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Leonardo painting plot accused cleared

Five men were today cleared of being part of a plot to extort £4.25 million for the return of a stolen Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece.

Charges against solicitor Marshall Ronald, 53, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire and private investigators Robert Graham, 57, and John Doyle, 61, both of Ormskirk, Lancashire, were found not proven at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Glasgow-based solicitors Calum Jones, 45, and David Boyce, 63, were found not guilty of trying to extort the money for the return of the Madonna Of The Yarnwinder.

A jury at the High Court, where the trial was in its eighth week, took eight hours over two days to clear the men.

The £20 million painting was stolen by axe-wielding robbers from Drumlanrig Castle, on the Dumfries-shire estate of the Duke of Buccleuch, in August 2003.

It was seized by police in October 2007 following a swoop on a meeting at a lawyers' office in Glasgow.

The five men were not accused of the robbery.

There was silence in the courtroom as the verdicts were delivered one by one for each of the five accused.

They left the dock following the short hearing after judge Lady Dorrian told them: "In view of the verdict of the jury, you are discharged and free to go."

Speaking outside court, Ronald said: "It's just quite overwhelming.

"I just want to thank my lawyers for the hard work they've put into this case. I can't thank them enough for what they've done.

"It's been a long hard road and a very difficult case."