Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Leonardo da Vinci trial hears phone tapes

Madonna of the Yarnwinder
The painting was taken from Drumlanrig Castle in 2003

The Leonardo da Vinci extortion trial has been played a taped phone call between one of the accused and a man he believed to be an art restorer.

Lancashire-based lawyer Marshall Ronald said he thought he could get back the stolen Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

However, he added that he was dealing with "volatile individuals", who could do something "very silly".

Mr Ronald is one of five men who deny conspiring to extort £4.25m for the safe return of the artwork.

The painting was stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle north of Dumfries in 2003.

On the fifth day of the trial, the court was played the tape of a conversation said to be between a police officer posing as an art restorer and Mr Ronald.

'Classic art'

Jurors heard him say: "I'm anxious to physically get control of this now ... but I don't want to fall into the trap of handling stolen goods.

"I'm dealing with rather volatile individuals.

"They don't care about this, I do. I recognise the value of this classic piece of art."

On trial along with 53-year-old Mr Ronald are Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, from Lanarkshire. They are not accused of the 2003 robbery.

They have denied conspiring to extort £4.25m and an alternative charge of attempted extortion.

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

The trial at the High Court in Edinburgh continues.

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