The theft, the website and the sting, but no-one found guilty

LEONARDO Da Vinci’s 500-year-old Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen in a daring daylight robbery at Drumlanrig Castle in August 2003 by two men, one armed with an axe.

It was a particular favourite of John Scott, the ninth Duke of Buccleuch, and had been in his family for generations.

For four years it disappeared. But in 2007, two Merseyside private investigators Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, who had set up a website called Stolen Stuff Reunited, were approached by an intermediary offering to return the painting.

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They contacted an English solicitor Marshall Ronald. He in turn approached David Boyce, a partner in Boyds Solicitors of Glasgow, whose colleague Calum Jones, 45, also came on board. But after negotiations began for the painting’s return, undercover police became involved. The covert operation led to its recovery.

All five were accused of trying to extort reward money for the painting. Last year, a Scottish jury returned majority not-proven verdicts against the English lawyer, Ronald, and the two Liverpool men. The two Scottish solicitors, Jones and Boyce, were discharged on not-guilty verdicts.

Sadly, the 9th Duke had died shortly before the painting was recovered. His son, Richard Scott, the current duke, now faces the decision on where to house the work.