Tycoon freed after manslaughter charge is dismissed

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The Independent Online

Nicholas van Hoogstraten, the property tycoon, left court yesterday a free man after a judge ruled that he should not have to face a retrial for the killing of a former business associate.

The 58-year-old multimillionaire was released from a cell at the Old Bailey a year after he was convicted of the manslaughter of Mohammed Raja, 62.

Judge Sir Stephen Mitchell said last week that there was no foundation for a manslaughter case and the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that it had no jurisdiction to hear the prosecution's appeal. The ruling angered Mr Raja's family who accused the Crown Prosecution Service of a "catalogue of mistakes", and claimed Mr van Hoogstraten had got off on a technicality. Amjad Raja, 42, one of the victim's six sons, said the family was shocked.

Mr van Hoogstraten may now consider suing for wrongful imprisonment. Last year he was convicted of the manslaughter of Mr Raja at the Old Bailey after being cleared of murder. He was jailed for 10 years. He won the right to a retrial when his conviction was quashed in July by the Court of Appeal. His lawyers had successfully argued that his conviction last year was unsafe.

Mr van Hoogstraten's defence team then argued that there was no case left for him to answer because there was no evidence on which a jury could convict. He could not have foreseen that the attack on Mr Raja, carried out by his henchmen Robert Knapp and David Croke, would end in death, they said. Croke and Knapp stabbed and shot the 62-year-old businessman at his home in Sutton, south London, in July 1999.

Sir Stephensaid last Tuesday: "If the act causing death was not foreseen, then it was an act for which the secondary party [allegedly Hoogstraten] could not be liable."

Full report, page 7