Van Hoogstraten in the dock

office at office at
Wed Apr 17 11:14:41 BST 2002

Property tycoon 'hired hitmen'
Tuesday, 16 April, 2002,

Millionaire businessman Nicholas van Hoogstraten hired two hitmen to carry out a contract killing of a retired businessman, an Old Bailey court has heard. 
Mohammed Sabir Raja, a 62-year-old retired businessman, was gunned down at close range at his home in Sutton, Surrey, on 2 July 1999. 
Mr van Hoogstraten was preparing to fly out of the country as Mr Raja was stabbed and then shot by two men disguised in floppy hats and posing as jobbing gardeners, alleged David Waters QC, prosecuting. 
Mr van Hoogstraten, Robert Knapp and David Croke have all denied murder. 
Mr Van Hoogstraten, 57, of Uckfield, East Sussex, has also denied conspiring with Mr Croke, 59, of East Moulsecoomb, Brighton, and Mr Knapp, 55, of Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, and others to murder Mr Raja. 
"We do not suggest that van Hoogstraten took any physical part in the murder," Mr Waters said. 
"In fact, at the time he was in all probability on his way to Gatwick airport where he flew at noon that day to Nice. 
"What is suggested, that despite his non-presence at the scene, he was a party to the murder as it was carried out by the two men at his instigation for his purposes and because of the problems and difficulties which had originated between him and Mr Raja." 
Shot at 'close range' 
Mr Waters alleged the two men were Robert Knapp and David Croke. 
He told the jury Mr Raja was stabbed a number of times before he was shot in the left side of his face "at very close range". 
"Not surprisingly, he died in a very few minutes," said Mr Waters. 
The death was witnessed by Mr Raja's grandsons who were in the house, the court heard. 
"The first they heard was raised voices followed by a very loud bang from upstairs, although they could not know it at that time, it was a gun being fired." 
Bloody shirt 
It had probably gone off during the course of a struggle and the shot went into the ceiling "as opposed to Mr Raja for whom it was intended". 
The grandsons ran downstairs. Their grandfather was holding his chest. 
"There was blood on his shirt. He had already been stabbed, but not, at this stage, shot. 
"In the porch area were two men, one had a sawn-off shotgun over his knee and one of the grandsons saw him break it in an attempt to reload it. 
"He was wearing a floppy hat, boiler suit and gardening gloves." 
The grandson saw white powder over his hat and suit from the dislodged ceiling plaster. 
Mr Waters added: "The second man was behind the first and wearing similar clothing. He had a moustache which appeared to the grandson to be false and had a gardening fork in his hand." 
The prosecution alleged they were disguised as gardeners and would have appeared to Mr Raja as that when they called at his home in Mulgrave Road. 
The grandson shouted to his brother to ring the police. 
The case continues. 

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