Saturday, March 06, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Da Vinci Madonna, Go, Go, Go !!!!

Jury sees dramatic moment da Vinci recovered

DRAMATIC video footage of detectives gatecrashing a meeting in a law firm's offices and recovering a stolen work of art was shown to a jury yesterday.
Two men detained in the raid had minutes earlier been filmed smiling and shaking hands over the £20 million Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, right, which had been missing for four years.

In the surprise and confusion that followed the police moving in, one of the pair was seen to remain in his seat, eating a biscuit and supping from a cup.

The High Court in Edinburgh was told that the raid at the offices of HBJ Gateley Wareing in West Regent Street, Glasgow, on 4 October, 2007, had been the finale of a weeks-long undercover police operation.

That was sparked by a letter from solicitor Marshall Ronald, 53, from Lancashire, to an insurance loss adjuster. He said he was acting for clients who could assist in the "safe repatriation" of the painting stolen from the Duke of Buccleuch's Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, in 2003.

The loss adjuster contacted the police and officers using the names "John Craig" and "David Restor" posed as the duke's representative and an expert.

The public area of the court was screened off as "David" gave evidence. He said he contacted Ronald by phone. A recording of the call was played to the jury.

Ronald said: "I do feel I can help sort this out and I am genuinely trying to do so. I am anxious to physically get control of this now but I don't want us to fall into the trap of handling stolen goods.

"Do you see the dilemma? I'm trying to do it properly. I'm dealing with rather volatile individuals.

"If they do not care about this, I do. I recognise the value of this classic piece of art. The faster I get it safely back the better, from my point of view."

The officer asked why Ronald did not go to the police, and he replied: "I don't think it would be helpful. I think if I go down that route, the clients will do something very silly."

He added that he was only a sole practitioner who had come across the situation by chance, and he had gone to Scottish solicitors of some standing for credibility.

"David" told the jury a meeting was arranged in Glasgow at which the painting was to be produced for examination. He and "John Craig" arrived by taxi and were met at reception by Calum Jones, 45, a solicitor. As they waited for the lift, Jones told them Ronald had said "the lady was close by".

Jones took the men to a boardroom and left them. "John Craig" made calls on a mobile phone while "David" set up equipment on the table. He placed a digital video camera among the equipment, and it began recording.

Jones returned to the room with Ronald and two other men, Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61. Doyle was carrying a black folio case. The painting was taken from it and "David" examined it. He said he was "absolutely confident" it was the Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

Then "John Craig" left the room for a short time. "David" said: "A little time after that, the door opened and police officers entered and introduced themselves as having a warrant. Officers were assigned to everybody in the room. There was a large number of police officers."

Even "David" and "John Craig" were detained, along with Ronald, Jones, Graham and Doyle.

The advocate-depute, Simon Di Rollo, QC, then asked for footage from the video camera to be played to the jury.

Ronald, Graham and Doyle, all from Lancashire; Jones, from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire; and David Boyce, 63, a solicitor, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, deny conspiring to extort £4.25 million from the duke and the insurer, Hiscox UK, for the safe return of the painting.

The trial resumes next week.

No comments: