Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Da Vinci trial hears of loan request

Madonna of the Yarnwinder
The five men are not accused of stealing the painting

A lawyer asked one of his clients if he could borrow £350,000 to retrieve a stolen painting, a trial has been told.

Roy Radcliffe, 60, told the High Court in Edinburgh that he was promised a 10% profit but he dismissed lawyer Marshall Ronald's proposal as ludicrous.

Mr Ronald, 53, is one of five men accused of demanding £4.25m for the safe return of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece.

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

It belonged to the Duke of Buccleuch, who lived at the castle in Dumfriesshire.

Mr Radcliffe told the court that in September 2007, Mr Ronald was conducting litigation on his behalf in a dispute over property.

He just said it was something that had been stolen from Scotland and he could retrieve it for the rightful owner
Mr Radcliffe

"My mobile rang and he asked me if I wanted to make some money," he said.

"If I could lend him £350,000, I would get a return of £35,000 within a few days."

Asked by advocate depute Simon Di Rollo, prosecuting, about his reaction, Mr Radcliffe told him: "Just surprise really."

He added: "It just seemed a bit ludicrous really."

Mr Ronald called him later that day and again the following day repeating his request and talking about a painting, the court heard.

Mr Radcliffe said: "He just said it was something that had been stolen from Scotland and he could retrieve it for the rightful owner and that was about it.

"I didn't really take a lot of notice."

'Not nicest area'

The trial has heard that the Lancashire-based solicitor went to his bank to arrange a £350,000 cash withdrawal from his law firm's client account, asking for the bundles of banknotes to be delivered to a Liverpool building maintenance firm.

The cash was to get access to the stolen painting, the trial heard.

Security van driver David Gore, 43, based at the G4S Bottle office, told of his worries when he was asked to take the money to premises in Netherley.

"It is not the nicest area round there," he said.

Mr Gore said he was expecting to deliver his consignment to a secure office or cash room, but all he found was a kitchen or a canteen.

He was asked to put the plastic bags of banknotes into the boot of a blue S-type Jaguar parked in the yard.

'Little strange'

The jury were shown a photo of the car with the blue and white wrapped bundles in the open boot and, by the Jaguar stood Robert Graham, 57 - another of the men on trial.

Susan Norton, 51, a director of JC Construction Ltd, said Ronald acted as solicitor for the building firm and she found his request to use their premises "a little strange".

On trial along with Mr Ronald and Mr Graham are John Doyle, 61, all from Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, from Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, from Lanarkshire.

They are not accused of stealing the painting and deny conspiring to extort £4.25m or attempting to extort the money.

The trial continues on Monday.



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