Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Leonardo da Vinci robbery details recalled

Madonna with the Yarnwinder
The painting was stolen in southern Scotland in 2003

The trial of five men accused of conspiring to extort £4.25m for the return of a Leonardo da Vinci artwork has heard about the day it was stolen.

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder was taken from the Duke of Buccleuch's Dumfriesshire estate in August 2003.

A court heard how robbers - one of them carrying an axe - threatened to kill a tour guide at Drumlanrig Castle.

The men on trial are not accused of the robbery. They deny conspiring to extort £4.25m for the painting's return.

Marshall Ronald, 53, Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, of Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, of Lanarkshire all deny the charges.

There was a male standing in front of the painting with an axe in his hand
Sarah Skene
Shop assistant

Recalling the day of the robbery, tour guide Alison Russell, 25, told the High Court in Edinburgh how two men had come into the castle shortly after opening time.

"One of them put his hand over my mouth and asked me to get down on the ground," she said.

"He came from behind, put his hand over my mouth and told me I had to lie down on the ground or they would kill me."

Sarah Skene, 73, a shop assistant at the castle, described hearing a "commotion".

"I went into the Staircase Gallery to see what was happening," she said.

"There was a male standing in front of the painting with an axe in his hand.

"It was just threatening, I think."

The court heard how another man then pulled the painting from the wall and the raiders escaped through a window as alarms sounded.

The jury was also shown CCTV images of the two robbery suspects.

Alternative charge

None of the five men on trial is accused of the robbery.

The court case centres on an alleged scam to get members of the Duke of Buccleuch's family and their insurers to pay for the return of the painting.

The five men deny conspiring to extort the £4.25m and an alternative charge of attempted extortion.

That offence is alleged to have taken place between July and October 2007.

The trial before Lady Dorrian continues.



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SEE ALSO
Stolen da Vinci back on display
17 Dec 09 |  Scotland
Trial date for da Vinci accused
19 Oct 09 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Da Vinci painting stolen
27 Aug 03 |  Scotland

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