"These are Hoogstraten's men. They have hit me, they have hit me." Mohammed Raja then called out to his late mother, and died.

Mr Raja had been stabbed in the chest on his front doorstep by two hitmen dressed as gardeners. Moments later he was blasted through the face with a sawn-off shotgun.

Robert Knapp and David Croke brutally slew the 62-year-old Brighton landlord. They were sent by Nicholas Hoogstraten because of the bitter feud between him and Mr Raja.

Hoogstraten considered Mr Raja a "maggot" and had grown increasingly frustrated by his petty litigation.

He even offered to pay for a building society to start bankruptcy proceedings against Mr Raja.

When Mr Raja accused Hoogstraten of fraud, it was the final straw.

However, finding Hoogstraten not guilty of murder, the jury was convinced Hoogstraten had not meant for Mr Raja to be killed or seriously hurt, merely shaken up to such an extent he would drop the action.

For six years, Raja filed a series of claims in the civil courts against the tycoon.

These escalated from relatively minor breaches of contract to the potentially much more damaging fraud allegation.

Mr Raja was given leave by the courts to serve the action for "forged or bogus transfers" on May 10, 1999. Less than two months later he was dead.

One estimate on the value of litigation put the figure at between £3 million and £5 million. Hoogstraten could also have faced prison if criminal charges were brought.

The claims related to properties bought by Mr Raja while being bankrolled by Hoogstraten.

The pair enjoyed a partnership from about 1987 with Mr Raja borrowing money from Hoogstraten or his companies to build up his own property empire.

Mr Raja would bid for properties at auction and, without the time to secure mortgages, borrow money from friends and associates to buy them.

Mr Raja's son Amjad described Hoogstraten as a "loan shark" for his father.

In return for lending the money, Hoogstraten would hold the property deeds until Mr Raja could pay him back.

The court heard at one time his debts to Hoogstraten were as much as £500,000. At the time of his death, he owed nearer £200,000.

Hoogstraten told the police in interview: "There were quite substantial business dealings as far as he was concerned but not as far as I was concerned. It was relative peanuts - several hundred thousand pounds."

Mr Raja was one of a number of landlords Hoogstraten dealt with and the trial heard a great deal of the seedier side of the seaside property business.

Hoogstraten stunned the court when he admitted sending in "hefty builders" and packs of German shepherd dogs to deal with tenancy problems.

He said he found it amusing when "hippies" were forced to jump from second-storey windows to escape the dogs.

Hoogstraten said in the mid-Eighties he was given "carte blanche" by senior police officers to rid Hove of its drug problem.

He said the centre of Hove was his "pride and joy" and he wanted dealers and addicts moved to Brighton, "where there's a much lower class of occupant".

Hoogstraten said: "In the centre of Hove I own a lot of property, shops and all sorts of things.

"The police came complaining to me about the number of drug-related incidents and they were effectively trying to say that a lot of those people were living in my properties or operating out of my buildings.

"This went on for weeks or months. Eventually I had a meeting with someone high up in the police.

"I said I can deal with this and asked, 'Do you give me carte blanche to deal with it in any way I choose?'

"Over a period of some weeks all the problem occupants that fell into this category were identified. It was not difficult as most of them looked like exactly what they were.

"We started this policy sending three or four people round to each problem flat, saying, 'We are not having any more of this here and you are moving'. We had some pretty hefty builders working for us.

"It was run exactly like an operation. They were given some time to collect their bits and pieces and move to Brighton. The whole operation was completed in three to four weeks."

Another man who knew a great deal about Hoogstraten's methods was his former friend and business partner Michaal Abou Hamdan.

Mr Hamdan is currently in the Lebanon, too afraid to set foot in Britain, after he told police Hoogstraten approached him to kill Mr Raja.

Mr Hamdan's evidence was not heard by the jury, although they heard Mr Hamdan also had a major dispute with Mr Raja.

Mr Hamdan, a Lebanese businessmen, claimed Hoogstraten gave him a piece of paper with two photographs of men he wanted killed, Mohammed Raja and barrister Michael Kennedy.

There were lengthy arguments about whether Mr Hamdan's story could be heard during the voir dire, part of the trial held in the absence of the jury. The judge ruled his testimony was unsafe and it was not heard by the jurors.

Mr Hamdan regarded Hoogstraten as his mentor. He worked with the tycoon in various capacities, notably running the Imperial Hotel in Hove for him.

He also looked after properties in the south of France and socialised with Hoogstraten.

Days before the trial started, Mr Hamdan's father died and he flew to the Lebanon to make the funeral arrangements.

He said it was customary to stay for 40 days and 40 nights at his father's house. However, Mr Hamdan later made it clear he had no intention of returning when that elapsed.

Detective Inspector Andrew Sladen said Mr Hamdan was scared he would be killed if he testified against Hoogstraten.

Mr Hamdan signed a police statement alleging Hoogstraten approached him to find someone to kill both Mr Raja and Mr Kennedy. He said he refused.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Heselden said: "He saw Hoogstraten as a role model. In financial terms he is a very successful property developer and manager and was someone Hamdan would go to fairly regularly for advice."

But the court heard Mr Hamdan bore a grudge against Hoogstraten after the millionaire brought in someone else as manager of the Imperial Hotel.

Hoogstraten said Mr Hamdan told him he was "going to get rid of Raja" a few months before the murder in July 1999. Hoogstraten said he understood that as meaning more than just making him sell the flat.

The catalyst for this was legal action that Mr Raja had lodged against Mr Hamdan, he said. After Mr Raja's death, Mr Hamdan eventually agreed a price with his son Amjad.

The court heard Hoogstraten carried out property dealings of his own through Mr Hamdan.

They first met in about 1987 and began advising him about the property market. Hoogstraten said it was about to crash and suggested Mr Hamdan should "warehouse" his properties - that is, transfer them out of his direct ownership to avoid losing them if he was declared bankrupt.

He later leased a number of properties in Cannes to Mr Hamdan to redecorate and rent out.

Then he used Mr Hamdan to help him buy the Imperial Hotel in Hove.

Hoogstraten said: "We needed to buy that particular hotel but we couldn't allow the owners, who were receivers, to know I was the essential buyer because the price would have gone up. We were setting up a monopoly situation.

"Hamdan used the name of one of his Palestinian associates.

"I put in a bid anyway because if I hadn't have done the receivers would have been suspicious. Two or three of my normal associates put in offers.

"It ended up that his was the second highest offer. The highest was one of ours and we withdrew it."

Mr Hamdan and his family then moved into the hotel where they appeared to become owners and managers.

Hoogstraten said: "Initially there was not much of a problem. It was one mess sorting out another mess. Then his new-found position went to his head.

"All sorts of reports came back to me about activities which hoteliers should not have been doing.

"He was sleeping with some of the staff, bringing prostitutes back, little things like that. He was not conducting himself as a hotelier should."

Six months later, Hoogstraten said the management of the hotel became an issue and, although Mr Hamdan saw it as his position "of right", Hoogstraten gave it to someone else.

He said: "It was something that was eating away at him and he was even trying to blame me for the death of his mother.

"The problems he had with the hotel, because she was living there, that was part of it. He was crazy."

After this, Mr Hamdan became more involved with buying his own properties in Brighton and Hove.

Hoogstraten said: "I had first-hand knowledge of what he was up to. In his case, the properties he specialised in were not sitting-tenant properties.

"He bought freeholds where there were one or two empty flats in the building and the others were on 99-year leases.

"For quite small amounts of money - £2,000 or £3,000 - he would get control of a £200,000 or £300,000 property.

"The speciality was to cause serious problems for the leaseholders. There were different methods.

"The intention was to devalue the leaseholders' interest in the property so he could obtain the flats cheaply.

"At the time, some of the leaseholders were in negative equity which meant the flats were going to fall into the hands of building societies.

"When that happened, Mr Hamdan would then go and repossess the flats himself and put in some squatters or vandalise them to make it harder for building societies to gain their money."

Hoogstraten said Mr Hamdan would bid for the properties and every time he agreed a price would then knock "a few thousand" off and return with a worse offer.

He said Mr Hamdan used fake identities, a favourite being George Ferreira, who worked in a car wash outside of Cannes.

Hoogstraten's team was worried if Mr Hamdan's statement was read out, they could not cross-examine him, which could harm Hoogstraten's chances of a fair trial.

The judge said Mr Hamdan "had an axe to grind" with Mr Raja.

With this and the £50,000 bet, Mr Hamdan had a motive or interest in seeing Mr Raja intimidated or harmed.

The judge considered the matter three times and, on the final occasion, ruled Mr Hamdan's evidence should not be heard by the jury.

In the end it did not matter as Hoogstraten was brought to book by the jury.

They heard enough of his history with Mr Raja to believe he wanted to force his old friend to drop his legal action.

Originally, Hoogstraten said he used to deal directly with Mr Raja's partner Ken Hammond.

Hoogstraten said he found it difficult dealing with Mr Raja because he was not an "Anglo Saxon" and preferred dealing with someone "who spoke the same language".

But after Mr Hammond's death in the early 1990s, he started dealing directly with Mr Raja.

However, he said he considered him "an idiot". Hoogstraten said Mr Raja used to buy "unbelievable sh**" at auction and that "no one in their right mind" would lend him money.

However, he admitted he would help him out because he found Mr Raja a source of amusement.

He said: "He has only ever given me £1 to get £2 back. I am not a fool but you get sucked into these situations.

"It was entertaining. I do tend to deal with lots of funny people because it is entertaining."

However, the relationship soured between the two. Amjad Raja said Hoogstraten considered himself a king and everyone else nothing.

Hoogstraten said Mr Raja stopped paying money that was owed and eventually he repossessed a number of Mr Raja's properties.

The first deal between the two was over a run-down block in the Paddington area of London.

Other deals were struck on properties in London and Brighton and Hove.

As the Eighties drew to a close, Hoogstraten warned Mr Raja to get out of the property business because the market was about to crash. He also advised him to make himself bankrupt.

But he added: "He did not face reality. He went down and brought other people down. I think he contributed to bringing his own firm of solicitors down."

On October 8 1993 Mr Raja filed his first writ against Hoogstraten.

The following June, Hoogstraten filed his defence and an affidavit for costs.

In February 1995, Hoogstraten filed a second affidavit in response to the writ.

It was not until 1998 that Mr Raja filed a notice signifying his intention to proceed with the litigation and in the June asked for leave to amend the writ.

Meanwhile, Hoogstraten filed a claim to the courts asking for Mr Raja's action to be struck out because of an "inordinate and inexcusable delay". However, this later failed as did his claim for costs.

In March 1999 Mr Raja wrote to Hoogstraten asking for an end to their feud saying: "I did have great respect for your integrity as you were very sincere and unusually unique."

On March 17 Hoogstraten replied, saying he agreed they should try to settle their differences.

Then it was Mr Raja's turn to write again and he said he was delighted with the tycoon's stance. He gushed: "I still treasure your wise advice."

But on April 22 Mr Raja was given consent to file an amended action for fraud, which he did.

This was the last straw for Hoogstraten and he ordered Croke and Knapp round to put the frighteners on Mr Raja.

Hoogstraten always denied playing any part in the killing, although Amjad Raja told the court his father thought Hoogstraten was planning to take "some sort of revenge" for the legal action.

Hoogstraten insisted he was unconcerned by Mr Raja's litigation and could easily have paid the £20,000 to £30,000 he felt he would have accepted to halt the proceedings.

He said it was "not even a week's pocket money" but steadfastly refused to settle with Mr Raja.

It was Mr Raja's tenacity, audacity and most of all sheer cheek that eventually wore Hoogstraten down.

Even after Mr Raja's death, the litigation between his family and Hoogstraten has not finished.

Amjad Raja, 41, a property dealer, said: "In seeking the truth, he has sacrificed his life by taking legal action against Hoogstraten.

"We as a family intend to carry on with that action. Hopefully, we will get a positive result from the High Court."