Stolen £20m masterpiece set to go back on display – with extra security
Apr 25 2010 Exclusive by Steve Smith, Sunday Mail
THE Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece stolen from a Scots castle is to go back on display – protected by new alarms and security systems.
We can reveal that plans have been drawn up to return the painting – worth an estimated £20million – to the Duke of Buccleuch’s Drumlanrig Castle, near Dumfries.
The artwork – Madonna Of The Yarnwinder – was stolen during a daring robbery at the castle almost seven years ago by a gang posing as tourists.
After threatening terrified staff with an axe, the raiders snatched the painting from the wall and escaped in a getaway car, which was later found abandoned.
Relatives of the then owner – the late Duke of Buccleuch – said he was devastated by the loss He died in September 2007, just weeks before it was eventually recovered.
Now his son, Richard Montagu Douglas Scott, the 10th Duke, is to be reunited with the family’s most prized possession, currently on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. A source said: “Plans are in place to return the painting to Drumlanrig after the loan period ends.
“It is likely that it will back on display at the castle early next year.
“This will be a huge occasion for the family because they felt such a devastating loss.”
The painting will be protected by the latest computerised systems following a massive overhaul of security.
Pressure pads and movement-detection lasers have been installed to protect the Duke’s art collection.
The CCTV network – which captured images of the 2003 robbery – has also been extended.
Extra security guards have not been employed but visitors to the castle must follow a tour guide through its halls and rooms.
The source added: “It is fair to say that security at Drumlanrig was extensively reviewed and seriously beefed-up following the robbery and is now state-of-the-art.
“The Duke’s family have taken advice from the police and security experts around the world to make sure their collection is protected to the highest level.”
Earlier this week five men charged with holding the masterpiece to ransom were cleared at the High Court in Edinburgh.
English lawyer Marshall Ronald, 53, and private detectives Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, were acquitted on not proven verdicts.
Two Scottish lawyers, David Boyce, 63, and Callum Jones, 45, were unanimously found not guilty. The men had been accused of hatching a plot to demand a £4.25million ransom from the late duke to get the painting back.
The court heard that Graham and Doyle contacted Ronald after being tipped off by contacts in Liverpool about the possible return of the masterpiece.
Police later launched an undercover operation which led to the arrests and the artwork being seized from Boyce and Jones’ Glasgow offices.
The present Duke told the court of the devastation the robbery had caused the family.
He said: “It was hugely emotionally important for all of us in the family, but I think for my father in particular, who felt most keenly its loss.
“It was clear to anyone who knew him that he was deeply upset by the loss and by the lack of any progress in recovering the painting.”
Detectives are continuing their hunt for the robbers and have issued new CCTV images of two men who visited Drumlanrig days before the painting was stolen.