Australian soap star and singer Holly Valance has been dragged into a sensational lawsuit involving horrifying allegations of blackmail, extortion and intimidation against her billionaire husband Nick and his brother Christian.
Mark and Emma Holyoake are suing the property tycoon brothers for £132 million ($AUD 213 million) in a dispute over a £12 million ($AUD 19 million) loan.
The case, which has finally reached trial after 12 months of legal wrangling, is playing out in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Both parties have already forked out millions on lawyers, private investigators and public relations advisers.
Holly Valance's hit Kiss, Kiss
Among the revelations to emerge in court on Tuesday were claims that Nick, 44, was bullied mercilessly by Christian, 42, and that Christian and his wife Emily hated Ms Valance so much that they tried to talk Nick out of marrying her.
In his claim, Mr Holyoake states that he took the loan from Christian Candy's company CPC in 2011 to finance a property scheme following the collapse of his fish importing business, British Seafood.
He claims he was coerced into paying back more than £37 million ($AUD 60 million) on the two-year loan and pulling out of his redevelopment project at Grosvenor Gardens, a lush 42-apartment mansion block, before its completion at a loss of £100 million ($AUD 162 million) in potential profits.
The father-of-three is seeking compensation for lost profits, overpayments, legal costs and aggravated damages. He alleges Christian Candy repeatedly threatened to destroy his life and ruin his business during a campaign of blackmail and intimidation which left him fearing for his own life.
"I used to worry that Christian might...kill Mark"
The trial took a sensational turn yesterday when Mrs Holyoake told the court she feared her husband might be killed because of the mysterious deaths of other men associated with the Candys.
"I used to worry constantly that Christian might take steps to hurt or even kill Mark when Mark travelled on business," she said, according to a report published by the UK Telegraph.
"I used to warn Mark constantly to take care, to ensure that he wasn't being set up, to make sure he kept himself as safe as possible. I thought that the simplest way for Christian to resolve his issue with Mark would just be to get rid of Mark.
"This is not as outlandish as it seems. There are men in the Candys' extended circle who have died mysteriously."
Mrs Holyoake named Paul Castle, a property mogul who leapt to his death in front of a London Underground train in November 2010; Scot Young, who fell to his death from his fourth floor flat in 2014; and Boris Berezovsky, who was found hanged in his bedroom in 2013.
The three belong to a group of six associates dubbed the "Ring of Death" because they all died in bizarre ways, allegedly by their own hand. The other three businessmen have not been named in the lawsuit.
Mrs Holyoake, who lives with her family in a multi-million dollar mansion in Ibiza, told of an email between Christian and Nick which referred to a man named "Knuckey" and implied Christian was thinking of sending thugs to the Spanish island.
"I can only assume (this was to) harm or intimidate Mark, myself or our children. It is chilling to realise that my concerns at the time really appear to have been very close to the mark," Mrs Holyoake told the court, the Telegraph reported.
Mr Holyoake claims he trusted the notoriously secretive Candys because he shared a house with Nick at university and regarded him as a brother. After the loan, however, the siblings started behaving "like Bond villains", issuing threats and using blackmail and intimidation to pressure him into repaying their money.
The court heard on Tuesday that Christian Candy bullied his older brother Nick and hated his Australian popstar and actor sister-in-law Holly Valance.
Mrs Holyoake said Ms Valance once confided that Christian had referred to her at a party in Ibiza in 2012 by saying "if she sees me coming she better f***ing cross over onto the other side of the road".
She claims she became friends with Ms Valance after meeting her for the first time in 2009 and later bet the actor £200 that Nick would propose.
"We were among the first friends they contacted personally when they got engaged and I was genuinely happy for them," Mrs Holyoake told the court.
Christian Candy's wife Emily also disliked Ms Valance because of her "dubious" background and had tried to talk Nick out of marrying her.
"Holly told me that Nick was bullied by Christian, that Christian was controlling and often spoke to Nick in a disrespectful and aggressive manner," Mrs Holyoakes told the court.
"Nick began to open up and agreed that his brother often barked orders at him. Christian dominated him, but Nick being Nick used to laugh it off and say he could handle Christian.
"To say there was no love lost between Christian and Holly would be an understatement. I don't know the origin of that dislike but Holly and Christian's wife Emily did not get on at all."
Christian spoke to Nick in "a disrespectful and aggressive manner" and on one occasion the abuse left his brother weeping while lying "in a foetal position on the floor of a hotel room", the hearing was told.
The Candy brothers deny all of Mr Holyoake's allegations and claim he has invented allegations in an attempt to extract money from them. The hearing continues tomorrow when the brothers are due to give evidence.