Friday, March 05, 2010

Stolen Art Watch, Da Vinci Madonna Undercover Cop David Rester !!

Da Vinci painting accused "warned against" police involvement

Published Date: 05 March 2010
A lawyer said to have offered to assist in the recovery of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece said his clients would "do something very silly" if police were contacted, a court heard today.

Marshall Ronald said he was dealing with "volatile individuals" and such a move would not be helpful, jurors were told.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that the statements were made in a telephone conversation with an undercover officer posing as an art restorer after a police operation to trace the £20 million Madonna Of The Yarnwinder swung into force.

The trial also heard that Ronald, one of five men accused of holding the artwork to ransom for £4.25 million, said he did not want to "fall into the trap of handling stolen goods".

The painting was snatched by armed raiders from Drumlanrig Castle, the Dumfries-shire estate of the Duke of Buccleuch, in August 2003.

The court has heard how an undercover police operation got under way in the summer of 2007 after an expert on recovering missing art received a "deceptive" letter from the accused solicitor, Ronald.

Jurors heard that the correspondence, sent in an email to loss adjuster Mark Dalrymple, stated that he had been instructed to act for clients who could assist in the recovery of the painting.

It added: "Our concern is to negotiate the safe repatriation of the painting and negotiate the reward/finder's fee on behalf of our clients."

Today, the trial heard from one of the officers involved, who gave his evidence under the false name "David Restor". He was also screened off from the public benches.

The jury of nine women and six men was played a recording of a telephone conversation said to be between him and Ronald on August 14 2007.

The two men could be heard discussing the issues raised in the letter and how it could be established that the painting being talked about was genuine.

During the conversation, jurors heard that Ronald said: "I'm dealing with people who can sometimes be a bit volatile.

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

He added later: "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."

Ronald said he had now raised his head "above the parapet" and had contacted Mr Dalrymple because he was trying to do things "properly", jurors heard.

When asked if he would contact police, he replied: "I don't think it would be helpful if I went down that road. The clients would do something very silly."

Ronald, 53, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire, Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, both of Ormskirk, Lancashire, Calum Jones, 45, a solicitor, from Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire, and David Boyce, 63, a solicitor, from Airdrie, Lanarkshire, deny conspiring to extort £4.25 million from the Duke and the painting's insurers.

They are not accused of the robbery.

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