Hoogstraten hired thugs "for the purpose of murder"

marksimonbrown mark at tlio.org.uk
Mon Dec 19 17:17:32 GMT 2005

Van Hoogstraten held responsible for killing 

Monday December 19, 2005 
Ref: www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,2763,1670702,00.html

The property baron Nicholas van Hoogstraten was today held 
responsible by the high court for the killing of business rival 
Mohammed Raja.

The ruling on a £6m civil action from the dead man's family came 
after Mr Van Hoogstraten was cleared of manslaughter in the criminal 

Mr Raja, 62, a former business associate of Mr Van Hoogstraten, was 
stabbed and shot by two of the property tycoon's henchmen after 
answering the doorbell at his home in Sutton, south London, on July 2 

He had been in the process of suing Mr Van Hoogstraten over a 
business deal at the time of his death.
Mr Raja's murderers, Robert Knapp and David Croke, were jailed for 
life at the Old Bailey in 2002. Mr Van Hoogstraten walked free from 
prison a year into a 10-year sentence for manslaughter when the court 
of appeal set aside his conviction.

The dead man's family brought the £6m civil case for damages to ask 
the high court to decide if Mr Van Hoogstraten was directly involved. 

During the trial he had denied hiring two hitmen and his lawyer, 
Richard Ferguson QC, suggested the killing was more like a 
robbery "gone horribly wrong" than a carefully planned hit by a 
powerful businessman.

Giving judgment today following a six-day hearing in London last 
month, Mr Justice Lightman said: "I am satisfied that the recruitment 
of the two thugs was for the purpose of murdering Mr Raja and not 
merely frightening or hurting him. 

"The use of two violent thugs armed with a shotgun was more than was 
needed to frighten or injure him. The second shot was deliberately 
aimed at killing him. 

"Mr Raja had at all times shown himself resilient, ready to resist 
threats and to complain to the police. 

"Nothing less than murder would rid Mr van Hoogstraten of this thorn 
in his flesh." 

Mr Justice Lightman said he reached his conclusion "on the balance of 
probabilities" - the civil law standard of proof - "and indeed, if it 
were necessary, beyond reasonable doubt" - the criminal law standard. 

Mr van Hoogstraten, in arranging the murder, was trying to obtain the 
release or settlement of Mr Raja's court action against him on terms 
highly favourable to Mr van Hoogstraten, the judge said.

"His purpose in murdering Mr Raja has not been achieved because, 
contrary to his expectations, Mr Raja's family have been as resilient 
as was Mr Raja in his lifetime in standing up to Mr van Hoogstraten." 

Amjad Raja, the dead man's son, said outside the court that the 
family had been seeking justice. "No amount of money will ever make 
up for the loss of our father," he said. Mr Raja added he would like 
to see Mr Van Hoogstraten "behind bars".

The property tycoon - who earned his first criminal record at the age 
of 11, described his politics as being "to the right of Attila the 
Hun" and became a vocal supporter of Zimbabwe's president, Robert 
Mugabe - was not in court or represented during the civil 

He has nine convictions, the most serious of which was damaging the 
home of a clergyman with a hand grenade in 1968, for which he 
received a four-year sentence. He has described his tenants 
as "filth", business rivals as "maggots" and ramblers who cross the 
land around his East Sussex mansion as "scum".

He is believed to have gone to Zimbabwe, where he has business 
interests, having told Mr Justice Lightman's clerk after an earlier 
hearing that he was leaving the country and would not be back until 
next year.

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