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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 12:28 GMT
Car appeal over da Vinci theft
The car was found hidden in a forest
Police have appealed for information about a car which they think may be connected to the theft of a Leonardo da Vinci painting from a Scottish castle.

Madonna with the Yarnwinder, valued at between 25 and 50m, was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's home at Drumlanrig Castle in August last year.

Police believe a dark green Rover with the registration number N770 JLP may have been used by the four-man gang.

They want to know where car was between October 2002 and August 2003.

The vehicle was found hidden in Ae forest, near Dumfries, on 18 November last year.

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said a full forensic examination had uncovered valuable information.

Scruffy appearance

It was bought from a legitimate company in Cheshire in October 2002 and was used extensively by the thieves before the theft of the paining.

The man who made the purchase was described as white, 5ft 8in tall and about 30 years old.

He was said to be thin, with greasy, untidy black hair and a scruffy appearance, and spoke with a Manchester accent.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter McAdam said: "We are asking anyone who may know the man described or who knows where this vehicle may have been between October 2002 and August 2003 to contact us."

Madonna with the Yarnwinder - from Drumlanrig castle website
The work was painted between 1500 and 1510

A substantial reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the thieves.

The painting was stolen from the castle at Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway, on 27 August last year.

Two of the raiders, who had posed as tourists, overpowered a female member of staff and took the artwork.

The gang fled in a white Volkswagen Golf car, which was later found abandoned about two-and-a-half miles from the castle.

It is suspected that the thieves then used a black BMW car to escape to Mitchellslacks, near Ae forest.

Experts believe that the da Vinci work was painted between 1500 and 1510.

It depicts the Madonna with the infant Jesus holding a cross-shaped yarnwinder and is said to symbolise the crucifixion of Jesus.

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