't exactly deserve that, no." Mr van Hoogstraten also claimed that he is worth more than £100m but refused to say how much.

Mr Raja was shot and stabbed to death at his home in Sutton, south London, by Robert Knapp, 56, and David Croke, 60, who are serving life sentences for murder.

Mr van Hoogstraten, from Uckfield, East Sussex, was also accused of murdering Mr Raja. He was cleared at the Old Bailey in 2002 but found guilty of manslaughter. Last year, he won a retrial because the judge's direction to the jury at the original trial had been "flawed". Mr van Hoogstraten's lawyers argued that the manslaughter case could not stand up and he was cleared. Mr van Hoogstraten is appealing against the money awarded to Mr Raja's family.

The judge and several of the lawyers involved in the prosecution of Mr van Hoogstraten are under police protection. Several of the witnesses that gave evidence against Mr van Hoogstraten, once described by a judge as an "emissary of Beelzebub", have also been offered protection by Scotland Yard.

The unusual move follows concerns that associates of Mr van Hoogstraten will seek revenge on those involved in the manslaughter conviction and his 12 months in jail.