Nicholas Hoogstraten, one of the most feared men in Britain, has joined the Samaritans while in prison.

The 58-year-old tycoon was released from Belmarsh high security prison in London after almost two years.

Sentenced to ten years in jail for the manslaughter of landlord Mohammed Raja, he walked free from the Old Bailey on Tuesday after being cleared.

In an interview with The Argus, Mr Hoogstraten proudly revealed his Samaritans certificate.

It says: "This is to certify that Nick van Hoogstraten has been trained by the Samaritans of Bexley/Bromley in listening and befriending skills at HM Prison Belmarsh."

He has already used his listening and legal expertise to help a fellow prisoner, a Jamaican Yardie, be acquitted of a murder charge.

The Samaritans, set up in 1953 as a 999 service for the suicidal, say a volunteer needs two main requirements - a good listening ear and patience.

Mr Hoogstraten, who once said of himself on television, "I'm probably ruthless and I'm probably violent," is now entitled to apply to work as a volunteer for the Samaritans.

The Samaritans' Fiona Cameron said: "The prison scheme is run in association with the Home Office.

"Listeners in prison would go through the same training as a volunteer outside. But they don't do the phone work because the interaction is all face-to-face."

The tycoon also revealed in the interview that he would continue work at his unfinished palace near Uckfield.

He said far from being feared by his tenants, he received scores of sympathetic letters from them when he was in prison.

Mr Hoogstraten said he had never threatened a legal tenant and he was not a slum landlord.

He said he could have escaped from custody but chose to stay on so he could clear his name.

He is resuming his business career, which continued to operate while he was in jail, but intends also to spend more time with his five young and teenage children.