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Duke 'upset' by painting theft.

Byline: Hilary Duncanson

A DUKE was "deeply upset" by the theft of a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece from his estate and the "lack of any progress" in recovering it, his son told a court.

The painting, The Madonna Of The Yarnwinder, was said to have played a "very special part" in the life of the late Duke of Buccleuch and his family.

His son, the current Duke of Buccleuch, told how the family had to contemplate the possibility that the artwork - valued at pounds 20m in 2008 - could be destroyed after it was taken from Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries-shire, in August, 2003.

Richard Montagu Douglas Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch, said it was a "huge relief" to find that the painting was undamaged when it was recovered in 2007.

The 66-year-old Duke was giving evidence on the third day of the trial of five men accused of plotting to extort pounds 4.25m for the safe return of the picture.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that his father, John, died on September 4, 2007, a month before the painting was recovered.

The Duke agreed with prosecutor Simon Di Rollo that his father, the ninth Duke, had been "particularly fond" of the painting.

He told the court: "It had played a very special part in our family life, in that both he and his father had often tended to travel with the painting between their various family homes."

He added later: "It was hugely emotionally important for all of us in the family, but I think for my father in particular, who felt most keenly its loss.

"It was clear to anyone who knew him that he was deeply upset by the loss and by the lack of any progress in recovering the painting."

On trial are Marshall Ronald, 53, a solicitor from Skelmersdale; Robert Graham, 57, of Ormskirk; and John Doyle, 61, also of Ormskirk.

Also in the dock are two Scottish solicitors, Calum Jones, 45, from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, from Airdrie, in Lanarkshire.

They deny the charges against them. They are not accused of the robbery.

The Duke told the court the painting, dated from around 1500, is reputed to be the only Leonardo da Vinci artwork in private hands.

He spoke of its importance in the art world as a result of the limited number of works produced by the artist. The court heard how the masterpiece formed part of a special exhibition on Leonardo and his influence at the National Gallery of Scotland in the 1990s.

The jury of nine women and six men was told that the work was one of the main attractions at Drumlanrig.

"It's a well-known painting and I do believe many people came particularly to see it," the Duke told the court.

The trial has heard about the day the masterpiece was stolen from the stately home on August 27, 2003.

The case centres on an alleged plot to get the late Duke of Buccleuch, his son and their insurers to pay for the safe return of the painting.

The group of five accused deny conspiring to extort pounds 4.25m and an alternative charge of attempted extortion. It is alleged the offence happened between July 18 and October 4, 2007.

The case continues.

CAPTION(S):

Marshall Ronald David Boyce Robert Graham and John Doyle Solicitor Calum Jones The Duke of Buccleuch arrives at the High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2010
Words:572
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