Nicholas Van Hoogstraten
Self styled emissary of Beezelbub - builder of the largest country house
in the UK for 100 years, and owner of an Art collection in excess of £200
Its difficult to be indifferent about Hoogstraten.
Van Hoogstraten Quotes :
"Tenants are filth, by their very nature,"
"Ramblers, they're the scum of the earth,"
"I think it's marvellous. The bastard owes me money."(after throwing a hand grenade into a rivals house)
"I am hard-hearted. I view people as trash, just trash."
During the trial at the Old Bailey, the court heard that on 2 July 1999, Mohammed Raja was at home in Sutton in Surrey. (In bed with the Devil - Raja earned over 100 convictions for letting properties unfit for human habitation - ed.)
He answered the door to two men, dressed as gardeners. They were wearing floppy hats and carrying a garden fork and a bag. In the bag was a single-barrelled sawn-off shotgun.
van Hoogstraten had a previous record for violence
The men stabbed Mr Raja five times and shot him in the face at close range.
Early on, the police had a suspect, thanks to Mr Raja's two grandsons Waheed and Rizvan Raja.
They were upstairs in the house at the time and rushed to help their grandfather when they heard his shouts.
Both told the Old Bailey jury they had heard him shout in Punjabi: "These are Hoogstraten's men. They've hit me, they've hit me".
Mr van Hoogstraten had done business with Mr Raja - lending him money to buy properties.
Mr Raja was suing his former associate for fraud.
Van Hoogstraten had a reputation for dealing harshly with those he disliked.
In television documentaries, he had openly spoken of his scorn for certain groups in society.
The tenants who lived in his properties were a particular sore.
"Tenants are filth, by their very nature," he said. "What kind of person is a tenant? A person with no self-respect.
"I don't look after tenants. Why should I look after tenants? One looks after the building, looks after one's asset."
Tenants are filth by their very nature
Nicholas van Hoogstraten
Van Hoogstraten also had ways of dealing with ramblers - the "great unwashed" as he called them.
In 1985 he began building the grandly-named Hamilton Palace in Sussex.
It was a country house with a frontage larger than Buckingham Palace and was intended to house his £200m art collection.
The last thing he wanted was members of the public walking across his estate, so he blocked off a public footpath.
'Arrogant and evil'
"Ramblers, they're the scum of the earth," he said.
The jury in his trial were not told that van Hoogstraten had a criminal record for violence.
In his early twenties he was jailed for four years for a hand grenade attack on the home of a business associate.
The judge then called him an "arrogant and evil young man and a bully".
Mr Raja had become a thorn in van Hoogstraten's side.
Ramblers are the great unwashed
Nicholas van Hoogstraten
He recruited Robert Knapp - a man with a long record for armed robbery - to threaten him. Knapp, in turn, hired David Croke.
But they went too far and killed the businessman. They were found guilty of his murder on Friday.
The two men left too many clues. Eventually, they led the police to them and their paymaster.
Van Hoogstraten's ex-girlfriend had been due to give evidence against him, but retracted her statement on the day she was due in court.
A second witness, a Lebanese businessman, Michel Hamdam, told police van Hoogstraten had asked him if he knew anyone who could get rid of Mr Raja.
Just before the trial began, Mr Hamdam left the country.
Even though what remained of the evidence against him was circumstantial,
it was enough to persuade the jury van Hoogstraten was guilty of manslaughter.
Nicholas van Hoogstraten: millionaire killer
Mike Walsh and Don Jordan
John Blake Publishing, 276pp, [pounds sterling]16.99
Nicholas van Hoogstraten, you might remember, is the "devil's landlord" who was jailed for ten years in 2002 for the manslaughter, presumed to be a contract killing, of Mohammed Raja, another devilish landlord. Van Hoogstraten is famous for owning a vast property empire, and ruling it by fear; for amassing a large fortune; for building himself a country mansion inspired by Buckingham Palace and complete with his own mausoleum; for having lots of beautiful black girlfriends, whom he referred to as his "bitches"; for dressing in ankle-length mink coats -- and for buying nearly a million acres of land in Zimbabwe, over which he ruled "like a sort of benevolent dictator".
Van Hoogstraten is also known for throwing a hand grenade into the front room of a former business associate. When questioned by the police, he said: "I think it's marvellous. The bastard owes me money." He is notorious for humiliating people who have crossed him. Having fallen out with his former defence lawyer Michael Dring, he followed Dring to France and, on the way back in the boat train, "went to the lavatory, excreted into some paper, entered Dring's compartment and squashed the excrement in his face".
As a landlord, van Hoogstraten referred to his tenants as "scumbags", "dog's meat" and "filth". He made money, Rachman-style, by buying houses Full of sitting tenants, and then forcing the tenants out to increase the value of the property. He once said: "I am hard-hearted. I view people as trash, just trash." In 1970, he was sentenced to four years for the hand grenade attack; the judge who heard his appeal called him "a sort of self-imagined devil. He thinks he is an emissary of Beelzebub."
To set the scene, the authors of this book, Mike Walsh and Don Jordan, a couple of TV documentary-makers, catch up with van Hoogstraten as he is assaulting his 18-year-old girlfriend Tanika Sali just before his most recent trial. Sali is described as "tall, black, curvaceous, with the face of an angel". "You f***ing bitch, I know you've been with another man," says the 57-year-old tycoon, who has denounced this book as being full of "lies and distortions".
What motivates the man? That is what the reader really wants to know. After all, van Hoogstraten is handsome, clever and more than capable of getting rich without breaking the law. A psychiatrist who assessed him after his manslaughter trial "decided that it would take years of psychoanalysis to understand the man". Walsh and Jordan have talked to dozens of people, including van Hoogstraten himself. They can give you chapter and verse on his police record. They can speculate on the size of his fortune (they think he may now be almost bankrupt because of the recent political instability in Zimbabwe). All of this is fascinating. But as they themselves say, "those who fall for him could be excused for not realising just what lurks within".
What does lurk within? Searching for clues, Walsh and Jordan look into van Hoogstraten's face. "First, the mouth. It has a fluid nature. Hard, but soft." Next, the eyes: "As if by some alchemy, he seems to be able to alter the pigment in his irises." Still, they can't quite get to the bottom of "the problem with van Hoogstraten". They know everything about him, but also, it seems, nothing. On the one hand, he is "almost a pantomime villain". On the other, "he is, perhaps, an evil bastard. Or somewhere between the two. Or perhaps both."
There are a few clues. Van Hoogstraten, christened Nicholas Marcel Hoogstraten (he added the "van" later), was born into a lower-middle-class family in West Sussex. His father, Charles, made his living in a munitions factory in Bognor, and later became a wine steward on the Royal Mail shipping line. "I didn't get on with my father," says van Hoogstraten. "He always saw me as a rival." He also says: "My mother was not nice to me. I never had any affection." And he refers to her as a "whining cow".
The rivalry with his father might be the key to the man. Was Charles violent and dominating when he came home from sea? Possibly, think the authors. The young van Hoogstraten was a prodigy; he made thousands of pounds buying and selling stamps. At 15, in 1960, he was supposedly worth [pounds]30,000. But Charles sneered -- to him it was just "playing with stamps". Young Nicholas became "a difficult teenager". He had run-ins with the teachers at his Jesuit school. He wore a three piece business suit instead of his uniform. A nun once tried to hit him with a chair leg. He whacked her back." She never tried again," says van Hoogstraten.
Amazingly, when he was caught in a stamp scam, his father took him to sea; he was hired as a teenage bellboy on a ship called the Andes, and spent time in the Caribbean. What happened on that trip? Here, the details are hazy. But what a story! A brilliant thwarted boy, a rivalrous father, an ocean cruise. Van Hoogstraten says he made a fortune by buying parcels of land on Nassau. Or was there "a much more sinister explanation" for his sudden wealth? Only one man knows, and he languishes, Hannibal Lecter-like, in prison. When he was released from custody as a youngman, he said that the experience had made him "five times richer, a hundred times more intelligent and a thousand more times more powerful and dangerous" than he had been before. This is not a bad life of van Hoogstraten, but the story, one feels, is far from over.
COPYRIGHT 2003 New Statesman, Ltd.
From a white South African view of "Jew" Van Hoogstraten (No Comment the editor artsmarket)